God used St. Padre Pio to rescue me.
Shortly after I turned 18, I drifted away from my Catholic faith. It was the early 70’s, a period of great confusion, and the Catholic formation I had received in Fargo’s Catholic high school was a reflection of the times. I was caught up in the craze of “self-fulfillment” and had lost an adequate sense of humility, awe and adoration before the transcendent holiness of God.
Poorly formed and only too happy to live “for me,” I walked away from the church. I wasn’t exactly an atheist, but God made no real difference in my life. I joined a New Age organization and moved to Austin, Texas, to be near its headquarters. It didn’t have the controlling features of a cult, but I was definitely on a false and spiritually dangerous path.
Yet ironically, some of the ingredients in the organization’s New Age “stew” would actually work to bring me back to the Catholic Church. Chief among these was the group’s fascination with Padre Pio. They were intrigued by all the “paranormal” things he did: reading people’s minds and hearts in the confessional, telling them things about the future, bilocating (appearing to people far away without ever leaving the monastery), and bearing the stigmata — the wounds of Christ miraculously present in his hands, feet and side.
As I began reading more about Padre Pio, it didn’t take me long to see his radical love for Jesus Christ. It was only by grasping this foundation that one could make sense of his life.
At this same time, I was reading about Mother St. Teresa of Calcutta (whom I would meet years later) and other saints.
Suddenly I found myself praying the rosary with other members of the same New Age group who had reached a similar conclusion. In one year, two of us returned to the Catholic Church and two others converted. St. Padre Pio was, and continues to be, instrumental in our lives.
I never met Padre Pio, who died in 1968. Yet over the past 40-plus years I have often sensed his loving presence. I seek the intercession of St. Padre Pio for my most pressing prayer intentions and those confided to me by others. I have entrusted myself and my whole family to his spiritual, paternal care. In this, I take him at his word: “When the Lord entrusts me with a soul, I place it over my shoulders and never let it go.” And further, as he would often repeat, “When I die, I will ask the Lord to let me remain on the threshold of Paradise, and I will not enter until the last of my spiritual children has entered.”
By Christopher Ruff, Director of the Office for Ministries and Social Concerns