September 07, 2021 2 min read

In our family we often reflect together on the great gift we have received: that of having as a spiritual father a priest — “our” Don Nello — who lived alongside Padre Pio.

He gives us so many teachings when he tells us real-life stories from his days with Padre Pio!

His words are etched on my mind like a precious treasure.

I would like to share with you some of Don Nello's experiences together with Padre Pio, as I hope they can be useful for your faith journey — as they have been and still are for us.

The first story is about an incident that Don Nello also recounted during Padre Pio's beatification trial, to which he was a witness.

I'll give a faithful account of the story, which I've heard several times directly from him, using his own words.

“Whenever I went to confession,” recalls Don Nello, “the first thing Padre Pio would invariably ask was: ‘Did you get agitated? Were you restless?’”. As a young priest I had a very impulsive temperament, and in the confessional, he labored to correct this defect.

I must first give a little background information to explain an incredible occurrence in the confessional with Padre Pio, so that you can fully understand this incident.

One day I was engaged in a heated argument in the sacristy with my parish priest. I was a young chaplain and was defending Padre Pio's holiness, which I had personally witnessed but which the priest refused to believe, thinking that both Padre Pio and everyone who went to him were simply mad. I tried to explain my reasons to him, but simply could not convince him.

Good, now let's get back to the confession incident. As I knelt before Padre Pio, he began to ask the usual question: ‘Did you get agitated? Were you restless?’”

I had prepared well for confession and was sure not to have any shortcomings on this point, so I answered confidently: ‘No!’

‘Are you sure?’ he replied.


Then, something incredible occurred.

I was no longer kneeling inside the confessional, but I was in my hometown church in Northern Italy, watching an argument between the parish priest and myself; I listened to the matters, the words and my tone of voice — I wasn’t angry, but I was definitely upset and agitated.

Then, I suddenly found myself kneeling in the confessional again in front of Padre Pio, who looked at me and asked: ‘So even if we were right, would you rather damn your soul?’

His use of the plural form (“we were right”) confirmed that he sided with me, but the way in which I supported the truth was wrong.”

Don Nello used to recount this incident to me to help me understand what a good Christian should be like: firm but meek, just like Jesus teaches us...

Having known Don Nello for 33 years now, Cinzia and I would never describe him as an impulsive person: he radiates peace and meekness.

Padre Pio had worked on his soul, turning him into an example for everyone.

Let's cherish these teachings!

Alessandro Ghirelli

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