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How Padre Pio responded to tragedy

PADRE PIO

Public Domain

Bret Thoman, OFS - published on 07/22/21

A shipwreck that caused the death of 44 children brought this reflection from the great saint.

On July 16, 1947, the Annamaria set sail from Albenga (near Genoa, Italy) for Gallinara Island. Eighty-four children and teenagers were on board, all boys, mostly war orphans from Milan. 

The boat ran into a pole connected to sewage pipes and shipwrecked about 100 meters from shore. Forty-three children drowned at sea, and another died in the hospital. 

A journalist named Giovanni Gigliozzi, a spiritual son of Padre Pio, covered the tragedy. A few days later, he was in San Giovanni Rotondo to speak with Padre Pio about it. Struck by the senseless tragedy, he asked him how God could permit such a thing to happen.

“It will do you well to listen,” replied Padre Pio. Then he told a story about a mother embroidering.

Imagine a mother embroidering. Her son is seated before her on a small stool watching her work. But he sees everything backwards. He only sees the ugly knots and the befuddled threads, so he says: “Mother, what are you doing? Why is your work so unclear?”

Then his mother lowers the frame and shows her son the other side of her work, the beautiful side. Each color is in place, and the totality of threads is neatly and harmoniously composed. 

Down here we see only the reverse of the embroidery. We are like the son sitting on the low stool.

Suffering like this has meaning only according to the biblical teaching on the essence of God: “God is love” (1 John 4:16). St. John grasped the depth of God’s love. Yet, he also connected it with the mystery of pain and death.

Padre Pio understood this reality. He not only understood the potential value and importance of suffering which most people naturally try to escape from. Instead, he went further. Like the great saints, he asked for it and desired it.

After the example of a God who suffered and died for man, the great saints like Padre Pio prayed to be associated in suffering and sacrifice to “the Man of Sorrows.” Thus, they demonstrated to God their own love, so that he could live in them.

(Parts of this article are adapted from: The Pandemic of Padre Pio,” available on Amazon in English in paperback and ebook.)

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