An interesting little story that comes from Catholic Family News.
“Never be ashamed of Christ or of His doctrine. It is time to fight with open face.” – Padre Pio
by Fr. Pascal P. Parente
A well-know attorney of Genoa, Comm. Cesare Festa, a first cousin of Dr. G. Festa of Rome, former mayor of Arenzano and one of the most prominent Freemasons of Genoa, was one of the first conquests of Padre Pio’s kindness and zeal. Dr. G. Festa had often exhorted his cousin to abandon Freemasonry and to return to the Church, but to no avail. When he became acquainted with Padre Pio, he spoke about the Padre to his cousin Cesare. One day, out of curiosity, Cesare left Genoa and traveled all the way south to San Giovanni Rotondo.
“What, you here? You, who are a Freemason?” exclaimed Padre Pio the moment he laid eyes on the newcomer.
“Yes, Father,” said Cesare.
“And what is your intention as a Freemason?” “To fight against the Church from a political point of view.”
Padre Pio smiled, took his visitor’s hand and with extreme kindness began to tell him the story of the Prodigal Son. That same day Cesare went down on his knees before Padre Pio and made his confession, the first in twenty-five years. The next morning he received Holy Communion.
For a few days he remained with the Padre to strengthen his soul for the ordeal that lay ahead. Padre Pio advised him to wait before announcing his official break with the Freemasons. After a few months he returned again to see the Padre, and this time he stopped in Rome to tell his cousin, Dr. Festa, of his conversion and change of heart.
When an Italian pilgrimage to Lourdes was organized under the leadership of Archbishop Achille Ratti of Milan (Later Pope Pius XI), Cesare decided to offer his services to the invalid pilgrims, both on the train and later at the hotel.
This fact soon became known, and the Socialist paper Avanti and similar sheets let loose a violent attack under a big headline: “A Freemason at Lourdes!”
Cesare was immediately requested to explain his actions. His answer was brief and to the point. At Lourdes, he said, he had admired not so much the restoration of bodily health as the miracles of faith. A new storm followed, because, officially, he was still a member of the brotherhood. As he was preparing to go to the last meeting of the Lodge to break all ties with Freemasonry, he received a most encouraging letter from Padre Pio.
“Never be ashamed of Christ or of His doctrine. It is time to fight with open face. May the Giver of all blessings grant you the needed strength!”
These words, coming at such a critical moment, gave Cesare the necessary courage. He went to the Lodge and there, with great fervor of spirit, spoke openly of Christ, the Saviour of the world, of His doctrine, His Church, and of his own supreme happiness in returning to them. Then he officially presented his resignation from office and broke all ties with the sect.
All this took place during November, 1921. The following Christmas Cesare was in Rome with his cousin, Dr. Festa. There the former Freemason was to be seen in the garb of a Franciscan Tertiary, walking in the procession of the Bambino in the church of Ara Coeli, a lighted candle in his hand.