Padre Pio: A Personal Portrait (Francesco Napolitano)

padre-pioMuch of what I knew about Padre Pio before reading this book came through stories that seemed apocryphal. They seemed too good to be true. They seemed to be part of the saccharine hagiography that characterizes so much of what is out there. This book changed all that.

Fr. Francesco Napolitano knew Padre Pio, worked with him, cared for him. The story of Padre Pio told through this lens provides a whole different view of his life and work. It’s just as amazing as those original stories I heard, but this time it was real. It was a human portrait of a super-human figure. Continue reading “Padre Pio: A Personal Portrait (Francesco Napolitano)”

The Secret Life of John Paul II (Lino Zani)

In this rare glimpse into John Paul II’s private life, Lino Zani gives the reader more than an explanation of the pope’s skiing trips in the Italian Alps. The heart of the story is how the “secret” life of John Paul II in the mountains–his clandestine trips to northern Italy–are linked to the secrets of Fatima as they relate to the Holy Father. The Secret Life of John Paul II is a book worth reading.

Zani’s work is a mix of autobiography about his own interactions with John Paul II and a story about John Paul II in the mountains. Both aspects of the book give the reader an intimate portrait of John Paul II and how he approached people and the world with a particular insight. Through his conversations with and observation of John Paul II, Zani experienced a deepening of faith and conversion from his dissolute youth. Through John Paul II, Zani became an apostle to the mountains and brought the sign of Christ to the highest peaks in the world.

Yet it was on the relatively modest peaks of the Italian Alps that Zani learned what it meant to be an apostle. There, John Paul II revealed a deep prayer life and intimate connection with God. There, Zani saw John Paul II in the ecstasy of prayer and the agony of a kind of supernatural knowledge.

Before reading the book, I had not paid a lot of attention to the secrets of Fatima, or John Paul II’s connection with them. Whether you are familiar or not, Zani connects many of the dots between the secrets and the life of John Paul II, particularly his time on the mountain. That connection makes this book an interesting historical work as well.

In short, The Secret Life of John Paul II is a quick read worth reading. It’s one of many glimpses of John Paul II’s personal side that we often overlook.

For a complimentary copy of the book, the author provided an unbiased review. For more such books, visit Saint Benedict’s Press today.

Padre Pio’s Spiritual Direction for Every Day (Pasquale)


Padre Pio’s Spiritual Direction is a compilation of spiritual advice and encouragement from Padre Pio gathered from his correspondence with others. Sometimes, even, we catch a glimpse of Padre Pio’s own struggles in the passages from letters to his spiritual director. These intimate instructions to others are like a daily dose of spiritual direction for us. And for those of us without a regular spiritual director or confessor–which I assume is most of us–this work can be an invaluable guide in the spiritual life.

Here’s a sample from the other day:

May 10

Holiness means overcoming ourselves. It means having perfect victory over all our passions. It means truly and constantly disregarding ourselves and despising the things of this world to the point of preferring poverty to riches, humiliation to glory, and pain to pleasure. Holiness means loving our neighbor as ourselves out of love for God. With regard to others, holiness means loving even those who curse us, who hate us, who persecute us, and even doing good to them. Holiness means living a life of humility, detachment, wisdom, righteousness, patience, charity, chastity, gentleness, and diligence. It is a life of doing our duty for no other reason than to please God and receive our reward from him alone.

Passages like that are frequent in these pages, and are words to contemplate throughout the day. And every day brings a challenge or word of encouragement. In a way, Padre Pio’s words capture all the same emotions discussed and experienced in the Psalms. This incredible range of emotions meets each of us where we are and brings us to a greater understanding of ourselves and our relation to God. Some thoughts:

The souls that are most afflicted are the favorites of the divine heart, and you can be sure that Jesus has chosen you to be the darling of his adorable heart.

My soul is melting with sorrow and love, with bitterness and sweetness, at the same time. How will I bear up under such an overwhelming action of the Most High?

Keep your resolutions: Stay in the boat in which the Lord has placed you, and let the storm come. Jesus is alive! You will not perish. He will be sleeping, but just at the right time he will wake up to restore the calm.

Padre Pio is a spiritual companion who can walk you through the seasons of the year, and the seasons of life. And if you wondered whether reading this book will be worth your time . . .

I want you to see how powerful sacred reading can be to induce a change in people’s direction and to make even worldly people begin their journey to perfection.

This review is part of The Catholic Company‘s Reviewer Program. This review is provided in exchange for a complimentary copy of this book. For more information about this book or other great gifts, visit