The Scent of Roses by Colm Keane (Capel Island, €14.99 / £12.15)
Bryan Shortall OFM Cap.
Colm Keane’s latest book, The Scent of Roses, takes us on a journey through the experience and words of ordinary Irish people and families who have had encounters with Padre Pio.
These experiences are recounted through the years from people like Fr Pollock, a Dominican, who during World War II worked with Armed Forces and who attended Padre Pio’s Mass and on his recommendation, Armed Forces Personnel were allowed to attend his Mass.
Celebrated novelist Seán O’Faoláin, travelling in Italy after the war, described his encounter with Padre Pio. Later, an Irish devotee Mairead Doyle travelled to San Giovanni and set up pilgrimages and thus many Irish groups made trips to meet Padre Pio.
Little by little, people were fascinated by the Capuchin priest-friar who seemed to spend every hour of the day and night in prayer and at people’s service. Word was spreading back to Ireland, and indeed all over the world about Padre Pio’s mystical experiences and how he was heard to say: “After my death, I will do more.”
As we see in the book, many of the encounters of Padre Pio are accompanied by a strong aroma of perfume or flowers. They are often recognised as the scent of roses and account after account in the book tells of Padre Pio’s presence when the scent of perfume is there.
Down to earth
In the Early Years part of the book we meet people like Dan O’Connor who after reading a book about him, travelled from cork in the 1950s to meet Padre Pio. The following year he took his whole family to San Giovanni Rotondo. St Pio devotee Kay Delamere, the mother of well-known comedian Neil, confesses; “Padre Pio was such a holy man – but he was also an ordinary Joe-soap” suggesting that he was down to earth and approachable.
Importantly, Michael from Co. Limerick whose believes prayers to Padre Pio helped his child’s recovery from pneumonia says: “I believe in divine intervention, and I believe Padre Pio helped, although I believe he is only the conduit, and not the healer.”
This theme continues through Colm Keane’s book into the Middle Years.
Padre Pio bore the stigmata, the bleeding wounds of Jesus Christ on his hands, feet, and side. Perhaps he was best qualified to understand the sufferings of all who prayed to him and to put meaning on them for our times. Teddy, from West Cork suffered from burns and he met Fr Alessio in San Giovanni Rotondo and Fr Alessio said of Teddy’s burns: “They are your stigmata.”
Fr Tom, from Co. Kilkenny but who worked in Australia and India says of Padre Pio: “You have to believe totally and trust implicitly. The more I read about him, I think he does need your 100 per cent faith. There is no 99 per cent with Padre Pio.”
In the Later Years we read of the cure in 2000 of 7-year-old Matteo Colella which was the miracle accepted for the canonisation of Padre Pio in June 2002.
Marion, a home help from Co. Mayo tells of a lady she once cared for who “had a photograph of Padre Pio in a brown frame which she would bring from the bedroom into the kitchen or to wherever she was. It was as if she was bringing a friend with her.”
In all the accounts, there is an obvious theme of gratitude running through the book. Charlene from Co. Derry, who recovered from a brain tumour says: “I’m fine now and every day I wake up and I am so thankful, I just say: ‘Thank you, Jesus’.”
The book lets ordinary people tell their own stories of favours received through the prayers of Padre Pio and in this way I believe it is a simple vehicle to show us the power of God through Our Lady, Padre Pio, and the other saints. Marie from Co. Kerry: “I put my daughter’s recovery mainly down to Padre Pio and also to Our Lady. He always loved Our Lady and I put them side by side.”
Like the lady who brought the picture of Padre Pio around with her, Colm Keane’s book has given people that kind of insight. By their testimonies, simple and honest, people are telling of their gratitude to God through Padre Pio, even when things didn’t go the way they hoped.
Finally, the proceeds of the sale of Colm Keane’s book, the Scent of Roses is going to the work Br Kevin’s Capuchin Day Centre for Homeless in Dublin 7. The good news continues.