Oct. 27-Nov. 2, 2005
‘Don’t Be Afraid to go Deeper’
By David Vaughn/ SUN contributing writer
SUN photo(s) submitted
Our Lady of the Apostles Church Holds Prayer Service Honoring St. Pio of Pietrelcina FRANKFORT, NY — He was called the “Holy Friar” and for 50 years bore the wounds of Christ: the stigmata. His extraordinary spiritual gifts of reading souls, of bilocating, of remaining steadfast in prayer and penance were of legendary proportions.
St. Pio lived his life as a Capuchin in the San Giovanni Rotundo Monastery in Pietrelcina, Italy and was canonized a saint in June 2002. One phrase that characterizes St. Pio’s pathway to perfection was the theme of a recent prayer service held in his honor: “Don’t Be Afraid To Go Deeper.”
On Sunday, Sept. 18 at Our Lady of the Apostles Church in Frankfort, N.Y., Father Pio Francesco M. Mandato reflected on Padre Pio’s quest to go deeper. The service began at 3 p.m. with opening prayers and introductory remarks by Father Alfred J. Lamanna, pastor emeritus of the Frankfort church.
Father Lamanna spoke of St. Pio’s rising at 2 a.m. to say a “divine offering” and “prepare for the Holy Mass between 2 and 5 a.m.” “He said over thirty rosaries a day and during Mass [St. Pio] always remembered the intentions of all his spiritual children. More souls in purgatory attended his Mass than those who were actually attending Mass at that time. And there might be several hundred at Mass,” Father Lamanna added.
Following his introductory remarks, Father Lamanna introduced Father Mandato as a relative of Padre Pio who, as an eight year old, received his First Holy Communion by Padre Pio.
Father Mandato initially spoke of his relationship to Padre Pio. “We’re distantly related on my mother’s side.” But bloodlines were not the concern for Father Mandato. “Bloodlines are not important,” he said. “What’s important is to have Christ in the soul.”
Father Pio Francesco M. Mandato FMHJ was himself a Capuchin priest of the order of Franciscan Missionary Hermits of St. Joseph and lived in a contemplative community near Scranton, PA.
“When a person got close to Padre Pio, it was very dangerous,” Father Mandato continued to say. “Padre Pio was not a superficial man. He would say don’t be afraid to go deeper into your life, marriage, spiritual life, human growth, commitment to Christ. Commitment to priest and religious.” Father Mandato then posed a question many might like to know the answer to: “How did Padre Pio go deeper?” The answer is through the Word of God. “Hear the Word of God, listen to the Word of God, respond to the Word of God, be steadfast to the Word of God,” Father Mandato said. “Padre Pio as a little boy of five was drawn to the Word,” he continued. “Pray and play were the same thing.” Father Mandato said Padre Pio, at the tender age of five, (at the time Francis Forgione) kneeling before the tabernacle heard a voice: “Francesco, will you give your life to me?”
Father Mandato said, Padre Pio later in life expressed his unwavering “yes.” “I never said no to Christ,” Padre Pio said. “This is why I am the way I am….I am crucified.” As a confessor, Padre Pio was renown for his extraordinary ability to read souls and to look deeply into the hearts of penitents. There were two simple questions he often asked penitents after confession. “Is there anything else?” was the first question. This question, Father Mandato said, usually “raised a yellow flag” for the penitent. The second question, “Are you sure?” typically “raised a red flag.”
Father Mandato next told an entertaining and thought-provoking tale of one woman’s experiences with Padre Pio in the confessional. This woman walked into the confessional and Padre Pio immediately identified her sins: “You get worried and anxious. You are impatient and you speak improperly, you speak blunders.” Father Mandato said the woman denied committing these sins and left the confessional. Upon returning a second time, the woman again denied her sins. The third time, the woman came in with a list of her sins. Padre Pio told the woman, “Forget the list….They’re petty sins.”
St. Pio then told the woman, “If you don’t speak quickly and succinctly, I’ll close the door on your face.” Father Mandato said the woman finally did admit her sins, but alleged she was “confused, overcome.” “But you did do it, right?” Padre Pio replied. “Upon leaving,” Father Mandato said, “she kissed a crucifix in the confessional.” Padre Pio asked the woman, “Why did you do that?” “Because I love you,” the woman reportedly said. “If you love me,” Padre Pio replied back, “go home and kiss your sister.”
When the woman arrived home, Father Mandato said she found someone at the door and it was her sister. The two had been estranged for many years and soon thereafter were “reconnected” and “became great friends.” Father Mandato said this woman later requested that Padre Pio become her “spiritual Father” and admitted, “He allowed her to see the depths of her soul.” “Living the depths,” Father Mandato went on to say, “we have to be steadfast before Christ like Mary: ‘May it be done according to your word.’” Father Mandato closed his talk by presenting an opportunity for people to “go deeper” with Christ that day. Following a brief Benediction service, two first class St. Pio relics were presented.
Father Mandato and Father Lamanna, each with relic in hand, blessed all who came forward. The church with seating for approximately 500 was filled to capacity, and people from as far as Batavia and Albany streamed forward to kiss, touch and be blessed by the holy relics.
The local Pare Pio Prayer Group sponsored this event and invited Father Mandato to speak. According to their spiritual director, Father Lamanna, the group meets every first Friday at St. Paul’s Church in Whitesboro. One group member said this group began initially because of personal favors and miracles that group members attributed to St. Pio’s intercession.
The prayer service was capped off by an outdoor picnic and a blessing of the new St. Pio statue on the grounds of St. Francis Chapel nearby.