It was born according to the will of two saints, who were “twins” in spirit: St. Pio of Pietrelcina, of the Friar Minors of St. Francis of Assisi, the “impressed image” of the crucified Jesus who, together with the adult prayer groups, asked insistently for the formation of children’s Nests of Prayer; and the Servant of God Padre Pio Dellepiane, of the Minim Friars of St. Francis of Paola, the “living image” of the humility of Mary, whose process of beatification is under way.
St. Pio visibly received the stigmata a year after the apparitions at Fatima and he lived its message completely with the continuous recitation of the Rosary and in a total offering to the Father in an always new “yes”: «I ask to live by dying, so that from death there may be born life that never dies and death may help life to raise the dead».
He always understood the importance of children in this spiritual battle that he himself fought personally: «Children will save the world», he repeated many times. However, he died without seeing his request accomplished.
Padre Pio Dellepiane accepted St. Pio of Pietralcina’s invitation, but not being able to accomplish it fully because of his precarious health, in 1972 he entrusted the mission to Father Andrea D’Ascanio, a Capuchin, one of St. Pio’s spiritual sons: «It’s urgent, he said, and it’s already too late!».
From that moment Padre Pio Dellepiane became Father Andrea’s new spiritual director and for many years he helped the Armata Bianca to get under way with his countless humiliations and sufferings: «Armata Bianca – he said – will rise and rise like the sea and will invade the whole world». And he desired the publication of «The Nests of Prayer of Armata Bianca»: «20,000 copies, to begin with». Subsequently, he added: «In order to fulfil the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary it is necessary to consecrate five million children to the Father through Mary».
Father Andrea D’Ascanio made the requests of his two spiritual fathers his own and on February 11, 1973 in Taranto (Italy), during a town mission in honour of Padre Pio organized by Dr. Maria Teresa d’Abenante, the local head of the Padre Pio Prayer Groups, the first Nest of Prayer for children was established.
In July 1972, Padre Pio Dellepiane wanted to bring Father Andrea with him to Fatima and celebrate a Mass on the tomb of Francisco Marto and another one on Jacinta’s tomb: thus Armata Bianca was officially born on the mortal remains of the two young blessed ones.