There are many saints whose lives have been a subject of considerable interest. The fascination over the lives of saints does not come as a surprise; these extraordinary inpiduals stand out because they have dedicated themselves to God and lived their lives for a higher purpose. One of those saints is Padre Pio of Pietrelcina. He was well-known for having received the stigmata. However, even before the wounds appeared, Padre Pio already lived a God-centered life. Saint Padre Pio is a remarkable man whose life was extremely devoted to God that he was chosen to carry the wounds of Jesus Christ.
On May 25, 1887, Padre Pio was born in Pietrelcina, a small village of four thousand residents located in southern Italy (Ruffin 21). His father was Grazio Maria Forgone and his mother was Maria Giuseppa De Nunzio (Ruffin 24). The couple was blessed with eight children (Ruffin 26). Padre Pio was the fourth child. He had an older brother named Michele and younger sisters named Felicita, Pellegrina and Grazia (“Biography”). The eighth and youngest child was said to have been named Mario, but there were no documents to prove his birth and death (Ruffin 26-27). Two children, Francesco and Amalia, died shortly after birth; Padre Pio was named Francesco after his brother. He was baptized the day after his birth (“Padre Pio”).
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It was no surprise that Padre Pio became a man of God, as he was part of a deeply religious family that was immersed in a very religious town. Majority of those in southern Italy were Roman Catholic; the town of Pietrelcina, in particular, devoted many holidays of the year to saints (Ruffin 22). Padre Pio’s family was referred to as the “God Is Everything” family (“Biography”; Ruffin 28). This is because their lives were centered on God: they attended Mass and prayed the rosary daily, and they fasted thrice a week (“Biography”).
Padre Pio’s religious journey began at an early age. At the tender age of five, he already devoted his life to Jesus (“Short Biography”). He was alone most of time, and he spent his solitude singing hymns, reading and praying (“Biography”). In his youth, he had already encountered Jesus, Mary and his guardian angel (“Short Biography”). When he was twelve years old, he had his First Holy Communion and received the Sacrament of Confirmation (“Padre Pio”).
In 1897, Padre Pio told his parents about his ambition to become a friar (“Biography”). This ambition came about when Padre Pio was intrigued when a Capuchin priest was in town asking for donations. His parents considered Padre Pio’s decision, and they went to Morcone to see if the Capuchin community was willing to accept their son. The priests agreed, though they said that Padre Pio’s public education does not suffice (Ruffin 35). As a result, Padre Pio’s father had to work in America to fund Padre Pio’s education. Padre Pio’s was educated through tutors who helped him become a Capuchin priest (“Biography”).
Padre Pio began his life in the Capuchin Order at the age of fifteen. On January 6, 1903, Padre Pio became a novice at the Capuchin Friars, located in Morcone (“Padre Pio”). On January 22nd that same year, he assumed the name Pio; this name was derived from the patron saint of Pietrelcina, Saint Pius V (“Biography”). He was called Fra Pio, in which “Fra” meant “brother” (“Biography”).
Exactly one year after becoming Fra Pio, Padre Pio had his First Profession of the Evangelical Counsels of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience (“Biography”). Afterwards, he prepared for the priesthood by studying for six years. In 1907, after three more years of profession, Padre Pio finally said his vows (“Biography”).
Padre Pio’s desire to become a priest was fulfilled on August 10, 1910 (“Biography”; “Padre Pio”). Twenty-three year old Padre Pio was ordained into priesthood by Archbishop Paolo Schinosi in Beneveto (“Biography”; “Short Biography”). He held his first Mass four days after in Our Lady of the Angels Church (“Biography”).
Soon after he was ordained, Padre Pio began to experience supernatural phenomenon. On September 7, 1910, Padre Pio was in the midst of prayer when he saw Jesus and Mary before him (“Biography”). As a result of this encounter, Padre Pio received the stigmata, or the wounds of Jesus Christ when he was crucified. These wounds that Padre Pio acquired were brought to the attention of the doctors, who were confused by their appearance. Padre Pio prayed to Jesus to remove these wounds not because he wanted to eliminate the pain; rather, he simply wanted to deal with the wounds in private.
Eventually, the wounds disappeared temporarily. Another supernatural event occurred on November 28, 1911. Padre Agostino was a friend of Padre Pio. When he was told that Padre Pio was sick, he immediately went to his friend’s room. He saw his friend in the brink of death, so he left to pray. When Padre Agostino returned after his prayer, Padre Pio was alive and well. This incident marked the beginning of his “ecstasies,” which were defined as episodes characterized by the profound love of God (“Biography”).
For a few years, the health of Padre Pio was a hindrance to his religious responsibilities (“Padre Pio”). From 1911 to 1916, Padre Pio was discharged from his duties and was asked to stay home. However, he still celebrated Mass and taught in school. He resumed his communal tasks on September 4, 1916 in San Giovanni Rotondo. He was assigned in Our Lady of Grace Capuchin Friary (“Biography”).
The occurrence of First World War was also influential in the turn of events in Padre Pio’s life. Because of the war, some of the friars in Our Lady of Grace assumed military duties; this left only Padre Pio and two others in charge of the friary (“Biography”). Eventually, Padre Pio took full responsibility of the college when the other friar was called for military service.
In time, Padre Pio found himself involved in the war. He became part of the Italian Medical Corps; he was designated in the “4th Platoon of the 100th Company” in August 1917 (“Biography”). This experience proved to be a difficult time in Padre Pio’s life. In October that same year, he found himself in the hospital but remained in service. He was only able to return to San Giovanni Rotondo in March 1918. When Padre Pio returned to San Giovanni Rotondo, he assumed the role of spiritual director (“Biography”).
The war affected the Roman Catholic community, prompting the pope to take action. By July 1918, Pope Benedict XV called on all Christians to pray for the war to stop (“Biography”). On the 27th of that same month, Padre Pio volunteered to be a victim just so the war would end. From August 5 to 7, Padre Pio had visions wherein he encountered Jesus Christ who “pierced his side” (“Biography”). Pio had a wound on his side as proof of the encounter. It was said that what Padre Pio experienced was “transverberation,” the phenomenon of piercing the heart to denote unity with God’s love (“Biography”).
The supernatural experiences of Padre Pio continued. On September 20, 1918, Padre Pio was deep in prayer at the Our Lady of Grace Church when Jesus appeared to him again (“Biography”). In this encounter, it was the wounded Christ which appeared before Padre Pio. Soon after, he again acquired the stigmata; these wounds would remain with Padre Pio for half a century (“Biography”).
By 1919, Padre Pio and his wounds began to gain attention throughout the world (“Biography”). For many years, people have been curious about the stigmata; doctors from all over the world examined his wounds in search for a valid explanation. Padre Pio simply considered the stigmata as a blessing from God, even though he wished that he could experience the wounds in private. According to the account of a priest who witnessed the stigmata, it was said that Padre Pio would become weak because the wounds were bleeding (Stauffer 5). The bleeding was said to have been caused by Padre Pio’s contemplation of the death and crucifixion of Jesus Christ (Stauffer 5).
The stigmata of Padre Pio had both advantages and disadvantages. On one hand, many people embraced him and his influence grew (“Biography”). On the other hand, he had his share of detractors. By 1922, the people had limited access to Padre Pio. While he did celebrate Mass, the schedules were unannounced. He was also prohibited to respond to those who wanted spiritual help. From 1924 to 1931, the Vatican had to release statements denying the supernatural experiences of Padre Pio. On June 9, 1931, The Holy See advised Padre Pio that he was only allowed to celebrate Mass in private. Two years later, Pope Pius XI finally overturned the earlier decision of the Vatican (“Biography”).
Eventually, the religious duties of Padre Pio were returned. On March 25, 1934, he was again permitted to hold confessions for men; on May 12 of the same year, confessions for women were also allowed (“Biography”). Padre Pio was also permitted to preach by the Capuchin Minister General. When Pope Pius XII was elected in 1939, he allowed people to visit Padre Pio (“Biography”).
In 1940, Padre Pio thought of a project in San Giovanni Rotondo (“Biography”). He wanted to construct “Home to Relieve Suffering,” and had persuaded three physicians to be involved with the project. While the doctors were willing, they were hesitant to start such project when another war was about to break out. Unlike them, Padre Pio was not discouraged and continued with his project. After the war, “Home to Relieve Suffering” received financial donations from several sources, including the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Organization. The center officially opened on May 5, 1956.
“Home to Relieve Suffering” became both a medical and religious institution. After the building was finished and opened to the public, Padre Pio gained fame, increasing his influence in the process. The hospital was visited by many pilgrims that eventually a bigger church had to be constructed (“Biography”).
In the 1960s, Padre Pio’s health condition began to decline (“Biography”). Despite this, he still celebrated Mass and heard confessions. On July 1968, his condition had caused him to be bedridden. September 20, 1968 was the 50th anniversary of the appearance of the stigmata; that day, Padre Pio held Mass. The day after, he was already too weak to continue his religious responsibilities. On September 22nd, Padre Pio still celebrated Mass though the people who attended could barely hear him.
The next day, just few minutes after midnight of September 23rd, Padre Pio asked for his superior to confess. At 2:30 am that same day, Padre Pio passed away. Three days later, thousands of people came over at the San Giovanni Rotondo to pay their last respects. His remains were buried in the Our Lady of Grace Church (“Biography”).
The events in the life of Saint Padre Pio reflected his dedication to and love for God. At a young age, he already vowed to live his life for God. As he got older, he maintained his devotion to his religion. He was such a passionate man of God that he was given the wounds of Christ. This gift that he received was witnessed by the world which was in awe of such miracle. Indeed, Saint Padre Pio lived an extraordinary life.
- “A Short Biography of Padre Pio.” Padre Pio Devotions. 2008. Padre Pio Devotions. 10 Oct. 2008 .
- “Biography.” Eternal Word Television Network. 10 Oct. 2008 .
- “Padre Pio Da Pietrelcina.” The Vatican Website. 10 Oct. 2008 http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/saints/ns_lit_doc_20020616_padre-pio_en.html>.
- Ruffin, Bernard. Padre Pio: The True Story. Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor Publishing, 1982.
- Stauffer, Kathleen. Padre Pio: An Intimate Portrait of a Saint Through the Eyes of His Friends. Connecticut: Twenty-Third Publications, 2007.