Padre Pio is easily the most well-known and beloved mystic saint of the 20th century. Like most people, all I knew about Padre Pio before reading Padre Pio: The True Story were second or third-hand anecdotes. A good friend's mother said she saw Padre Pio on a balcony in San Giovanni Rotondo and experienced the overpowering scent of roses. The brother of the music director in our parish may have been the recipient of a miraculous cure thanks to Padre Pio.
My own granny was from southern Italy and had Padre Pio knick-knacks around her south Philadelphia home when we were kids. So I started out with an affection for Padre Pio and this book certainly did nothing at all do dampen it. Now that I know the "true story", my love for the humble Capuchin is greatly enhanced. I believe he is a powerful intercessor before the throne of Almighty God.
Ruffin, a Lutheran, has done a remarkable job with this book, which is modern, fair, and intriguing throughout. He is open-minded when it comes to the truly credible miracle stories but skeptical when necessary. A bit over 400 pages long, the book is a very easy read, though slightly repetitive in spots. Pio's story is so engrossing, however, that I didn't mind the repetition. In fact, the book reminded me a few times of the great classical biographies of the ancient saints, like The Life of Saint Simeon the Stylite or Possidius's Life of Saint Augustine. It is amazing to me that such a person could have lived in the 20th century--dying a mere three years before I was born!
Clearly, Ruffin did a staggering amount of research for this book. It is full of solid factual material about Pio's life and his sufferings--physical, spiritual, and those brought about by his enemies within the Church. The phenomenon of Pio's stigmata is examined in detail and recent "news" reports that the wounds were self-inflicted are effectively debunked. The book is also crammed with tales about the extraordinary graces that God bestowed, and continues to bestow, on poor souls through Padre Pio's intercession. By the end, the reader is left with an excellent portrait of this good, humble, and holy man.
The version of this book we purchased was clearly a later edition. Though it bears a copyright date of 1991, it includes information at the end about St. Pio's canonization which took place in 2002. I highly recommend this book to anyone with even the slightest interest in Padre Pio. I know it will be well passed-around in our house.