Journal: June 20, 2006 Miracles and Medicine
A week ago, I wrote here about my extraordinary interview with an extraordinary woman, Anna Pangallo of Roccaforte del Greco, the recipient of St. Gaetano’s second and decisive miracle. A few days after I spoke with Anna, I conducted one of the most fascinating and soulful interviews of my 25-year career as a journalist. I interviewed Anna Pangallo’s doctor, Giuseppe Bolignano, an infectious diseases expert at Riuniti Hospital in Reggio di Calabria. The entire story of the miracle lady and her doctor is detailed in Chapter 19 of my book. What follows are some excerpts from my journal entry on June 20, 2006. My interpreter that morning was Edward Parker, a British ex-pat working as an English teacher in Reggio. He married a beautiful local woman named Angela.
“We get into the doctor’s office just after 10 a.m. an hour late. No bad, all things considered. We situate ourselves around his desk, Dr. Bolignano sitting behind it. He is an handsome man of 59, round face, dark eyes, bald for the most part with a few strands brushed across the top. He has two posters of bacteria cell slides hanging on the wall behind his desk. On the opposite wall, there is a Padre Pio calendar. No sign of Gaetano. The doctor is wearing a short-sleeved, blue open-collar shirt. We explain to him that it would be good if he spoke in short chunks and allowed time for translation. He nods and actually follows through! He is very patient, and matter of fact in his tone and explanation. Scientific. He tells the story of Anna Pangallo, how she entered the hospital, the shape she was in, the fact that he, as her primary physician, declared her a hopeless cause and told her family to prepare for her eventual death. He speaks quietly, pensively, without bluster. To the hardest questions come the most assertive replies.
“Do you believe in miracle? I ask. A pause. ‘I don’t know,’ he says, before offering a striking explanation. It is a beautiful beyond words, intense and dramatic. He ponders my question further and thinks it through. His eyes, dark and expressive, tell me his answers are entirely sincere. As he talks, he gestures with his left hand. He is a man of science and a man of deep faith. He does not find these concepts conflicting or mutually exclusive. But he’s not a mystic either. The Lord may work in mysterious ways, but so does the human body, he seems to say. So much is still inexplicable, perhaps more so in this hospital, which may never rank among the better hospitals in Italy, or even Calabria for all I know.
“When we move beyond the case of Anna Pangallo, we talk about his relationship to Padre Gaetano. He knew the priest personally. His family was very close to him. huge fans and supporters. He was 17 when the great priest died. ‘He was my uncle,’ he says. His descriptions are clear and matter of fact, scientific, minus the science. It’s also clear that he loved and revered Padre Gaetano intensely, and his pride in the saint’s life is boundless. That pride has virtually nothing to do with official edicts from the Vatican since 1990 regarding his uncle. Dr. Bolignano knew those things already. ‘The Vatican,’ he tells me, ‘doesn’t make saints. God does. And Gaetano was a saint long before the Vatican got around to declaring him so.’ ”