The life and holiness of
Padre Domenico da Cese was born Emidio Petracca on March 27, 1905 to Caterina and Giovanni
Petracca in the small village of Cese, in the Abruzzo region of Italy.
At the young age of 4, Emidio was diagnosed with infantile paralysis and was at the time an only child. His mother, Caterina took the young child to the local church and desperately prayed to Mary, the Mother of God, placing him on the altar dedicated to her. Suddenly Emidio began to move his legs, he was miraculously cured. In 1915 at the age of 9, Emidio predicted that an earthquake would occur shortly in the region, however no one listened to him. On the following day, January 13, 1915 a catastrophic 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck the Abruzzo region killing 30,000 people including his two younger sisters Elisa age 3 and Lauretta age 1. His mother Caterina was saved by a beam in the family home. However, Emidio and his father Giovanni were buried beneath the rubble of the collapsed church until a “stranger” pulled them out. It was not until many years later that Emidio would see the face of that “stranger” again.
At the age of 12, Emidio wanted to become a Capuchin, his father refused forbidding him as the only heir to their property. During his prayers, our Lord told the young Emidio to ask again and if he were permitted his parents would have other children to take his place. His father finally agreed, therefore soon after Caterina and Giovanni welcomed 3 more children, Elisa, Mario and Angelo. Emidio joined the Capuchins in Avezzano at the age of 16 on November 3, 1921. Upon entering the
novitiate in Penne in 1922, Emidio chose the name, Fra Domenico. Soon after while studying philosophy
and theology in L’Aquila he was sent to Florence for his military service to be trained as a paramedic.
On April 8, 1928 Fra Domenico made his perpetual profession, and again on October 1, 1931 he
repeated this perpetual profession. October 11, 1931, the feast of the Divine Motherhood of Mary, he
received his priestly ordination at the Cathedral of Sulmona by Bishop Nicolaus Iezzoni.
October 3, 1940 Padre Domenico was called into military service and sent to various locations;
beginning in Trieste, Slovenia, Croatia, Spalato, Dubrovnik and Obljaj-Grahovo as an army chaplain.
Before embarking on his military service, Padre Domenico wanted to visit with Padre Pio, so on
November 19th through the 23rd he stayed in San Giovanni Rotondo. When Padre Pio saw him he said,
“Finally I have the honor to see a military chaplain with the cassock”. Also, at that time Padre Pio
brought up the stigmata, acknowledging that while Padre Pio’s were visible, Padre Domenico’s were
hidden, as told by Padre Domenico himself.
October 18, 1941 Dubrovnik at 5 p.m. while Padre Domenico was praying the rosary in the office in the presence of Mr. and Mrs. Basso the holy wounds of his crucifix began to bleed. Warm red blood droplets came from the chest, side and from the crown of thorns. This crucifix is kept in the archives of the Capuchin Fathers in Manoppello, Italy. Padre Domenico wrote to his Provincial regarding his poor health on October 19, 1941:“ For over a month I have really high fevers, from 105.8F to 109.4F , my legs are really swollen and the feet have open wounds which bleed; I always have strong migraines and on top of that I can’t even sleep”. Could this have been early signs of his stigmata?
As more and more people flocked to Padre Domenico for confession and guidance the more envy this
created within his brothers causing him much suffering. In this period he had written an essay, “All for
Jesus” which sums up his life. He fasted from eating meat and had requested to deprive himself from
eating dinner for the rest of his life to his Provincial for the praise and Glory of Jesus Christ. Miracles
were already being attributed to Padre Domenico’s intercession.
In 1966, Padre Domenico arrived in Manoppello, upon his arrival Padre Enrico Carusi took him to see the Volto Santo for the first time. Padre Domenico remained silent, it was at that moment that he recognized the face as the “stranger” that had saved him from the rubble of the church in Cese in the aftermath of the 1915 earthquake. From that point on Padre Domenico did all he could to understand this most precious relic made from delicate sea byssus woven into a cloth, completely transparent yet with the image of our Lord, eyes opened and facial wounds in a state of healing. His research began as did his comparison to the Shroud of Turin, both featured the image of a man, one living and one dead. He worked tirelessly teaching that in the Volto Santo we see the Risen Lord, he even wrote leaflets which were translated into several languages.The Shroud of Turin was on exhibition in 1978, Padre Domenico had to see it for himself. So on September 13th he went to the Cathedral of Turin. Later that evening approximately 8:40, Padre Domenico was struck by a speeding Fiat 500 while crossing the road. He was bleeding from a head injury and taken to the hospital. The driver of the car, Giovanni Cardelli visited him every day, Padre Domenico forgave him. Suffering from also broken ribs, Padre Domenico on September 16th was heard saying, “ it is an offer for the Shroud of Turin”. Sunday, September 17th approximately 10:30 p.m., Padre Domenico peacefully died with his spiritual family around him.
His wake was held in the Sanctuary of the Holy Face, 60 priests participated for the funeral mass officiated by the Bishop of Chieti-Vasto, the future Cardinal Vincenzo Fagiolo. Padre Domenico currently rests in the Petracca family tomb in Cese, Italy. The canonical process was opened by the Holy See in 2013, and in 2015, Padre Domenico was declared a“Servant of God”. In June 2015, the Congregation for the Cause of Saints gave the “Nihil Obstat” for the beatification process of Padre Domenico.