Padre Pio as a young man

Padre Pio had a spiritual daughter, Raffaelina Cerase whose soul he knew was so similar to his, she was like his twin. Padre Pio and Raffaelina both had such painful darkness and dryness of soul that rivaled the pains of the damned in Hell. 

They were not biologically related.  Pio was born into a farming family, and Raffaelina was born into wealthy nobility. When Pio became Raffaelina's spiritual father, he was a priest in his 20s and Raffaelina was a single woman in her 40s. Raffaelina was born in the last years of the reign of Queen Victoria, and she always dressed in victorian fashions with her hair parted severely. Pio was younger than her by two decades. They came from different social classes and different generations. But she was the soul that Pio treated as being the most like his own. 

Pio wrote to Raffaelina and she wrote to him, and a pile of letters formed that are the best, the absolute cream of Pio's writings on the good of the soul. Now, Pio, as a Franciscan priest was expertly led by another Franciscan priest, Padre Benedetto who guided Pio expertly when Christ gave Pio the wounds of His crucifixion. The letters that flowed between Pio and Benedetto are the most important ones we have for understanding Pio's mystical life. But in these letters, Pio is being guided, whereas in the letters to Raffaelina, he is the one guiding her, and so similar is the development of his soul and Raffaelina's soul that the same advice Pio was given by his spiritual father, he gave to Raffaelina. Pio - with his gift for reading souls - saw that Raffaelina's soul was so alike his that the advice Benedetto gave him was copied to Raffaelina. What Pio's soul needed, was what Raffaelina's soul needed. 

Raffaelina was in utter desolation, and in hellish dryness of spirit. Yet, Pio hailed Raffaelina as being exceptionally blessed, and informed her she had received a rare grace in being plunged into the dark night of the soul, because it was the absolutely necessary passage of darkness to perfect union with Christ. For my book on Padre Pio, Padre Pio and You, I have packaged all the advice Raffaelina was given, and presented it so the individual reader knows which parts apply to them in their dark night. 

You may ask why Pio wrote and received letters of the parchment and ink variety, and why he did not meet with Raffaelina and Benedetto in person to discuss the dark night of the soul. Pio wrote these letters from his home village. He was so sick that he could not live in a monastery  but he was only well when he breathed his native air. His village was like an oxygen closet for him, and as a newly ordained priest, he was sequestered there for several years. 

Like Raffaelina, Pio was often in a patten of being in the deepest dark night of the soul,  just before he would have a mystical milestone. Before he received the wounds of Christ, the stigmata, he lamented to his spiritual directors that his soul was in such darkness he was convinced that he had lost God forever. His own soul's graduation from darkness to greater union with Christ bore out that which he told Raffaelina; darkness is the preparation for union. 

Pio had gotten what he asked for. The prayer cards he gave out on the day of his ordination asked the prayers of others that he be a perfect victim, and he prayed to be made a replica of Christ, so that he could offer pain for the souls in Purgatory and the souls of his spiritual children. 

Pio became a victim soul of his own free choosing, but so did Raffaelina. Pio and Raffaelina were twinned in darkness and also in victimhood. When Pio was trapped in his home village, unable to leave and go to a monastery because when he did, he became so sick that he was on the verge of death, Raffaelina offered herself as a victim soul for the intention of Padre Pio's ministry, that he could return to monastery life and be a confessor. As soon as Raffaelina offered herself, her breast developed a tumor that ultimately took her life. But as the cancer conquered her body, Pio was able to return to monastery life - without becoming deathly ill - and the initial grace that led to him settling in San Giovanni Rotondo for fifty years where he heard one million confessions was won by Raffaelina's sacrifice.

Her soul's ultimate sacrifice allowed the flowering of Pio's vocation.  

Pio and Raffaelina were twinned in their Franciscan vocations, they were both Franciscan religious and both became Saints. While Raffaelina lived in the world, and looked like a well-to-do lady, she was a third order Franciscan and further to that Pio espoused her to Jesus, so her soul became that of a nun. When she was dying, Pio said she was at the ante-chamber of the Divine King, and when she died, Pio said she was at the Banquet of the Bridegroom. Later Raffaelina appeared to Pio as a resplendent, glorified soul. 

Raffaelina was among the few of the few souls who graced Pio's life who went straight to Heaven, before purification in Purgatory first.  According to Pio, she is a Saint you may call on, as you call on him. 

I wrote this post by way of introduction to Raffaelina Cerase, because I intend to reference her in future posts.  I hope my book, Padre Pio and You will see the light of day in 2021. 

Volume II of Padre Pio's letters contains his correspondence with Raffaelina.

Raffaelina Cerase


  1. Just wow. This is amazing stuff, even having known Padre Pio for years, it's a great surprise. Thank you so much for this post, it's a real grace, for various reasons, to have found it.

  2. Loved learning this about Padre Pio and I loved learning about Raffaelina! Thank you so much!

  3. Thank you so much! May the good of this be with you.

  4. ITALY !! - still giving the Church such great Saints ...

  5. Thank you for this wonderful post. I love learning about Raffaelina. When do you think your book will publish?

    1. Dear Emily, Thank you so much for your kind comment. I was working on my book quite intensely in the past week and I have the glad news that the chapters I needed to re-write are good enough. I believe Padre Pio and You will be published later in 2022, perhaps for Padre Pio's feast day, September 23. Stay tuned to this blog and I'll let you know as soon as I know. May you be blessed, Mary

  6. I have been reading Padre Pio's Spiritual direction for everyday for many years. I always felt a deep connection to Raffaelina Cerase. I am so glad I Google her name and found your story. I will look also for your book. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment. How wonderful that you have a strong connection to Raffaelina, or perhaps St Raffaelina, if we may be so bold. I look forward to sharing my book with you, stay tuned to this blog for updates, I can't say it will be out very soon, but with Padre Pio behind the wheel, it may happen sooner rather than I think! May you be blessed and rewarded, Mary


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