By Fr. Daniel Klimek TOR

Before her conversion to a devout Catholic faith, the Polish model Ania Golędzinowska lived a life of celebrity, substance abuse, and hostility toward the Catholic Church. One night a mysterious stranger came to admonish her.

Only in Medjugorje did she recognize him as St. Padre Pio, the 20th Century Capuchin friar who bore the stigmata, the wounds of Christ, on his body.

Years ago Polish model Ania Golędzinowska woke up in the middle of the night in her Italian home to find a mysterious man standing by the side of her bed, shaking his head at her in disappointment. It was only years later when she moved to Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina, in 2011, and saw a book about Saint Padre Pio, who passed away decades ago in 1968, that Golędzinowska recognized the man’s face.

When she experienced the mysterious encounter, Ania was leading a far from virtuous life.Though a successful model, an actress in Italian sitcoms, and a TV presenter, she admits to struggling with substance abuse, lacking faith in God, and even developing a strong resentment toward the Catholic Church.

Saint Pio, she believes, came to warn her to change her ways. The former model recalls the day when she finally identified him: “For years, I did not know who he was. Even in my book I reported this incident but did not include the man’s name,” Ania told Brother Marcin Radomski, a Capuchin Franciscan, in an interview she gave in Łomża, Poland, in 2012.

“It was only five months ago in Medjugorje that somebody gave me a book about the life of Padre Pio, and for the first time, after eight years, I could give the name of the person who eight years ago came to admonish me, to warn me that if I would continue leading my life this way then I would not go far.”

Ania was very open about how far away she strayed from the Church in those years, to the point of developing a hatred for all things Catholic.

“I was far from the Church. If I would get a chance, I would shoot all priests and nuns. Whenever I saw a church, I would cross to the other side of the street. I abused drugs. I drank.”

Then one night a warning came. Even her dog, Ania recalls, sensed the presence of a stranger in the room, suggesting to her that this was no hallucination.

“A certain day, a certain night I woke up because my dog was barking. And by the side of my bed stood this man, older, with a beard, and he was looking at me, shaking his head.

I thought that it was some kind of hallucination because of the alcohol or drugs – no, this is not possible, I thought. Then I turned on the light, and this man was still standing by my bedside, shaking his head and my dog was still barking at him.”

Though Ania believes Saint Pio came to her with an important message, he did not need words to convey it. “He did not say anything, but he was looking at me as if he wanted to say: ‘Ania, what are you doing?’”

Ania Golędzinowska made much news when the Catholic Herald published a popular interview with her. The interview centered around her life-changing conversion in Medjugorje and its consequences.

She made the decision to leave the life of glamour and fame in high Italian society behind for a simple, peasant life of prayer and service in Medjugorje, where she has been living since 2011 with Pure Hearts, a Marian community of priests and nuns.

For the Polish model, this required ending a prominent relationship with her boyfriend Paolo Enrico Beretta, the nephew of then-Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Ania has spent much time touring Poland, as a Polish edition of her autobiography was recently released, translated by a priest.

Her book, Ocalona z Piekła: Wyznania byłej Modelki translates to Rescued from Hell: Confessions of a former Model. A section in the book describes Ania’s encounter with the visitor who appeared to her in the middle of the night years ago to give her a helpful warning.

Now readers may know that Ania Golędzinowska has identified the mysterious stranger as Saint Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, the famous stigmatic priest and mystic.