On May 25, 1887, the future Saint Padre Pio was born in the small farming town of Pietrelcina, Italy. Little Francesco Forgione was the fourth child of eight born to Grazio and Maria Giuseppa, with three of his siblings dying as infants. Francesco was baptized the day after his birth in nearby St. Anne’s Church (Allegri 9-10). The Forgiones were poor peasant farmers, but were rich in faith and their love for God. They went to church every day and prayed the Rosary every night as a family. Francesco started saying prayers by himself at age three. By the time he was five years old, he had already made the decision to give his life to God. From that young age, Francesco could see guardian angels, as well as Jesus and the Virgin Mary. He would often speak with them. It was so natural to him that he thought other people could see them, too. Francesco received the Sacrament of Confirmation in 1899, became an altar server, and began taking on penances, such as sleeping on the floor with a stone as a pillow (“Saint Padre Pio”). Due to all the work their farm constantly demanded, the Forgiones needed Francesco’s assistance. He had to help out by tending a flock of his family’s sheep. This caused him to miss a lot of school and fall behind his classmates. Adding to this, young Francesco was often sick, keeping him from school even more. He suffered an attack of gastroenteritis at age six and at age ten, he had typhoid fever (“Saint Padre Pio”). Still, though, he wanted so much to become a friar.The local monk community told Francesco’s father, Grazio, that his son couldn’t join them until he had more education. Francesco needed a tutor to catch up on his studies. Grazio couldn’t read or write, so he wanted his children to be educated. In order to pay for the tutoring, Grazio went to America, where he found work and sent his earnings home. Later in his life, Padre Pio was quoted as saying, “My father crossed the ocean twice to give me the possibility to become a friar” (Padre Pio 12).When he was fifteen years old, Francesco was finally able to begin training with the Capuchin friars at Morcone, Italy. He had often seen a relic of Pope Pius I in his local chapel, so Francesco took the name “Pio” to honor him. His fellow students and superiors admired his faithfulness and excellent behavior. By age seventeen, Brother Pio became very ill and was sent home to his family. He still continued studying to become a priest, though, as this was his dream.Despite his health and financial challenges, Brother Pio was ordained a priest on August 10, 1910. He loved to celebrate Holy Mass, which often had long periods of silence while Padre Pio thought about Christ’s Passion. His masses sometimes lasted for several hours, as Padre Pio would experience ecstasies. With Padre Pio appearing to be in a trance-like state during the Holy Sacrifice, the parish priest in Pietrelcina called Padre Pio’s mass, “an incomprehensible mystery” (“A Short Biography”). Soon after becoming a priest, Padre Pio first received the stigmata wounds of Christ while praying. He showed the pastor of the parish in Pietrelcina, Salvatore Pannullo, the wounds. Father Pannullo testified that Padre Pio said, “Let’s ask Jesus to take them away. I want to suffer, to die from suffering, but in secret” (Ruffin 78-9). They prayed and the wounds went away, but not the suffering.Padre Pio was a man of prayer. He constantly prayed, and especially loved to pray the Rosary, which he did several times a day. He was concerned for the souls in Purgatory and encouraged everyone to pray for them. Padre Pio wanted to offer himself to the Lord as a victim for sinners and the souls in Purgatory. He believed that Jesus wanted this to happen (“A Short Biography”).On September 20, 1918, Padre Pio was praying before a crucifix after mass and started feeling severe pain in his hands and feet again. They were bleeding, but the wounds smelled like roses. Even though they continued to bleed, the wounds never became infected. While few others have received the stigmata, such as Saint Francis of Assisi, Padre Pio is the only ordained Roman Catholic priest to receive Christ’s wounds (Allegri 77).News of Padre Pio’s stigmata spread, which brought people from all over to see him. He never wanted the attention he received. The Vatican was concerned for the Church’s reputation, so they limited Padre Pio’s duties where he’d be interacting with the public. Church officials examined his wounds and concluded that they were genuine. By 1934, the Vatican changed its viewpoint and allowed Padre Pio to do his public duties again. Pope Pius XI even encouraged people to visit him (“Saint Padre Pio”). Padre Pio was known around the world for his piety, charity and the way he preached God’s word. He used his popularity and worked tirelessly to open a hospital for the sick and poor called, “The House for the Relief of Suffering,” something he knew well throughout his life. Still, he remained humble, living the Franciscan ways of poverty and chastity, and often worked nineteen hours a day between masses and confessions. He never took one day of vacation in fifty-one years (“A Short Biography”).In addition to the stigmata, Padre Pio was blessed with other extraordinary gifts from God. One of them was bilocation, where someone is in two places at once. An example of this was told by Fr. Alberto D’Apolito, who was close to Padre Pio for fifty years: … I saw Padre Pio standing at the window, looking at the mountains. I walked up to him and kissed his hand, but he didn’t even realize I was there. … At that moment I distinctly heard him say the prayer of absolution in a very clear voice. … After a few minutes he woke up from what seemed like a daze… and asked,”Are you here? I didn’t notice.” A few days later a telegram arrived from Turin, thanking the superior for having sent Padre Pio to help a dying person. From the telegram we were able to determine that the dying person was breathing his last breath at the very moment when Padre Pio, who was in San Giovanni Rotondo, was praying those words of absolution. (Allegri 132) When Pope John Paul II was a young priest, he became friends with Padre Pio, once calling on his gift of healing when a family friend was sick. The friend, who survived a German concentration camp, was dying from a throat tumor. The future pope sent a letter to Padre Pio about his friend, which was delivered to Padre Pio right away. The next week a note was sent to Padre Pio that the friend had been completely cured (Allegri 256-7). After living eighty-one years of an exceptionally faithful and amazing life, Padre Pio died on September 23, 1968, with his Rosary in his hands. His last words were “Jesus, Mary” (“A Short Biography”). There were more than 100,000 people at his funeral. Pope John Paul II canonized Saint Padre Pio on June 16, 2002. He is the patron saint of civil defense volunteers, adolescents, and the city of Pietrelcina (“A Short Biography”). My favorite words of Saint Padre Pio are, “Pray, hope and don’t worry” (“Saint Padre Pio”). I admire Saint Padre Pio for his holiness, and for how much he loved people and prayed for them. My grandmother was devoted to Saint Pio, used to pray for his intercession in times of need, and told me fascinating stories about him.
August 14, 2019 0 Comments