Affectionate, warm Padre Pio
A penitent recounted that; “Padre Pio often, stopped in the sacristy greeting his spiritual children and friends by kissing them. I looked with holy envy on those so fortunate and I thought: “Blessed him! If I were him! Blessed! Blessed him! On Christmas 1958, I knelt, in front of Padre Pio for confession. Afterwards, I looked at him and while full of emotion I asked him: “Father, today is the Christmas day, can I wish you Merry Christmas by giving you a kiss? And he, with a sweetness that I am not able to describe with the pen, smiled at me and said: “Hurry up, my child, don’t make me waste time“! He also embraced me. I kissed him and as a bird, joyful, I went toward the exit full of celestial delights. And what can I say about some slaps on the head? Every time, before leaving from St. Giovanni Rotondo, I desired Father Pio gave me a sign of particular predilection. In fact I also wanted two small slaps on the head as two fatherly caresses. I have to underline that he never refused me anything I wanted to receive from him. One day, there were a lot of people in the sacristy of the small church and Father Vincenzo exhorted, with his usual severity: “don’t push, don’t shake Padre Pio’s hands go back“! I sadly thought: “This time I will leave without having the blows on the head.” I didn’t want to resign me and I begged my Guardian Angel to become a messenger and to repeat these words to Padre Pio: “Father I desire the benediction and the two blows on the head, as usual, one for me and the other for my wife”. Padre Vincenzo was still repeating “don’t push Padre Pio...stay far from him!” when Padre Pio started walking. I was in anxiety. I looked at him but I was sad. Suddenly Padre Pio came to me, he smiled and he gave me two taps and it made me also kiss his hand, “I would like to give you a lot of slaps...a lot of slaps, “ he told me the first time that I asked him for the small slaps. Account found here.
It must be said that this personal account of Padre Pio has to be put in the right cultural context. Affectionate 'slaps' are part of cheerful companionship in Italy, whereas in our chilly isles of England and Ireland we think of a slap as a punishment for a child. It’s very touching that the man in the above story sought Padre Pio’s ‘slaps’ so much that he braved the firm Fr. Vincenzo so that he would get tapped by Padre Pio!