Back in 1992 my German Shepherd, Macduff nibbled at a dead fish on the beach. Later in the day he began to bleed profusely from his rear and a visit to the vets was imminent. He was admitted as an emergency and put on a drip, diagnosis, mercury poisoning. The prognosis was very poor and the vet did not think Macduff would last the night and told me to be prepared for the worst. In my wallet a picture of Saint Padre Pio with a small relic of stigmatic bandage on the back, sprung to my mind. With the vets permission I hung the photograph in the kennel. When I returned home the whole night was spent in prayer to Padre Pio asking and pleading for intercession. Next morning without any sleep behind me, the car found its own way to the surgery. As you can imagine my heart was in my mouth when I walked through the vet’s door.
‘He is still with us!’ I was told as we both walked towards the kennels.
A sigh of relief, but as we entered the kennel I saw my huge dog, a shadow of his former self. The vet told me he had lost over half of his body weight in the last twenty four hours. Nevertheless, Macduff lifted his head from a cushion and weakly barked at me. He was over the worst and the vet was speechless. Padre Pio had heard my prayer of that I was sure. After a few days of hospital care he was home and craving cucumber and toast and after six months he was back to his old self. I left my photograph of Padre Pio with the vet and he put it above the operating table.
His parting words to me were. ‘Only a miracle could have saved him, and we have witnessed one!’
Macduff lived for a further four years and passed away at the grand old age of twelve.
Moving forward to 2003 my partner at that time was diagnosed with ovarian cancer after positive smears. Again, I turned in prayer to Padre Pio but I did not tell her what I was doing, such stuff had a tendency to freak her out. So for three nights running sitting in vigil and praying to Padre Pio, I pleaded for intercession. Around ten days later, she told me strange sensations were happening in her head and visually a signature kept appearing every time she closed her eyes. So blue, gold and purple shafts of light were all around her when she closed her eyes and combined with the sight of a strange signature, she was anxious. I knew what was happening or thought I did, so I asked her if she was able to reproduce the signature. As the pen scribed across the page, my questions were answered, it was the signature of Padre Pio.
I fell to my knees in tears and told her she had been healed. Needless to say her anxiety overtook what was really happening, and it was not until the following week when she was informed by the oncologist, ‘there was no evidence of cancer’, she finally believed me.
Fast forward to February 2021, I awake in the early hours unable to breathe, and in the midst of a massive heart attack. Deb called an ambulance and fortunately it arrived very quickly and off to hospital I went. By the time I arrived, to say I was frightened is an understatement, I was petrified, especially when the doctor told me what was happening to me. It is decided a stent needs to be fitted in one of my coronary arteries, and I find myself in the theatre surrounded by machines and a lot of folk milling around. Of course by now I was a little calmer, thanks to medication to numb the pain and relax my muscles. Laying there watching a huge screen as my heart went boom de boom, I was mesmerized by the procedure. It really is quite a surreal experience watching your own heart, and various arteries working in real time as a catheter is introduced to put the stent in the damaged part of my heart. However, all seemed to be going as well as it could be and the surgeon completed the procedure and started to withdraw the cannula.
Suddenly, a gasp from the surgeon followed by a cry of ‘Shit!’ The pericardium had been nicked and I witnessed a dark shadow spreading across my lungs on the big screen, I was bleeding out into my lungs. For the first time in my life, I prayed for me, I was probably going to die if they did not get this sorted properly and quickly. In my mind I silently screamed for forgiveness to Padre Pio, never would I sin again in any shape or form if I could be saved, just this once. Whilst the surgeons busied themselves with trying to stop the blood loss from my heart, I prayed and prayed for Padre Pio to save me. I felt calmer and could swear I felt hands on my head. An aroma drifted around the operating theatre and at first I thought it was fresh air spray, but it was not. Jasmine filled my nostrils and others too remarked on the strong fragrance.
The immediate danger was over but I remained very poorly and was admitted to coronary care, where they put me in a private ‘goldfish bowl’ next to the nurse’s station for observation. For three days I floated in and out of consciousness with the Discovery channel echoing from a television on the wall. Every time I woke up there was some program or other reflecting times and interests throughout my life, almost as if various times were being replayed. The aroma continued until I was moved out of observation, but the emotion of the experience did not, and even today I can remember almost every moment of the experience.
I am so glad to be here and I know it was a miracle I survived, but I did. I think there is much for me to do yet!
Padre Pio, also known as Saint Pius of Pietrelcina, was an Italian Franciscan Capuchin, friar, priest, stigmatic, and mystic, now venerated as a saint in the Catholic Church. He compared weekly confession to dusting a room weekly, and recommended the performance of meditation and self-examination twice daily: once in the morning, as preparation to face the day, and once again in the evening, as retrospection. His advice on the practical application of theology he often summed up in his now famous quote: “Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry”. He directed Christians to recognize God in all things and to desire above all things to do the will of God.