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When Padre Pio lost his sister and nephew to the Spanish flu

PADRE PIO

Julian Kumar | Godong

Bret Thoman, OFS - published on 06/02/21

Padre Pio hoped for a miracle, but a miracle didn't come. How did he react?

In a previous article, we looked at examples of Padre Pio working as an intercessor to obtain healing for his spiritual daughters infected with the Spanish Flu. 

And yet, many times he prayed for miracles and healings that did not take place. How did he react in these cases?

The Spanish Flu hit Padre Pio’s family personally in Pietrelcina. His own sister and nephew both succumbed to the Spanish flu. 

His nephew, Pellegrino, died at the age of 4 on September 22, 1918. Padre Pio’s sister, Felicita, died three days later at the age of 29. Both were struck down by “this cursed Spanish fevers.”

Adding to his suffering was Padre Pio’s anguish in not being able to celebrate their funerals. In a letter to his parents, Padre Pio said he could not go to Pietrelcina “because I feel terrible and powerless to undertake this long and arduous journey.” In fact, just six days earlier, he had received the stigmata on September 17.

After the loss of his sister, Padre Pio’s own mother, Peppa, became infected with the H1N1 virus, likely after contact with her daughter. In October 1918, she was “in very poor health” and they feared she might die

Padre Pio asked his spiritual daughters to pray for her recovery. This time, their prayers were heard and she improved.

On the other hand, during this period, Padre Pio’s family in Pietrelcina suffered two more losses. The first was Alfredo, the son of Pellegrina Forgione, Padre Pio’s second sister. He died on October 12, 1918, at 14 months. Two years later, Francesco Forgione, son of Michele, Padre Pio’s older brother, died on November 9, 1920, just after turning 9.

Resignation to the divine will

What was Padre Pio’s response to all this death and suffering? This was a theme close to his heart, as he endured untold physical and mental sufferings – including the stigmata – for most of his life. 

He united his sufferings to the will of God. 

Here it is important to clarify that the suffering we endure in the human race was not God’s original plan for us. As CCC #418 states, suffering entered the world only with sin.

As a result of original sin, human nature is weakened in its powers, subject to ignorance, suffering and the domination of death, and inclined to sin (this inclination is called “concupiscence”).

And yet, as the Catechism recalls in another paragraph (311), God permits suffering and even sin, because he is able in his power and creativity, to bring good from it.

For almighty God. . ., because he is supremely good, would never allow any evil whatsoever to exist in his works if he were not so all-powerful and good as to cause good to emerge from evil itself.

In a letter to his parents after the loss of his sister and nephew, Padre Pio exhorted them to accept the will of God in all circumstances. He wrote: “I exhort you to this resignation to the divine will, and you will find, like me, alleviation of your pain.”

Blessed be the name of the Lord

The same resignation is found in other letters he wrote to those close to him in which he expressed the pain of losing his sister and nephew. 

He wrote to a woman who was about to enter a monastery: “I leave it to you to imagine the torment of my heart. And yet there is nothing left for me to do but repeat with Job: ‘The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD!’”

To a spiritual daughter, Antonietta Vona, he wrote: “My daughter, my soul is embittered by the cruelest torment. But I adore the just judgments of God.”

Padre Pio once told a spiritual son: “Even before we are born, the Lord prepares many things in our life and leaves us free to follow the good or the bad way. But what one must go through, what He has arranged, does not change, and even praying to Him for a miracle does not change what the Lord has established.”

Never meaningless

He clarified:

Even this destiny that is fixed by the Lord, in effect it is we who choose it. To get to a place, there is a good road and a bad road. If one chooses the good one and we live this life with resignation, [fulfilling] all the duties towards God and towards men, we will easily reach Heaven where He will reward us. 

If, on the other hand, we go down the road of evil, and the misfortunes of life are not accepted with resignation, though they are arranged by the Lord, then we go towards eternal perdition. 

What the Lord has fixed remains as such. It is simply that He gives us the freedom to choose the road by which to arrive. Everything, therefore, depends on our will. […] A misfortune, an illness, humiliations: these are things destined by God, but everything depends on how they are accepted by us, and our will consists in this.

In these letters, we see that Padre Pio did not consider suffering a meaningless burden. On the contrary, he urged those who were bowed down with troubles to bear their pain with patience and resignation. He considered suffering a great privilege and yearned for it himself. In fact, many times, he asked the Lord if he might take onto himself the sufferings of others.

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