Thanks to Daniel, I have been reading Patricia Treece's Meet Padre Pio. It is a compact summary of Pio's life and vocation, drawn in large part from the documentation that supported the cause of his canonisation. Pio was always a challenge to Catholic Church authority, simply by virtue of the vortex of inexplicable events and experiences that drew others to him. But Pio had trouble with daemons. Treece quotes from the diary of one of Pio's spiritual directors, Padre Agostino, at a time when Pio was very ill.
I went to his room where there were some other friars also, and I saw Padre Pio lying on the bed with an agitated expression on his face and he said: "Send away that cat which wants to fling itself on me."
...I went to the choir to pray for Padre Pio, fearing that he would die...I returned to the room, and found a serene and cheerful Padre Pio, alone. As soon as he saw me, he said: "You did the right thing going to the choir to pray...You even thought about my funeral eulogy." [p 38]
Only then did [he] realise that Pio had been having a diabolical vision. The devil, in those years, appeared to Pio in various forms: as his guardian angel, St. Francis, Our Lady, even Padre Agostino. Other times the devil appeared in the form of a crucifix, nude young women, torturers who whipped Pio and, finally, as Satan himself surrounded by dark spirits.
Gradually his directors uncovered that Pio also had ecstatic visions of Jesus, of Mary, and other mystical phenomena. Visions of Jesus were proved genuine, his directors believed, by the great benefits they left in in Pio's soul. [p 39]
Pio's relations with his guardian angel weren't all fraught. Fr Alessio Parente wrote a book, Send me Your Guardian Angel, about Pio's interactions with his guardian angel, "the playmate of my childhood," and the angels of others.
In an earlier post, I talked about Jeremiah's "condition," as viewed from within a modern psychiatric and irreligious frame of reference. We might be able to get away with that when the subject is so remote in time, and when the sources are so few. The embarrassment of Pio is that he was a contemporary of most of the people still alive in the Western world; that his life has been subjected to the same critical scrutiny that has undermined belief in the facticity of Jeremiah, of the prophets before and since, and of the Gospels. During his lifetime, he was alternately embraced and persecuted by the Church, inspiring near-fanatical contempt and devotion, sometimes from the same person.
Pio died in 1968. The preliminary process for the Cause of his canonisation was commenced shortly after his death. In 1973 the results of this process were presented. It was not until 1983 that the Cause was allowed to proceed. The informative process continued until 1990. In 1997 John Paul II announced his beatification, and in 2002, his canonisation. Ten volumes of documents had been compiled by the investigation, which goes some way to explain the twenty-nine years that passed between the beginning of the process and his beatification.
It is this documentation, this evidence, on which the case for his canonisation was decided. Once upon a time, sainthood was conferred, not by rigorously defined processes of the Church hierarchy, but by popular acclaim; on the voices, so to speak. In the case of Pio, his sainthood was declared by the people among whom he lived and worked for many years before his death. The strength of that acclaim was no doubt an important factor in delaying the recognition.
It is said that, for those who believe, no proof is necessary, and for those who don't believe, no proof is sufficient. No doubt, so to speak. As to sceptics, there is a difference between those who will dismiss any evidence without examining it, on the basis that, the proposition being impossible, the evidence must be concocted or otherwise unreliable, and those who will turn the evidence every which way in order to assure themselves of the rightness of their disbelief. The latter is a more honourable course, but—and this is critical—enormously more time-consuming; which is why so few pursue it, in any field of enquiry.
Nonetheless, the evidence in regard to Pio remains an eloquent testimony to a reality which confounds materialists. It is a reality as primitive as the Old Testament; yet a reality that continues to intrude into the sanitised worldview of a faithless and perverse generation. It is a reality of daemons and angels, of Satan and Christ, of Mary and St. Francis. It is a world which generations faithless and perverse, arrogant and hubristic, knowing and superior, can only explain by recourse to the brittle mythology of psychiatric disorder. And, bending with the remover to remove, the worldly-wise can gesture in the direction of the now-dead schizophrenic and accommodate him neatly within the claustrophobic confines of their own faith.
Pio, though, is other-wise, and is not to be denied. Those ten volumes, and all of the witnesses still alive, testify to him. His holiness, the repentance he inspired in others, the converts he won, his inexplicable knowledge of the inner lives of strangers, the healings attributed to his intercession, his bi-locations, his stigmata, will not be contained in those cardboard categories. When a sceptic points out to Pio that he is suffering from a delusional mental condition, Pio responds, "Even though you do not believe me, believe the works."