Padre Pio's Bilocation and the Odor of Sanctity
The phenomenon of bilocation is one of the most remarkable gifts attributed to Padre Pio. His appearances on various of the continents are attested by numerous eye witnesses, who either saw him or smelled the odors characteristically associated with his presence, described by some as roses and by others as tobacco. The phenomenon of odor (sometimes called the odor of sanctity) is itself well established in Padre Pio's case. The odor was especially strong from the blood coming from his wounds. Investigation showed that he used absolutely no fragrances or anything that could produce these odors. The odors often occurred when people called upon his intercession in prayer and continue to this day.
Among the most remarkable of the documented cases of bilocation was the Padre's appearance in the air over San Giovanni Rotondo during World War II. While southern Italy remained in Nazi hands American bombers were given the job of attacking the city of San Giovanni Rotondo. However, when they appeared over the city and prepared to unload their munitions a brown-robed friar appeared before their aircraft. All attempts to release the bombs failed. In this way Padre Pio kept his promise to the citizens that their town would be spared. Later on, when an American airbase was established at Foggia a few miles away, one of the pilots of this incident visited the friary and found to his surprise the little friar he had seen in the air that day over San Giovanni.
As to how Padre Pio with God's help accomplished such feats, the closest he ever came to an explanation of bilocation was to say that it occurred "by an extension of his personality."
The Testimony of Padre Carmelo Durante
For the good of' souls, Our Lord gave the Venerable Padre Pio of' Pietrelcina many gifts, amongst these the gift of bilocation, which enables a person to be present in two places at the same time.
Bilocation, however, must not be confused as some do with ubiquity, which means omnipresence, namely being present everywhere at the same time, which belongs only to God.
With this said, I will relate a few cases of bilocation concerning the Padre.
At the end of 1954 I was the Superior of the religious community that included Padre Pio. With the aim of' gathering information on the Padre's first years in San Giovanni Rotondo, from 28 July 1916 on, I decided to question the Padre's first spiritual children and organised some meetings
First meeting in town: 14 December 1954
At the first meeting we were ten in all. The Ventrella sisters, the Pompilio sisters, Filomena Fini, Rosinella Gisolfi in Placentino, Rachele Russo, Rachelina Gisolfi and Nina Campanile were present
I knew from Mrs. Gisolfi's friends that she had had the privilege - a well documented fact - of seeing Padre Pio in bilocation from the first years of spiritual direction.
During the meeting, she suddenly announced in a whisper that the Padre was present. "Everyone was happy," I noted. Like all those present, I believed the announcement, but forgive me if I say so – women are known for their daydreaming. So I wanted to get to the bottom of this. This was my first case of bilocation and I wanted to know how it worked.
The same evening, when I returned to the friary, I asked one or two confrères (naturally without revealing the true motive, which I do today), what the Padre had done in the late evening.
They answered: "The usual: he conducted the evening Benediction, then he received his friends and we chatted together.'' I was afraid to ask the Padre himself about the bilocation, being such a delicate matter.
The second meeting: 10 January 1955
The Padre made another appearance. This time when I returned to the friary, after I had questioned my confrères on the Padre's activities that evening and received the usual answer, I plucked up my courage and decided to question the Padre himself'.
Perhaps some of' you might wonder why I said "plucked up my courage," as if I was afraid. If so you certainly have not had the grace or the difficulty of living with an authentic saint!
Because saints (and I have reflected on this so often) are like the sensitive mimosa flower which as soon as it is touched, closes in on itself. More than once in fact, I noticed when I questioned the dear Padre on personal matters that it was a great effort for him to answer! In fact, once when we were alone in his cell I asked him outright: "Padre Pio I would like to see the wounds on your feet and side!" And completely taken aback and mortified, he looked at me with two imploring tearful eyes, like those of a child and said: "But! But you don't really mean that?" I immediately felt sorry and said: "No! no! Padre don't worry: I didn't mean it!" And everything ended there. But how often after that did I regret what I had done.
I had learnt my lesson, and that evening I was afraid. So, I repeat, I plucked up my courage and when I returned I went up to him quietly at the entrance of his cell.
"Ah! You're back!", he said as soon as he saw me, as if he knew nothing. I wish to note that Rosinella had told me that Padre Pio often accompanied me on my journeys in the car etc., without my knowing. So who knows how often he must have pulled my leg in asking me things which he already knew.
That evening I replied at once, also so as to get the conversation going: "Yes Father, I have returned; everything went well. Your spiritual children are very happy. But I would like to ask you one thing!" And he: "Yes, what is it?" I began: "Padre, Rosinella..." and then I lost courage.
And he, with a strategy all his own (who could ever understand the Padre!): "Rosinella? Is she not well?" If anyone I was the one who felt not well now! "No, Padre, she is well." "And So?" he went on. I took the plunge: "Padre, Rosinella said that you are always present at our meetings!" And quite untroubled he answered: "Well? Don't you want me? Don't you want me to come to these meetings?"
Those were his exact words. I leave you to make up your minds.
The same happened at our third meeting on 26 January. This time when I questioned him he answered: "Yes, of course I was there!" as if to say: "Why, you don't believe me?"
On another occasion it was he himself who asked me: "Aren't you going to ask me this time if I came?" Such subtlety! And I answered: "But Padre by now I am certain that you always come, so I don't ask you anymore!" And with the kindness of a father he said: "Yes, I accompany you always and everywhere!"
In one meeting an unusual thing happened. At a certain point a few members of the group began to speak badly about some people. It got a little out of hand when suddenly Rosinella frightened exclaimed: "Father Guardian, Padre Pio has an angry face!" We were all scared and quickly stopped and not without some embarrassment and self accusation began to speak well of these people. A few minutes later I asked Rosinella: "Now how does Padre Pio look?" And she: "He looks calm!" We were happy again, and had learnt our lesson to not speak badly of people.
"I don't need the permission of the Superior"
It was my habit, in the evening before coming down for the evening meal, to dally around the cell door of the Padre to wish him good night.
On this particular evening the Padre Pio seemed in a hurry, but I did not pay much attention to the fact. Then at a certain point in the conversation he said to me sweetly: "This evening I am in a hurry because I must make a long journey.
"Where must you go?" I asked.
And he repeated: "I must make a long journey," then after a little he added with a smile: "And to make this journey I don't need the permission of the Superior."
It is necessary to make clear that every friar according to the Franciscan rule cannot undertake a journey without the Superior's permission.
But naturally on his journey in bilocation the Padre had no need to follow the common rule because he had the extraordinary permission from the Superior of all superiors, Christ our Lord.
Hence that evening, after he had spoken to me, all I could do was kiss his hand and bid him a good journey!
"When I go..."
One day in the refectory we were talking of this and that.
I remember that in the conversation I was holding forth about a fact then unheard of: an aeroplane - I don't remember of which airline - had made the journey non-stop between Rome and New York in only six hours. To me and the others it seemed something incredible!
The Padre who until then had kept silent, interrupted in the middle and asked: "How long? How many hours, did you say?"
I answered, with increasing marvel: "Padre, six hours and what is more non-stop!"
The Padre also marveled over the fact but to the side exclaimed: "Six hours! Good heavens, but that is a long time! When I go it takes me only a second."
We asked him to explain himself, but he would say no more and only repeated: "I told you! I told you!"
"Six hours" in contrast to "a second" is indeed a long time.
But his mysterious "second" was that of a man in bilocation!
"I was in America"
From a note from my meetings with the first spiritual children of the Servant of God, I relate the following, mentioning also in passing that they were Padre Pio's first Prayer Group.
In those first years, before Christmas his spiritual children would meet in the parlour of the friary with the Padre to prepare themselves worthily for the celebration of the feast.
Now, one year - 1918? - while we were there, at a certain point the Padre seemed to go into a sleep.
A little afraid, his spiritual children tried to wake him up, calling him by name and even shaking him, but it was of no use.
After about an hour, he finally came to but a little mortified.
The next day, to a spiritual daughter who asked him: "Where were you?" he simply answered: "I was in America." And everything ended there without further ado.
Visit to the Holy Land
One evening, while we were both outside the door of his cell as usual, talking about one thing and another, suddenly the Padre confided to me: "I have to make a visit in the Holy Land." And I quickly responded: "Why don't you bring me with you, Padre?" to which he replied: "No because you would be poorly impressed!"
At the time I did not understand what the Padre meant wondering what reason there could be for me to be poorly impressed by the homeland of Jesus.
But many years later, I went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land and I understood the words of the dear Padre, seeing the medley of religions in those holy places.
For example: to think that the room of the Last Supper is looked after by Moslems! The Last Supper room - the heart of the Catholic Church where the Eucharist and Priesthood were instituted - abandoned in the hands of the followers of Mahomet!
Then on Calvary - the site of our Redemption - an orthodox priest was selling candles close to the site of the Cross!
The Padre, as always, was right: I really was poorly impressed!"
"What about the third at the end?"
As I said elsewhere, during the Second World War I would usually spend the summer holidays from the Gregorian University of Rome in the friary of
San Giovanni Rotondo, close to the beloved Padre. They were especially happy days.
One year on 25 July he asked me if I could go the following day to celebrate Mass in a little Church in the country dedicated to Saint Anne near the Amendola airport.
Naturally I willingly accepted.
The next day I arrived early by bus and began to hear the confessions of the farmers of the area and afterwards celebrated Mass in the little church to everyone's satisfaction.
When I returned, the beloved Padre asked me what the church was like. I described it to him: small, rectangular with two windows one on each side.
At this point, he interrupted: "Two windows! "What about the third at the end, didn't you see it."
I remembered at once and embarrassed said: "But Padre, you who haven't been there know more than I who have! You are making fun of me asking me what you already know!"
Without fuss, ignoring the insinuation of his bilocation, he said his intention was not to make fun of me, but only to complete the description of the church.
What humility and simplicity in those words aimed at hiding the gift from God of bilocation.
But that "third window" gave him away.
Later in the friary I learnt in fact that that morning of 26 July the Padre had carried out his apostolate as usual.
So here was further evidence of that privilege enjoyed by the Padre of being present in two places at the same time.
[From the Voice of Padre Pio, November 1998, Friary of Our Lady of Grace, 71013 San Giovanni Rotondo, (FG), Italy. Used with permission of: The National Center for Padre Pio, 2213 Old Route 100, Barto, PA 19504, through which a subscription may be obtained.]