This little friar

I was a little friar in the Serafico Seminary in Sulmona
Being with the Capuchins, every now and then, some
of them would tell us about Padre Pio, the friar in fame of
sanctity of the religious province in Foggia.
We were told he had the same stigmata as Jesus, in his
hands, feet and side.
He had the gift of prophecies, had special charismas
and was visited by many people every day.
At that time, I read and reread the first biography of
St. Leopold Mandić, who died in 1942, two years before I
entered the seminary. I kept saying to myself: I could not
get to know Padre Leopold but Padre Pio is alive!
From morning to dusk, my heart was burning with the
intention to go and hug him and be blessed by him and ask
him to pray for me.
Every time, when I was in the seminary as well as in
the novitiate up to my priesthood, I asked to go and visit
him, the usual reply by my superiors was: we Capuchins
are not allowed since our presence there could have been
interpreted as propaganda in favour of Padre Pio.
This not only was simply absurd, but an excuse justifi-
able only before their eyes. I used to resign myself placing
the thing within the sphere of obedience, but the hope of
arriving to Padre Pio, sooner or later, had always strongly
persisted in me.
As I was now a priest, I was transferred to Pescara.
Here I met a family who were very devout to Padre Pio.
They often told me about their trips to San Giovanni Ro-
tondo and of his great signs of holiness.
Knowing my desire to get to know Padre Pio, one day
they invited me to go by car with them to see him.
My father superior allowed me to go under my own re-
sponsibility. During my years in the seminary, I did dream
of him quite often. Once, while I was in the courtyard
playing with my friends, I actually saw Padre Pio leaning
out of the window of the convent, he smiled at me, waving
his hand greeting me joyfully.
The evening we reached San Giovanni, I accepted to
sleep in the hotel as I did not want to disturb the friars
at that time. At four in the morning we were praying to-
gether with the crowd of pilgrims in the churchyard. At
five we went inside the church. I was feeling unworthy to
be blessed with so much.
A woman kindly asked me: “Padre, you are Padre
Pio’s brother, why are you here? Go to the sacristy near
Padre Pio”.
I had just managed to see him and then followed his
Mass from the women’s gallery together with a few other
religious and doctors from the “Casa Sollievo” (Home for
Relief of the Suffering).
After Thanksgiving he went to the confessional. I was
dubious on how to approach Padre Pio.
All of a sudden, I noticed Padre Raffaele from Pianisi
coming towards me. He knew me through his sister, who
lived in Pescara.
“Come, come”, he said tenderly “I am going to introduce you to Padre Pio”.
We entered the convent. Padre Pio was going back to
his cell, two brothers were supporting him by his arms.
Father Raffaele introduces me to Padre Pio with these
words: “Spiritual Father, this little friar comes from Abru-
zzo and he commends himself to your prayers”.
Unexpectedly I found myself embraced by Padre Pio,
and he touched my heart with his two big black eyes and
then he says: “Ah, yes?” and then he lightly touches my
face with a slap.
I had always thought that if one day I managed to meet
Padre Pio I would deserve a slap.
But Padre Pio soon turns that gesture into a sweet ca-
ress, lightly touching my face. He then tightly squeezed
my arm to his rib cage in such a way that I felt like I didn’t
want to be separated from him anymore.
This is what I will do until my dying day.

P.G. Alimonti OFM cap, My days with P. Pio, pp 9,10,11