St. Pius of Pietrelcina

September 23, 2020

Saint Padre Pio was born Francesco Forgione on May 25, 1887 in Pietrelcina, Italy. He was the son of farmers Grazio Forgione and Maria Giuseppa Di Nunzio, and had three younger sisters and one older brother.

As a child, Francesco worked on his family farm by taking care of a small flock of sheep that the family owned, but by the time he was five years old, Franceso had already decided to dedicate his life to God.  In January of 1903, at the young age of 15 he was allowed to enter the novitiate with the Capuchin Franciscan Friars in Morcone where he took on the name “Friar Pio.”

Once he joined the Friary of St. Francis, he had several bouts of serious illness and religious ecstasy. Friars would report strange noises coming from his cell. Friar Pio frequently spoke about attacks from the devil, and it was there where these battles had taken place. Although he was very ill, he was ordained a priest in 1910 at the Cathedral of Benevento in southern Italy.

In 1916, Padre Pio moved to our Lady of Grace Capuchin Friary located in San Giovanni Rotondo, near the Adriatic coast. While there, he taught in the seminary.

In August of 1918, he began experiencing a painful stigmata (wounds similar to the wounds of Christ) that would only be temporary. Over time these wounds became permanent, and remained on his body for the next 50 years. In the beginning, Padre Pio felt great humiliation at the wounds on his body. The visible stigmata on his body brought him pain and publicity, but he accepted his suffering. The Holy See initially imposed severe sanctions on Pio in the 1920s to reduce publicity about him. It forbade him from saying Mass in public, blessing people, answering letters, showing his stigmata publicly, and communicating with Padre Benedetto, his spiritual director. Throughout this difficult time, Padre Pio maintained his vow of obedience, even while being subject to numerous medical and psychological investigations.

Padre Pio died of a heart attack at Our Lady of Grace in San Giovanni Rotondo on September 23, 1968. Pope John Paul II beatified Padre Pio on May 2, 1999 and canonized him three years on June 16, 2002.