One Sunday morning, 26 years ago, my wife and I were planning to go on a picnic to a local beauty spot. After we finished our dinner, Ann went into the sitting- room with a cup of coffee. The two older children, Michael and Nichola, and I started to prepare a picnic hamper.
At this point Ann was pregnant with twins. While we were making the picnic hamper we heard a scream from the sitting-room. I ran in to find Ann lying on the floor.
A few years before that, Ann had miscarried a child. I thought it was something to do with this happening again. We called a doctor. By the time the doctor came Ann was completely stiff, her eyes were rolling in her head and her mouth was twisted up to her ear. The doctor got a pair of scissors to cut the clothes off Ann and gave her several injections. The ambulance came and took her to the local hospital.
A team of doctors and nurses examined her while I sat in the waiting-room. They came to me and said: "Mr Mulrine, your wife has no more than half an hour to live. She either had a massive brain haemorrhage or has a tumour of the brain. We just don't know but we feel that's most probably what it is. " They said: "If you wish, we can keep your wife alive by ventilator until the unborn children reach the age of 38 weeks, which is about two-and-a- half months away. If you don't sign the forms, then your wife and two unborn children will die within the next half-hour."
I signed the forms and they told me to go in and say goodbye, she might or might not hear me. I went in but she was just like an animal, there was blood coming from everywhere; she was completely distorted. Then they took her away and put her on the life-support machine. She looked as if she was lying peacefully after that.
That night I went down to visit my mother and my mother- in- law and I was handed a little relic leaflet of Padre Pio by my mother. That was the first time I ever heard of him. I shoved it in my top pocket. I then went back up to our house to make arrangements for the children to be looked after. I went, after that, to arrange for time off work. The man we had bought our house off had roses everywhere in the front garden and when I was passing them I thought, 'I will take those roses to Our Lady's altar.' But I sort of laughed at it and walked away.
Eventually I was walking through a place called William Street where there's a beautiful flower shop. The window was full of roses. Once again I got this feeling that I should take flowers to Our Lady's altar. So I went in and bought some and took them up to the chapel. As I was putting the roses on the altar, the stems of the flowers caught the little leaflet I had been given. It was sticking out of my pocket and it fell to the ground. I lifted it up and knelt down and said the prayer on it, which was a prayer Padre Pio would have said for people looking for his intercession. It said everything you would have liked to have said but didn't know how to say. From that time on I had a great prayerfulness about me, which I never had before.
Ten or 12 days passed and Ann was still the same. One night I was sitting down beside her with the little leaflet and I said: "Look, if you're going to do something for me, give me a sign." I asked Ann to squeeze my hand and I swore she did. I sent for the nurse and the doctor but they told me I was clutching at straws, there was no chance at all. They said she was clinically brain dead. But they said there was a specialist coming down in a few days and he would talk to me and put me more clearly in the picture.
Eventually this doctor came down and told me what I had been told before. He said: "Your wife either had a massive brain haemorrhage or has a tumour and we have no intention of doing anything at all because your wife is clinically dead, only the machine is keeping the children going." Another five or six weeks passed. All this time I was going to Our Lady's altar with roses and praying to Padre Pio. They then asked me could they move my wife to hospital in Belfast and I said: "Yes."
One night in Belfast I was sitting beside my wife's bed when one of the nurses said: "Mr Mulrine, would you mind leaving for a while?" It was about half past one or two o'clock in the morning. I went down to the end of the corridor and I started saying the Rosary. I got up after the first decade and walked towards Ann's bed but something pulled me back. On the last decade of the Rosary I looked up the corridor and I saw this figure coming around the corner and I ran towards it and said: "Excuse me, you're looking for me."
I had never met the man in my life, I didn't know who the man was; don't ask me why I said that. He said: "I'm looking for a man called Mulrine." I said: "That's me." The man's name was Michael Murray and he and his wife ran the Padre Pio Centre for Northern Ireland. He said: "I got a phone call about half-an- hour ago from a lady who said for me to take the glove of Padre Pio to Sean and Ann Mulrine in the Royal Hospital." This was a brown mitt that Padre Pio would have had over the bandages, over the stigmata on his hands. We went up to Ann and he said to me: "She might hear you talking, tell her what it is." So I told her. We put the glove of Padre Pio on Ann's head. Despite all the tubes, she moved her hand, she grabbed the glove, she brought the glove to her face, blessed herself three times, brought it to her stomach and blessed her stomach with it. She then just fell back into the bed again. This was the first movement we had seen. After that, Michael and I sat and he told me some things about Padre Pio. Then we left. I went to my room. Next morning I went to Ann's bed again but she was moved and the bed was gone. I thought they had taken her to take the children out. The nurse came to me and said: "The doctors have read the reports from last night and they've taken her down to surgery for exploratory examination."
They removed part of the crown of her head and put a camera in to see what was there. They came to me after the operation and said they had seen several of the major vessels in the brain and they had burst. There was a large amount of congealed blood in the centre of the brain and it could not be sucked out. They said: "We don't know how the event last night happened, we can't understand it, she's clinically dead." That night I went into my room and I couldn't go through the door for the overpowering smell of roses. It was years later that I was told that this was the invisible presence of Padre Pio.
To cut a long story short, Ann came out of the recovery room, they put her in bed and she opened her eyes and started to talk and move. They took her off the ventilator to see how she would do. They called it a fluke. They said: "We don't know how this has happened." Ann got so well that she was eventually brought back to Derry, where the babies were born just a week after she arrived. She just went from strength to strength. She never looked back and she and the two boys were released from hospital on 23 September, which was the anniversary of the death of Padre Pio.
Eventually we went out to San Giovanni in thanksgiving and we met Father Alessio who was Padre Pio's secretary and nurse. He is dead since. He asked could he investigate Ann's story as part of the cause of Padre Pio. They investigated for four or five years or more. When they asked for the doctors' personal opinions, they all said it was beyond medical science how she is today.
As a result, for the beatification we were asked to meet the Pope and present flowers from the people of Ireland. And for the canonisation I was also invited to go up to the Pope with the presentations. We take the trips out now in thanksgiving. We never make any fuss about it. We don't say it was a miracle. We say it was a grace given by God through the intercession of Padre Pio.
- Sean runs the Padre Pio Centre for Northern Ireland, which is affiliated to the monastery at San Giovanni Rotondo