Can Anything Good Come Out Of Norristown?
That skeptical query about Jesus- 'can anything good come out of Nazareth?' always had me substituting "can anything good come out of Norristown?" because that seemed to me to be the equivalent in modern american lay terms as a sort-of Philadelphian. I had been to Nazareth to fetch leather sourced for the shoe factory on the Kibbutz where I did a month one summer (during a blistering Intifada a little too close to the Lebanese border). It looked a rather dingy little blue collar industrial town with a great bus station. That reminded me of Norristown- the town near the more affluent Valley Forge where I lived on a house on the same Mountain that George Washington trekked that fateful winter. Our back yard was Valley Forge National Park, which is speckled with little stone houses that doubled as infirmaries during the Revolutionary War.
Can anything good come out of Norristown?
Something amazing has that you should know about- because there is a little bit of Norristown in all of us if we search hard enough.
A couple who had a young daughter with near fatal medical challenges wrote to a little known priest named Pio- Father Pio (Father Pious in English) - Padre Pio and asked him to pray for their daughter. He beckoned them to come visit him immediately. They went to Italy- all the way to a little town where Padre Pio who called himself just a "poor friar who prays" was at times doubled over with the stigmata. He is the only known priest to have what Saint Francis had- the marks of the cross on his body- physically bleeding. Freaky, I know for a half presbyterian to grasp. So this priest beckoned the entire family to his town in the hills of Italy somewhere I hope to visit one day, and their little girl was prayed over and healed. She lives to this day. She may be sainted one day-who knows. Padre Pio, Father Pious, already is.
So this family then went back to their small suburban Philadelphia little industrial town, and had a vision - we have to tell everyone about this Franciscan Friar in the hills of Italy. Everyone. So they eventually moved a little further north in the beautiful Pennsylvania countryside and built a Shrine to the Father Pious. In a place you likely never heard of- Barto. I had to look it up. It's somewhere near another town that sounds equally podunkish- Pottstown.
This family planned big- if you want absolutely everyone to know about healing miracles, you have to make room and place for absolutely everyone, so they expanded and bought enough land to make a whole town/village- they envision townhouses, a lake, a huge shrine, and places for retreater to retreat and retirees to retire.
Go. Visit. If you have ears to hear it will knock your socks off. You never knew Pennsylvania could be so amazingly beautiful. It took a family of italian immigrants who experienced the healing miracle of a poor franciscan friar who prays to turn it into a piece of paradise.
Just another reason to love italians. Like you needed one.
His first class relics are processing around the joint on the 16th. Might be a good time to visit.