Joey’s story is one that touches the hearts of all and ties in Padre Pio. Forty-seven years ago in 1947 at the age of 17 Joey had a freak accident in which he completely lost his sight. After surgery his optic and olfactory nerves were severed. Undaunted Joey went on with his life and built up a secular business. In 1961 his doctor strongly recommended he take some time off and possibly take in Europe on vacation. Being of Italian descent, Joey made plans to visit his uncle in southern Italy. Unbeknownst to Joey God had some special plans in store.
Like the majority of us before our conversion, spirituality was not at the top of his list. In fact, by Joey’s own admission, he was not the model Catholic. But his uncle talked him into driving with him for several hours to San Giovanni Rotundo so he could meet a special priest who had the visible stigmata. Reluctantly, Joey agreed. When Joey got there he didn’t really know what to make of it all and, through his uncle, was included in a special audience with the renowned Padre Pio. The semi-private audience moved Joey to go to Confession, but he was still reluctant to open up. Padre Pio urged him on twice in Italian. Still Joey was hesitant. Then in perfect English Padre Pio began reading Joey’s soul, detailing names, places and situations in which Joey had fallen into sin. Joey was taken back in awe and humility. He was moved to tears and overcome with a newly found inner joy and peace.
It was during his short stay there that he was able to smell anything for the first time in fourteen years. As Padre Pio blessed him, the holy priest held his blood-stained hand to Joey’s mouth for the young blind man to kiss. It was at that instant that Joey was overcome by the strong, sweet scent of roses emitting from the blood. His joy overflowed. As Joey tells it, he didn’t want to leave this special place where he had gained such peace and tranquillity - yet his uncle reminded him that Garabandal was still on the itinerary and they had to get going. Fearing it might be the devil who was enticing him to Garabandal in order to lose this beautiful inner peace he now had, he wanted a confirmation that he should go to Garabandal. His confirmation came from none other that Padre Pio himself who flatly told Joey, "Yes, go, Joey. It is the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is appearing there."
After that, Joey didn’t need a car or any other transportation to get to this rugged mountain village southwest of Santander, Spain. He was on cloud nine. As it turned out, in order to get to the village one had to go either on horseback or oxcart. Joey chose the latter.
In the early days of Garabandal the visionaries were quite accessible and so Joey and the girls immediately struck a special bond that has lasted to this day. So on fire was this "blind apostle" that on the return to the States, he began to go out into neighboring towns and parishes to tell anyone who would listen of the wonders he had experienced and the vital message of Garabandal. Despite his handicap he continued, branching out to where today his apostolate reaches every state, every nation of the world. This child-like man with the charismatic personality who is so full of joy and kindness has touched millions, much like Wayne Weible has done for the Medjugorje movement.
Joey has a mission that will eventually take him back to Garabandal when the great Miracle occurs for Our Lady, on the feast of her beloved chaste spouse St. Joseph in 1964, revealed to Conchita in a locution that Joey would have his vision completely restored on that great day when the Miracle is manifested. He will see it!
NEXT INSTALLMENT: Part Six - Garabandal: For whom the Bells Toll! They saw the Miracle