WHEN NAZI FORCES SURRENDERED to the Allies in May 1945, a small group of American airmen were free to make a closer investigation into the odd happenings at San Giovanni Rotondo in Italy.
Beginning in 1944, the airmen’s squadron had repeatedly attempted the bomb the Italian city, where a large cache of German supplies were allegedly stockpiled. But on every bombing run something went wrong – their planes refused to release the bombs, or their targeting equipment malfunctioned and the bombs hit the nearby forest instead. The airmen blamed one person for these problems: the flying monk.
“The flying monk” was the name the airmen gave to the mysterious bearded figure who appeared in the sky every time they flew near San Giovanni Rotondo. Sometimes they just saw his face in the clouds. Other times the monk appeared as if he were standing in the sky. Usually his arms were raised, like he was issuing a warning or granting a blessing.
Dozens of airmen and at least one commanding officer had seen the monk, and as soon as the war ended they headed back to the scene of the events, wanting to know if the monk was who some believed him to be: the holy Capuchin friar of the city’s Our Lady of Grace Monastery, Padre Pio (now Saint Pio).
Sure enough, when the men arrived they recognized the saint as their flying monk. As one witness present at the meeting recalled, Padre Pio greeted the airmen with a friendly, “So you are the ones who wanted to kill us all!”
After his greeting the Americans knelt and received his blessing. When they returned to America the San Giovanni Rotondo they left behind was a city whole and intact…all thanks to the flying monk.
See our icon of St Pio of Pietrelcina here.