In April 2019, I had the joy of accompanying one of the last living spiritual sons of Padre Pio to the United States: Adolfo Affatato. When he was sixteen years old, Adolfo met Padre Pio through unusual circumstances. He spent the next fifteen years as a close spiritual son of the mystical saint until he died in 1968.
Last year, Adolfo came to Atlanta, Tampa, and St. Louis to talk about the incredible things he witnessed – but more importantly learned – at the side of one of the most well-known saints of the twentieth century.
Now 82, Adolfo met Padre Pio in 1952. He naively hoped this “soul reader” would tell him if he had passed his high school exams. Unbeknownst to this young man, this short encounter would radically transform his life.
Adolfo took the bus from his hometown of Foggia, some 40 kilometers (25 miles) along the old road up into the Gargano Mountains to San Giovanni Rotondo. If nothing else, he hoped the higher elevation would offer some respite during the brutal summer heatwave.
The evening prayer service had just finished and Padre Pio was making his way through the crowded sacristy to the doorway leading to his cell to retire for the night. Adolfo was there, too, watching attentively at a distance despite the sweltering July heat.
As the pained, stooped, stigmatized saint passed among the packed crowds, Padre Pio suddenly stopped. He turned toward Adolfo and said, “Adolfo, vieni qui” (Adolfo, come here). After remaining frozen for a moment – incredulous that Padre Pio was actually speaking to him – Padre Pio repeated himself: “Adolfo, vieni qui.”
Adolfo stammered out, “Padre, stai parlando a me?” (Father are you speaking to me?) to which the saint – known for his wry and surly temperament – said, “Mica mi chiamo io Adolfo, vieni qui” (Like my name is Adolfo, come here).
With that, Adolfo approached Padre Pio. He placed his hand on the young man’s forehead and said, “Ti aspettavo da molto tempo” (I have been waiting for you for a long time). He then turned around and headed up to his cell. Adolfo stood dumbfounded at what had just happened to him. Everyone else stared at him wondering who he was.
That was the first of Adolfo’s countless visits to San Giovanni Rotondo. Soon after, Padre Pio accepted Adolfo as his “spiritual son” – an intimate relationship based on accompaniment and close spiritual direction. From then on, Adolfo began keeping a diary in which he journaled about his experiences with the saint and what he observed.
Over the years, Adolfo witnessed firsthand numerous episodes of mystical and supernatural phenomena the saint was renowned for. Perhaps more importantly, at the same time Padre Pio revealed to Adolfo the true face of the loving God. Through the paternal guidance of Padre Pio, Adolfo was led to grow closer to God the Father.
A book in the making
Many years later, Adolfo realized the good he could do with his stories. Thus, he self-published the first edition of his book (paying for all expenses out of his own pocket) with the title, “Io e Il Padre” (Padre Pio and I). His only goal was to make the saint known “more and better.”
The book is a fascinating firsthand account of the supernatural side of Padre Pio as witnessed by a close spiritual son. It is also touching as the author reveals a more endearing side of Padre Pio.
In the end, what emerges is the heartfelt story of a man who loved Padre Pio intimately as a father. In turn, he discovered Christ within.
His book is the fruit of what Padre Pio once told Adolfo, “Give the love that I have put into your heart to those to whom you draw near, because in this is the meaning of life.” This book, indeed Adolfo’s entire life, is a response to that personal mandate
The book is available on Amazon here. (100% of royalties are donated to the friars of San Giovanni Rotondo.)