Prince Karl Klugkist (1871-1948) was an exiled Russian aristocrat during World War I who — like so many — had a life-transforming encounter with the Capuchin priest, mystic, and saint, Padre Pio. Among other things, Prince Karl saw something unique, something that has seldom been reported — he saw St. Pio praying in tongues, a supernatural charism that stems back to the original Apostles of Jesus. Prince Karl noted that the holy friar had the tendency of using the gift while absolving sins in the confessional.
The author C. Bernard Ruffin recorded the encounter in his masterful biography Padre Pio: The True Story. He reports how Prince Karl was going through a dangerous spiritual path before meeting Padro Pio, being involved in occultism and Eastern mysticism, hoping to seek out “this new guru” from San Giovanni Rotondo Prince Karl was rushed through a courtyard to a small door, through which he entered and saw Padre Pio confessing a man. Prince Karl studied Padre Pio’s face, finding himself “fascinated by the beauty of Pio’s face and his whole demeanor” during confession. Interestingly, at the end of the confession, Prince Karl noticed “a most curious phenomenon, which, as far as we know, is the only instance of Padre Pio’s speaking in tongues,” Ruffin writes. Prince Karl explained:
“Slowly, in guttural tones, he [Padre Pio] recited a rhythmic prayer, a mystical formula, in an Oriental language unknown to me. I remember the words which recurred continually: ‘Adai nanda’ and ‘nanda.’ This unusual and mysterious invocation aroused my curiosity and I regretted being unable to ask him for an explanation.”
The gift of tongues is known in Christianity as an angelic language, spoken in heaven, which transcends human understanding and lifts up our prayers to God through mysterious utterances. We see the gift prominently displayed by the first Apostles in the Acts of the Apostles, and also St. Paul wrote about the gift in his first letter to the Corinthians, explaining that the “one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to human beings but to God…he utters mysteries in spirit” (1. Cor. 14:2).
During his own confession with Padre Pio, Prince Karl was warned by the holy friar about the spiritual dangers that the prince was involved in with his fascination with occultism. Padre Pio, the prince recollected, “spoke to me of the danger of mirages created by Lucifer…”
Interestingly, as with the former penitent, St. Pio recited his “mysterious formula,” as he was absolving Prince Karl of his sins, again speaking in the angelic language of tongues. Prince Karl wrote of St. Pio as the latter began to pray in tongues again:
“His mind seemed to have plunged into an abyss from which those mysterious words rose up. Then…his whole being became radiant with interior light, in which he seemed merged in some indefinable and immensely exalted presence which caused the formula of absolution to issue from the human lips of this humble Capuchin.”
At the conclusion of the encounter, Ruffin writes that as Prince Karl kissed Padre Pio’s hand he smelled the “strong perfume which emanated from the stigmata.” Leaving Padre Pio’s presence, Prince Karl concluded: “I found myself faced with the divine Ego. In [Padre Pio] alone I found no trace of the human ego…He has reached the goal of Union.”
St. Paul, who thanked God for the gift of speaking in tongues (1 Cor. 14:18)—possessing it himself—compartmentalized the spiritual gifts in order of importance, wishing that all Christians would speak in tongues, though he saw prophecy as an even greater gift. “Now I should like all of you to speak in tongues,” he wrote, “but even more to prophesy” (1 Cor. 14:5). Padre Pio, it is fascinating to discover, possessed both of these gifts, among various others that have been associated with the holy friar, most famously his stigmata, bilocation, and healing gifts.
Interestingly, in an excellent book called Christian Initiation and Baptism in the Holy Spirit , Catholic scholars Kilian McDonnell and George Montague—both men being priests—document how the gift of tongues, as well as other charisms of the Holy Spirit, were present for at least the first eight centuries of Catholic Church history, even after the original Apostles.
In recent decades, with the birth and global expansion of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal the Church has seen a stronger outpouring of such ancient gifts of the Holy Spirit among Her devotees, seeing a renewal of the charisms. Fr. Raneiro Cantalamessa, the papal preacher under Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and currently under Francis, has also written about the power of the gift of tongues.
The encounter with Padre Pio left no small mark on Prince Karl. Not only did the prince renounce his involvement with occultism and eastern mysticism, but he also became a priest, joining the Trinitarian Order in Rome, and subsequently earning a reputation as a holy man. He died in the Lord at the age of seventy-seven. As a priest, he took the religious name Fra Pio.
Please help bring Apparition Hill, a life-transforming movie about a group of pilgrims experiencing Medjugorje, to the Academy Awards. When I saw the film, months ago, there was not a dry eye in the theater it was so powerful. Please watch the video below of one of the producers, explaining the situation of getting the film to the Academy Awards and allowing it to reach millions of people. Here is the Web site to go to contribute to this project.