As the Church celebrates the canonization of Pope St. John Paul II, it is timely to recall his little-known connection to the Capuchin saint, Padre Pio, and the miracle a young Karol Wojtyla requested through his intercession.
The Tragic Diagnosis
As a young priest, Karol Wojtyla (later Pope John Paul II) was all too familiar with loss. He had suffered the death of both parents, as well as his brother, and had no real family of his own. Wojtyla found comfort and companionship in his growing friendship with the Poltawska family. The Poltawskas had two children, Wanda and Andrei, both of whom grew up calling Wojtyla their “uncle.”
Many years later, while Wojtyla was participating in the Second Vatican Council as auxiliary bishop of Krakow, he received the devastating news that Wanda Poltawska had been diagnosed with an intestinal tumor. If the growth proved cancerous, Wanda would be given only eighteen months to live. The outlook was grim, as doctors were nearly certain that the tumor would prove malignant. Wanda had already endured much suffering in her young life, spending five harsh years in a concentration camp. Now, at forty years old and a mother of four children, her life seemed to be tragically over.
Upon learning of his “niece's” illness and the bleak diagnosis of the doctors, Wojtyla began a relentless campaign of prayer. He asked for the intercession of his fellow priests, religious sisters, and friends.
His Visit to Padre Pio
Wojtyla had been a priest for less than a year in the summer of 1947. While in the midst of a study program working on the mystical theology of St. John of the Cross, he began to hear rumors about a Capuchin mystic from Italy who was alleged to bear the wounds of Christ.
Wojtyla decided to visit the Capuchin mystic who lived only a half-day's journey from Rome. The mystic's name was Padre Pio of Pietrelcina. Wojtyla spent nearly a week in the small village of San Giovanni Rotondo where he was able to attend Padre Pio's Mass and make his confession. Apparently, the two spoke together at length, though the exact nature of what was said remains a mystery. In later years, the conversation would give rise to rumors that Padre Pio had told Wojytla that he would one day become Pope. Twice Wojtyla has dismissed these rumors as erroneous.
When the news reached Bishop Wojtyla of Wanda's tragic diagnosis, he wasted no time in penning a letter to Padre Pio in Latin. The letter read:
“Venerable Father, I ask for your prayers for a certain mother of four young girls, who lives in Krakow, Poland (during the last war she spent five years in a German concentration camp), and now her health and even her life are in great danger due to cancer. Pray that God, through the intercession of the Most Blessed Virgin, has mercy on her and her family. Most obligated in Christ, Karol Wojtyla..”
In order to make sure that the letter reached the hand of Padre Pio in a timely manner, Wojtyla acted through intermediaries, enlisting the help of Angelo Battisti in order to be certain that the Capuchin mystic received the urgent letter as soon as possible.
Angelo Battisti immediately drove the letter to San Giovanni Rotondo and hurried to Padre Pio's cell. He found the Capuchin priest in deep prayer. Without looking up, Padre Pio told Battisti to read the letter aloud. He listened intently and remained in silent prayer for some moments afterward. Finally, Padre Pio sat up and turned to face Battisti, saying: “Angelo, to this one (this man), it is not possible to say no!” Then he resumed praying as before.
In late November, 1962, Bishop Wojtyla telephoned to inquire about the state of the woman's condition and whether or not the surgery had been performed with success. Wanda's husband, Andrei, explained that the operation did not take place. The doctors had found that there was nothing to be done. Assuming the worst, Wojtyla began to console Wanda's husband, but was interrupted by Andre. “Oh no,” he said, “you do not understand. The doctors are confronted with a mystery. They could not find anything.” The tumor had completely disappeared. For Wojtyla, there was only one possible explanation – the intercession of the Capuchin mystic, Padre Pio.
The above article is a summary of an article by Michael Brown originally posted here: http://www.spiritdaily.net/piorega.htm