Saint Padre Pio was an Italian priest who was known for is adoration of charity and love for the people around him. He bore the wounds of Christ, which is still something that cannot be explained. Francesco Forgione was born May 25th, 1887 in Pietrelcina, Italy. He was the son of peasant farmers Grazio Mario Forgione and Maria Giuseppa Di Nunzio. He had three younger sisters (Felicita, Pellegina, and Grazia) and one older brother (Michele), as well as two other siblings who had passed away as infants.
Padre Pio was baptized in the Church of Saint Ann in Pietrelcina. He was an altar server later on in this same chapel. By the time he was five years old, he had already made the decision to dedicate his life to God. He began taking on penances to prove his dedication and love for God. He expressed great desire to be involved with the Catholic faith, mainly because of his upbringing. The Forgione family was devoted to their faith. They were all devout Catholics, but Francesco had a deeper connection.
As a child, he worked on the farm by taking care of a small flock of sheep that the family owned until the age of 10, which delayed his education greatly. When it came time to join the Capuchin order, he was told he needed to be better educated before he could become involved. He was able to receive private tutoring at the age of 15 and this allowed him to enter the novitiate with the Capuchin Franciscan Friars in Morcone. This is where he took on the name “Friar Pio”. Capuchin priests seek extreme poverty, strictness, and simpleness. They try to live as closely to St. Francis’ ideals as possible.
Once he joined the Friary of St. Francis, he had several bouts of serious illness and religious ecstasy. Friars would report that strange noises would come from his cell. Padre Pio had frequently spoken about attacks from the devil, and it was there where these battles had taken place. Although he was very ill, he was still ordained a priest in 1910 at the Cathedral of Benevento in southern Italy.
In November of 1914, World War I began and many Capuchins became drafted in the Italian Army. Padre Pio served his country in the 10th Company for the Italian Medical Corps. His title was “Private Francesco Forgione”. His illness stayed persistent and he grew ill. He has extreme stomach pain and the Italian army doctors diagnosed him with chronic bronchitis. He took a leave of absence for medical reasons and returned to his beloved town of Pietrelcina.
In 1916, Padre Pio moved to our Lady of Grace Capuchin Friary located in San Giovanni Rotondo. This was located in the Gargano Mountains near the Adriatic coast. There he taught the students at the seminary and prayed alongside the townspeople. Due to the war, many Capuchins were drafted and only seven friars were at the friary when he arrived.
Padre Pio was called back into active duty in August of 1917. He was reassigned to the 4th platoon of the 10th Company in the Italian Medical Corps. He had to take a medical leave of absence again in November, and was given a permanent discharge on March 16, 1918. He would go and visit his hometown for the last time in his whole life, and then returned to the friary at San Giovanni Rotondo. He stayed here for the remainder of his life.
In August of 1918, he began experiencing a painful stigmata that would come and go over a period of weeks. This would soon become permanent, and remain on his body for the next 50 years. It only disappeared miraculously a few days before his death in September 1968. Countless experts and doctors looked at his wounds with no clear explanation. Some questioned the authenticity of the wounds, and others could not find a sure diagnosis. Many professionals saw the wounds but did not keep a written record of their thoughts. Padre Pio never had a fever or drops in blood pressure, but the wounds bled day after day for 50 years.
In the beginning, Padre Pio felt great humiliation at the wounds on his body. The visible stigmata on his body was one that brought him great pain, but he welcomed it. He welcomed the pain for all of mankind. He had stated many times that his “greatest wish was to die.” He was visited by so many pilgrims wishing to see some of the miraculous manifestations that his presence attracted.
Padre Pio died of a heart attack at Our Lady of Grace in San Giovanni Rotondo on September 23rd, 1968. When died, many of the friars were eager and willing to begin the great process of canonization. This is when a mystic can become named a saint in the eyes of the Catholic Church. The memory of Padre Pio was beatified by Pope John Paul II at Mass on May 2nd, 1999. This was held in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City.
On June 16th, 2002, Padre Pio was Canonized by Pope John Paul II.
St. Padre Pio, Pray for us.