Next week we will be back in Italy, the land of saints. Our Ananda community is near Assisi, made famous by St. Francis, Italy’s most beloved saint. Paramhansa Yogananda spoke of him as a “patron saint” for those, like us, who are seeking union with God.

Thirty-five years ago, Devi and I helped establish Ananda’s work in Europe, living for eight months near Lake Como in northern Italy. It was a difficult time on many levels, filled with challenges and tapasya (self-sacrifice). It felt like Italy, with its ancient Catholic traditions, was not ready to accept a yogic path, and was giving us, literally, a cold shoulder—we were in an unheated summer villa during the coldest winter in a hundred years.

Then we visited Assisi. Finally, after months, we felt welcomed, bathed in the universal love of St. Francis. The little winding streets seemed very familiar, as if Italy was finally opening her arms after a long, lonely sojourn. St. Francis, who wanted only to love God and to serve Him with every fiber of his being, was not put off by our yogic path.

Padre Pio with Stigmata from the year 1919

A photo of the young Padre Pio in 1919.

Some years later, with two dear friends, we visited the church associated with Italy’s favorite modern saint, Padre Pio. Miracles encircled us during the whole trip. On our way there, driving at dusk through a heavy rain, the lights of the car began to dim; the wipers slowed, and then stopped. We managed to coast into a petrol station, hoping to find a mechanic. But the lone attendant reminded us, with a typical Italian shrug, it was Friday and everyone was gone for the weekend. We would have to find a hotel and wait until Monday. We accepted the news calmly. Being on a holy pilgrimage we were happy to cooperate with God’s grace no matter what form it took.

As we looked around, we were amazed to see that next door was a business specializing in electrical repairs—and it was open. A kindly man agreed to stay late to take a look at the problem. Slogging through the rain, we pushed the car with its dead battery to the shop. Divine Mother, in the form of the obliging mechanic, was able to fix the problem quickly and send us on our way. When you feel that God is near, He will be near.

A second miracle occurred the next day, which we spent visiting the cathedral associated with Padre Pio. Toward evening, seeking silence, we discovered an out-of-the-way choir loft, the very spot where the saint had received the stigmata, the open wounds of Jesus, which he bore for the rest of his life. It was a perfect place to meditate, and, lost in an inner communion, we failed to hear the bell signaling the closing of the church. We did, however, hear the door of the loft being locked. Well, we thought, we’ll just have to stay here and meditate through the night until they open the church in the morning. There are worse fates for yogis.

A few hours later, the doors were opened by a shocked priest who was leading a special tour for some American pilgrims. Seeing our predicament, he invited us to join the group. It was as if Padre Pio wanted to give us our own special tour, showing us all his favorite nooks and crannies. The evening ended with a blessing by the priest, using one of the gloves that still bore the remnants of the great saint’s holy blood.

When we love God, He will play with us—sometimes by giving us the gift of a frigid winter, other times, by coming to us as a guardian angel in overalls, but always by giving us His blessings.

In joy,

Nayaswami Jyotish

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  1. Wonderful. Thank you both.
    Suggest the article be recorded by all your Ananda Sangha establishments here in India and shared by your acharyas on a sunday satsang programme.
    With my deepest regards
    Dev Adhikary

  2. Aum Guru. Blessed Experiences. Very Inspiring. Thank You for Sharing

  3. That is so beautiful.! I could feel God’s presence with you in your adventures. May you have many, many more blessings in your current tour to share with us. In Master’s love, janakidevi

  4. Wow, what wonderful stories. Bless you this fine day!

  5. Dear Jyothishji,
    Thank you for sharing such blessed experiences. So inspiring.
    Jai Guru

  6. So very beautiful your experience with Devi in the churchi. It brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for showing everyone how God is so real and loves us so much. ???

  7. Dear Jyotish Ji
    I was so touched by your words ”
    When we love God, He will play with us—sometimes by giving us the gift of a frigid winter, other times, by coming to us as a guardian angel in overalls, but always by giving us His blessings”.
    There is a very deep teaching in those words….God is in everything and every one …..even that person who cuts in front of you in traffic, and the difficult relative or neighbour…..Thank you both for these inspiring blogs. Jai Guru

  8. Thank You! For the beautiful story and reminder of God’s presence. Also for your longtime modeling of deep spiritual commitment. I really needed this message today as I am anxiously awaiting the results of a job interview. Also is’t on my “Bucket List” to visit Asissi and Padre Pio’s church.

  9. Oh my. Tear filled eyes accompany many a reading of your and Devi’s touches of light, for they so touch our hearts!
    Safe travels you two! God’s grace is like the water pressure on the other side of the faucet. Turn it on, and it flows. Turn our thoughts to God in gratitude and a desire to serve, and bath, in the transfiguring light.

  10. Dear Nayaswami Jyotish Ji,
    Thank you for this inspiring blog. Exciting and amazing to read your experience.
    Safe travels and looking forward meeting you soon in India.
    In Master’s love

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