Padre Pio: Irish Encounters with the Saint
by Colm Keane (Capel Island Press, €14.99)
Author Colm Keane will be familiar to many from his earlier books exploring aspects of life, death, and spirituality. They have proved to be both very popular and, in the eyes of some, controversial. In his new book he explores the life and acts of a modern saint.
The Sanctuary of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina in San Giovanni Rotondo has long been a place of pilgrimage for thousands of Irish pilgrims. This book is based on interviews with some of them, who recount their own experiences of the saint and what he was like. These encounters, ranging from Paschal Robinson down to the last years of the saint’s life, provide a very personal glimpses of Padre Pio as he was familiarly know in his lifetime.
The story is told chronologically in three long chapters dealing with the early years, the middle years, and the later years. But all of these period he was, as his devotees know, surrounded by controversy. Initially the Church authorities were critical; but with the papacy of Pius XII he received more encouragement.
This book is intended to be a popular account of the man and the mystical phenomena that surrounded him, not only his stigmata, but other claims made for him, such as the gift of bilocation. Undoubtedly this will be read with passionate interest by many.
The canonisation of Padre Pio is an indication that the Church regards him as a figure worthy of the highest mark of esteem that it can bestow. But this is also a book to be read with care, as claims about such a figure as St Pio can come to distort the reality of the man and his spirituality. Not all the claims of his admirers stand on the same ground.
It may well be that St Pio’s skills as a confessor are more important than that penumbra of mystical phenomena; it is that pastoral side of his life, leading others into a better sense of their own spirituality, that will be of permanent interest.