St. Padre Pio’s life was filled with supernatural phenomena. He could bilocate. He was physically assaulted by the devil. He said that more souls of the dead than of the living climbed his mountain to attend his Masses and to seek his prayers. He had the wounds of the stigmata for 50 years. And, with his many references to angels, he seemed to inhabit the angelic world.
In confession, he often told penitents to send him their angels when in need, Clarice Bruno writes in her book Roads to Padre Pio. One of Clarice’s friends once had a difficult decision to make and lamented how far away Padre Pio would be.
“Send me your angel,” he told her.
“But Padre,” she replied, “do you listen to him?!”
“And do you think I am deaf?!” he answered, not as a joke, but with sincerity and simplicity.
Another woman whom Padre Pio had advised to send her angel, decided to send him her angel on one of his anniversaries, as a greeting. She received a letter a few days later, from a resident of San Giovanni Rotondo. In confession, Padre Pio had asked this person to write the woman with a message from him: “The Padre thanks you for your spiritual greetings.”
Padre Pio advised people to send him their angels because he understood the power of angels in a way that many of us don’t. He wanted to remind the faithful to have recourse to their angels in times of need.
“Remember that God is inside of us when we are in the state of His grace, and outside of us when we are in grievous sin,” Padre Pio said. “But His angel never abandons us. He is our most sincere and trusted friend even when, through our fault, we sadden him with our bad behavior.”
The Consolation of Angels
It is a great consolation to know that the protection of our guardian angel is not contingent on our behavior—that even when we have strayed far from God, our angel will not leave us.
And, as Padre Pio reminds us, our angel is ready to go places on our behalf. We can send our angel where we cannot go ourselves. Recently, many of us have been reminded that we can send our angel to Holy Mass during this pandemic, when public Masses are canceled. Thanks to Padre Pio, I’ve been reminded that there is something else our guardian angels can do for us during this pandemic.
My heart has been heavy, as I keep thinking of the elderly in nursing homes, who long for visitors but cannot have any; of people who live alone and desperately want company; of children who have no one to play with; of people struggling with depression and loneliness. I’m devastated that I cannot visit my own mother, who is in her 80s. I have felt helpless in the face of such suffering.
But I must remember that I am not helpless. I have an angel who is, as Padre Pio said, my “most sincere and trusted friend.” Padre Pio reminds me that I can send my angel to greet others, to bring messages of light and hope, and to comfort them in their affliction.
Padre Pio wasn’t the first to do this. When he suggested that people send their angels to him, he was imitating his Heavenly Father, who sent angels long before Padre Pio lived.
When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, knowing that his enemies were coming to arrest him, he was alone. The friends he had brought with him had all fallen asleep. His agony was so great that he was sweating blood.
And then, the Gospel tells us, “there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him.” (Luke 22:43)
In Padre Pio’s moving reflection called “The Agony of Our Lord in the Garden,” he writes, “I think that the angel bowed low before the Eternal Beauty, sullied with dust and blood, and that with unutterable respect he entreated Jesus to drink the cup to the glory of God the Father and for the redemption of sinners.”
When Jesus was alone, feeling abandoned, and in agony, God the Father sent an angel to strengthen him.
Likewise, when the people we love are alone, feeling abandoned, and in agony, we can send our angel to strengthen them.
Our angel can go to the elderly in nursing homes, who long for visitors but cannot have any, and comfort them.
Our angel can go to people who live alone, and ease their solitude.
Our angel can go to children without anyone to play with, and make them laugh.
Our angel can go to people struggling with depression and loneliness, and lift their hearts.
Our angel can go to our loved ones who are sick, or scared, or heartbroken, and
strengthen them, as the angel in the Garden strengthened Jesus.
In times of greatest need, we are never helpless, for our guardian angel is ready and waiting to give the supernatural assistance that heaven alone can provide.
“For he will give his angels charge of you,
to guard you in all your ways.
On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you dash your foot against a stone.”