A brush with Padre Pio

by Michael H. Brown

       During a trip to Italy in 1991 when I was researching a book called The Final Hour,  I decided to visit San Giovanni Rotundo, the town where Padre Pio, the famous Catholic mystic, had spent most of his life and was now buried. I'll never forget it because I was on the other side of Italy, at a town called Oliveto Citra, and I didn't set out until about eight p.m., which meant I had to cross the country and wouldn't be there until the middle of the night.

       It was a Saturday and I had no hotel reservations.

       That was taking a huge chance, because pilgrims flooded San Giovanni on the weekends.

       I prayed for a room.

       I planned to go to Bosnia-Hercegovina the following day, and because there was a war going on there, I wanted to xerox my notes. I had been to a number of other places and had valuable research that needed to be copied in the event that Serbian forces confiscated my belongings. I wanted to mail a copy home before I took a ferry across the Adriatic.

       That was my second quandary: where was I going to find a copy center? It would be Sunday when I got to San Giovanni, and anyway it wasn't exactly the type of place where you'll find a Kinko's. I prayed to find a place where I could xerox.

       My third prayer was money. I was on an extended trip with limited cash and I had overspent by about $20 the day before when I had bought a small statue for my mother, money I wanted to make up to keep the budget. I even prayed for that.

       I set out and drove through the night and when I got to San Giovanni my worst fears began to materialize. There were no rooms. I tried hotel after hotel. They were all full and in some cases weren't even answering the door.

       Hotel after hotel. Middle of the night. Sorry, no vacancy. I was beginning to think I would be sleeping in the little car I had rented. I got to the last hotel and no one answered.  I knocked again on the glass door that led to the lobby, and finally a sleepy-eyed clerk slowly approached. It was obvious I had interrupted his sleep. Sorry, he said, no more rooms.

       But then he thought a moment. I can still see the clerk, a young dark-haired Italian, in my mind's eye. He stood there, contemplated something quickly, and in broken English said, "Wait a minute. I am not going to be going back to sleep, so you can use the room we clerks use. It has a bed but no bathroom."

       Because it didn't have full facilities, he said he would give it to me for $20 less than standard price.

       I was elated, thankful that God-- no doubt with some intercession from Padre Pio -- had answered my prayer. I trudged up the hall and opened the door. There was no bathroom but there was a bed, a desk, a chair -- and a xerox machine.

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