Excerpted from "Where Angels Walk" by Joan Wester Anderson with permission from Ballantine Books.

Padre Pio, born in 1887 of simple farm people in Pietrelcina, Italy, was a monk who had the stigmata, the marks of Christ's crucifixion, etched in his hands, feet, and side, as did the founder of his order, St. Francis. Despite his own fragile health, he devoted his life to building homes for the sick, the handicapped, and the elderly.

Padre Pio had a particularly interesting relationship with angels. It is said that he "met" his own guardian angel as a youngster and occasionally received counsel from him; later, the two communicated in both prayerful and humorous dialogues.

At times, according to witnesses, Padre Pio was able to read and speak languages he didn't know. When asked how he could do it, he said that his guardian angel translated for him. On occasion, a number of his fellow monks heard voices singing in heavenly harmony but couldn't discover the source of the music. Padre Pio explained that the voices were angels, escorting souls into heaven.

Padre Pio frequently sent his angel to someone who needed help. For example, Father Alessio Parente was assigned to assist the fragile monk from the chapel to his monastic cell every day. But Father Parente had a habit of oversleeping. Often he wouldn't hear his alarm clock or, half awake, he would switch it off. "Every time I overslept," he says, "I heard a voice in my sleep saying, 'Alessio, Alessio, come down!' and a knocking at my door. Realizing I was late, I would jump out of bed and run out into the corridor to see who called me, but there was nobody there. I would race down to the church and there I invariably found Padre Pio at the end of Mass giving the last blessing.

"One day I was sitting by Padre Pio's side, feeling ashamed at my lack of punctuality. I was trying to explain to him that I never seemed to hear the alarm, but he interrupted me. 'Yes, I understand you,' he said. 'But do you think I will continue to send my guardian angel every day to wake you? You'd better go and buy yourself a new clock.'

"It was only then that I realized who was knocking at my door and calling me in my sleep."

Padre Pio believed that people could send their angels to others to help or intercede. He encouraged his vast network of friends to send their angels to him if they could not come themselves. "Your angel can take a message from you to me," he would say, "and I will assist you as much as I can." On one occasion Cecil, an English friend of the Padre, was hurt in a car crash. A friend went to the post office to send a telegram to Padre Pio, requesting prayers for the accident victim. When the friend presented the telegram at the desk, the man gave him back a telegram from Padre Pio assuring him of his prayers for Cecil.

Later, after Cecil had recovered, he and his friend went to see Padre Pio. "How did you know of the accident?" both asked. "We got your telegram before we had sent ours."

"Do you think angels go as slowly as planes?" the monk responded, smiling.

On another occasion, an Italian girl, hearing of this saintly friar, sent her angel to ask for good health for her Uncle Fred. The girl then decided to visit Padre Pio. When she approached him, he joked with her: "Your angel kept me up all night, asking for a cure for your Uncle Fred!"

The mother of a desperately ill infant also sent the baby's angel to ask Padre Pio for prayers. As soon as she did so, she saw her tiny child shiver as if something had touched her. Although the doctors were mystified, the baby quickly improved and was sent home from the intensive-care unit.

"When speaking to people about these stories, the comments are often the same! 'Oh, well, Padre Pio was a very holy man, wasn't he?' or 'I'm just a poor sinner. Why should an angel do anything to help me?'" Father Parente says, "Yes, Padre Pio was a very holy man, but I believe our angels work well for each one of us too--if we only have faith."

When Padre Pio died on September 22, 1968, several American tourists in Italy saw angels in the night sky, angels who quietly disappeared as the sun rose.

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