Skip to comments.St. Pio Of Pietrelcina, 1887-1968
Posted on 06/04/2002 11:17:33 AM PDT by Antoninus
St. Pio Of Pietrelcina, 1887-1968
By Fr. Armand Dasseville, O.F.M. Cap.
God often blesses some men or women in a very special way. He bestows upon one or more of his faithful servants extraordinary graces and gifts. These servants of God shine like lights. They are radiant in virtue and perform edifying actions that serve to mirror Christ and encourage the faithful to greater efforts toward sanctity. The purpose of these gifts is to spread the Kingdom of God by rescuing sinners from the grip of Satan and by restoring all things in Christ. In our day and age such a servant of God was Padre Pio of Pietrelcina.
He was born Francis Forgione on May 25, 1887. His parents, Orazio and Giuseppa Forgione, were poor country people. They brought eight children into the world, three of which died in infancy and two of whom became religious. The Forgiones lived in the little farming village of Pietrelcina in the province of Benevento, not many miles from Naples. They were God-fearing people. They may have been poor in material goods, but they certainly were rich in the love of God.
Padre Pio in his youth was different from his contemporaries in that he did not share in games, adventures, and strife of the other boys. He was deeply religious and early in life showed a love for recollection and for the things of God. At school he learned diligently and possessed a lively intelligence, so much so that his father was determined to help his son become a priest.
For this reason his father emigrated twice to America. Opportunities here were better and greater to earn the money needed for the seminary studies of his son, Francis. Thus he worked as a common laborer in Jamaica, Long Island, for a total number of seven years. On his first visit from America, his father entered Francis at 15 with the Capuchins at Morcone.
In 1903 Francis began his novitiate year, received his habit, and assumed the religious name of Pio (Pius, in English). Pio was not robust. The novitiate life of penance, prayer, and fasting was very strenuous for his health. With perseverance, he was able to pronounce his religious vows the following year.
After the novitiate year, he moved from friary to friary to pursue his studies for the priesthood. Poor health and his penitential life made it often impossible for him to keep pace with his classmates. One time he fasted for 21 days with Holy Communion as his sole nourishment. He suffered frequently from very high fevers and nausea, so that at times his life of study, prayer, and penance had to be lightened. Often he had to be sent home to his fathers house to recuperate. His parents local pastor tutored him privately.
Finally, on August 10, 1910, at the age of 23, Padre Pio was ordained a priest of God in the cathedral of Benevento. He offered his first Mass in Pietrelcina. His father was still working in America and could not be present for these great events. Though officially stationed in the friary of Foggia, he still returned to the home of his parents for long periods of rest because of his delicate health. At this time the doctors diagnosed his condition as tuberculosis and anemia.
On one of these visits home he received the "invisible" stigmata. Christs sacred wounds were invisibly imprinted on his hands, feet, and side. In other words, the wounds could not be seen, but the pain of them was there. This happened once in 1912, and lasted for a short time. On September 20, 1915, however, they occurred again and were permanent. Admirably he bore these pains with love and resignation.
During this time also he was forced to serve for a while in the Italian Army during World War I, but was honorably discharged when his chronic high fevers and tubercular condition worsened. His religious superiors then sent him in 1916 to the friary in San Giovanni Rotondo, where he resided until his death.
On Friday, September 20, 1918, the third anniversary to the day when he received the "invisible" stigmata, Padre Pio was offering his thanksgiving after Mass before a large crucifix in the friary chapel. He was 31 years old. Suddenly, a piercing cry escaped his lips. A confrere found him lying unconscious on the floor of the friary chapel and bleeding profusely from the five deep wounds in his hands, feet, and side. For three years he had borne the invisible stigmata, but now they were made visible for all to see. They were to remain with him until the day he died.
Naturally, he was subjected to endless and often very painful medical examinations, either by doctors appointed by his provincial or general superiors, or by those sent by the Holy See. He did not like these painful handlings of his five wounds, but humbly submitted under obedience to his superiors. Many doctors, both Catholic and non-Catholic, tried all kinds of healing treatments, but without any success. The wounds remained completely free from healing or any infections. Amazingly, though, two other wounds from minor operations healed naturally in the normal amount of time.
He lost about a cupful of blood every day from these wounds. The wound in his side was covered at all times with linen cloths to prevent the endless staining of his habit. He wore brown gloves on his hands except when celebrating Mass, and special socks on his feet.
No one really understood how much Padre Pio suffered from these wounds. His rather halting gait with feet swollen and constantly oozing blood or his deliberate deep genuflections at Holy Mass, gave evidence enough of his constant awareness of his pierced feet. When asked if the stigmata were painful, he laughingly replied: "Do you think that the Lord gave them to me for a decoration?"
Such miraculous news naturally spread like lightning through San Giovanni Rotondo, through Italy, the European continent, and finally the whole world.
During the past 1,900 years, many saintly persons have been granted the stigmata, but Padre Pio was the first priest to be so honored. He was also the only known priest to possess in addition the gifts of fragrance, of conversion, of bilocation, of reading hearts, of miracles and penetrating the future. Like the Cure of Ars, St. John Vianney, he had his encounters with Satan. On several occasions the Devil attacked him fiercely and left black and blue marks on the face and body of Padre Pio.
In his long life, Padre Pio accomplished many deeds that were far beyond the scope of ordinary mortals. There is much proof of them, because they were witnessed and testified to by thousands of people from every part of the world. Of these, he invariably remarked: "I performed no miracle! All I did was to pray for you! It was God who cured you! Thank Him; dont thank me!" Although he was well aware of his great power, he never allowed it to encroach upon his humility. He neither expected nor would he allow any preferences to be shown him by his fellow friars because of all these gifts.
A State Of Grace
Padre Pio exerted an extraordinary influence on many souls. People had only to see him to be moved to approach him and lay bare their consciences. He counseled all that came to him, and they came in droves. He heard Confessions practically all of his waking hours. All classes of people were welcomed, rich and poor, notable and unknown. They sought his help for their physical or spiritual problems, confident that they would receive enlightened advice, and positive guidance and help. Many received more. They were converted! Masons, atheists, fallen-away Catholics, unbelievers, even non-Catholics often returned to a state of grace after years of sinful living.
Some were so influenced by him that they never wanted to leave him. Mary Pyle, for example, gave up her well-to-do life for the Third Order way of life. For more than 40 years she wore only the brown habit of the Third Order. She lived in the shadow of the friary and was like a mother to Padre Pio and all the friars. She nursed both of his parents before their deaths.
Frederick Abresch, a convert from Protestantism, was so impressed by Padre Pio that he took up residence in San Giovanni Rotondo to be near the saintly friar each day of his life. His wife bore him a son and Padre Pio prophesied that he would be a priest someday. Today Msgr. Pio Ab- resch is working in the Vatican.
His wounds never became infected and very often gave off a sweet aroma similar to an attractive perfume. This was another of his great gifts. Many people, who came near his stigmatized hands or his habit or any objects touched by him, noticed the sweet perfume. Sometimes this perfume also happened at great distances, such as in Africa, America, and Asia. The odor remained one of roses, violets, or lilies; at times of incense, at others of carbolic acid or even tobacco. Its meaning revealed the presence of Padre Pio, even if he could not be seen. It was often proof that he had heard or was responding to a prayer. At times it involved some advice or warning to proceed with or to desist from some action, to pray and to hope.
Padre Pio never left San Giovanni Rotondo after his arrival in 1916. Yet he was seen or known to have been present in many of the southern towns of Italy, also in Rome, in the Vatican, in America, and in many other parts of the world. Bilocation was another of his gifts. Thus he was able to be present in two different places at the same time. People entirely above suspicion had experienced it, had been blessed or cured by him on such occasions. Some of these people had never heard of or seen him before. From pictures of him and from their descriptions of him or from going to San Giovanni Rotondo afterward upon the advice of friends, they would testify that it was Padre Pio who had visited them. Sometimes his presence was manifested merely by his perfume or by his voice. It was just another manifestation of his great love for people in need. He would extend himself even far beyond the confines of his friary.
Perhaps no facts connected with Pare Pio are more amazing or better known, than his reading of hearts. So many people were often astonished by him at his revelation of their hidden sins, sometimes long forgotten.
Such a case, for instance, was Frederick Abresch. In the confessional Padre Pio made known to him certain grave sins omitted in previous Confessions and sent him away to prepare himself better. On the next occasion Padre Pio let him know that his last "good Confession" had taken place during his honeymoon, many years previous. This was really so, for Abresch suddenly remembered that his wife had expressed a desire during their honeymoon for them to approach the sacraments.
There is an account of a man who came to Padre Pio with a sick child, hoping for a cure. He entered the confessional to request the cure, but Padre Pio chided him for coming to Gods tribunal as an unbeliever. The man was greatly discouraged, but a friend persuaded him to go back and confess his sins. On his return the man threw himself at Padre Pios feet and confessed his sins. He was weeping. Padre Pio complimented him then on doing the right thing and promised the cure of his child. The child was cured physically at the moment when his father was cured spiritually.
Another gift was his ability to look into the future. Thus he would promise a cure of a desperately pronounced illness or the necessary help in some emergency. He was able to foretell the sex of an unborn child, a vocation to the priesthood, a conversion to take place, or even a death. During the war many parents were comforted when he told them their soldier son was still alive, although they had heard that he was missing in action. Some women were told they needed no operation, which certain doctors had required, and that they could still bear children. To a woman eight years married he promised a child. And all these things came to pass just as he had foretold.
He told the people of San Giovanni Rotondo during the last war that no harm would come to their town. In Rome I met one of many bombardiers who actually had tried but did not succeed in releasing his bombs over San Giovanni Rotondo.
Padre Pio once foretold that a Capuchin friary would be erected in his birthplace. A little more than 30 years after his stigmata this friary was dedicated. He had an impossible dream in 1940 during the war at a time when food and all kinds of equipment were scarce and rationed. He wanted to build a new hospital for San Giovanni Rotondo. He laid the plans and began building. In 1956 the Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza was the fulfillment of that dream.
These are but a few instances from the innumerable occasions Padre Pio looked into the future for the benefit of his penitents, his correspondents, or his spiritual children.
A Woman Of Great Faith
Daily Padre Pio received about 600 letters, in addition to 50 and more telegrams. These came from all parts of the world. For this reason he had need of about six to eight secretaries to take care of his Italian, French, English, German, Spanish, and Portuguese mail. In the evenings about 6 p.m. these secretaries would report to him and would receive his response, frequently before the message was even mentioned. He often knew the contents of letters before an envelope was opened.
Most of these letters were requests for prayers or cures. People wrote to him, or came to him personally, suffering from every sort of illness, such as an advanced condition of cancer, tuberculosis of the lungs or of the bones, or maladies that had been pronounced chronic or incurable by doctors. Like in the Gospels, the deaf, the dumb, and the blind also came seeking a cure. They came to him as a last resort to appeal for his prayers and especially for a cure. Thousands were rewarded for their efforts.
For example, one spectacular cure took place in 1947. A little girl named Gemma di Giorgi lived in Sicily. She was born without pupils in her eyes on Christmas night in 1939. Competent doctors and specialists declared that nothing could be done about her blindness. But little Gemmas grandmother, a woman of great faith, took her to Padre Pio for help. Gemma went to Confession to this renowned friar and received from him her first Holy Communion. He touched and blessed each eye. From that day Gemma has been able to see clearly although she still had no pupils. Many eye specialists have since examined her eyes, but the fact remains that she is able to see perfectly without any pupils in her eyes. I met her at the funeral of Padre Pio, more than 20 years after her cure.
Reliving The Passion
To fully appreciate the source of Padre Pios strength we must look to his Mass. To have witnessed his Mass is an unforgettable experience. His Masses were long, but none present would notice the passage of time. It used to take him about one hour and a half to offer Mass, but was known to go for three hours. The attention of all was riveted on his every gesture, movement, and expression.
He offered his Mass in the spirit of reliving the Passion of our Lord. All that we know of the evil of sin and the human feeling of abandonment of God, which the good Lord suffered in His own Passion, Padre Pio experienced in his daily Mass.
Every Mass is a true sacrifice, the same as that of Calvary but applied to us here and now. At Mass, Padre Pio offered himself up with Christ to the Father. He pleaded with God not to abandon him or his spiritual children, just as Christ had pleaded with the Father in the garden. He offered himself as a victim to God for the Holy Father, for his penitents, for his spiritual children, and for the sins of mankind.
Jesus And Mary
Padre Pio himself ascribed the success of his priestly life to Mary, the Mother of all grace, and to her powerful intercession. From his youth he had always had a tender and childlike love for Mary. He was consecrated to her. She held a special place in his life and prayers. He said rosary after rosary each day and loved the angelus. He kept her feast days. Each night before retiring he waved his appreciation to the pilgrims from the window of his cell, as they sang hymns for him in honor of our Lady.
His was not exaggerated Marian devotion. It sprang from a deep and abiding faith in Christ and Mary. He concluded each day with the rosary and with benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, because his whole life and all his activities were centered around Jesus and Mary. They had been together in life. They had to be treated together in his prayers. As Mary had been Gods instrument to bring Christ into the world, so she also would bring all mankind back to Christ.
Mary too loved Padre Pio. She blessed him greatly. She protected him during the attacks of the Devil. She comforted him in his sufferings, trials, and tribulations. Was it ever known that anyone who fled to her protection was left unaided?
In August 1959, she performed a great miracle for him. He had been seriously sick for over three months. The doctors were worried because he had no strength to offer Mass or get out of bed during that time. The Pilgrim Statue of Our Lady of Fatima arrived in San Giovanni Rotondo on its pilgrimage through Italy. He insisted on venerating the statue and practically had to be carried to church.
Afterward, when back in bed, he heard the motor of the helicopter carrying her statue away from San Giovanni Rotondo. He was still praying, when suddenly he trembled violently. It was a miracle! He was cured. He felt strong and healthy as never before. He got out of bed and went about his duties with an amazing strength unbelievable of a man afflicted with a three-month long grave illness.
A Place Of Mercy And Science
In 1940 Padre Pio remarked that our Lord suffered in all those who were ill. Taking a small coin from his pocket, a gift he had just received, he made the first contribution toward the building of a hospital in San Giovanni Rotondo. After many obstacles and World War II, the House for the Relief of Suffering was opened on May 5, 1956. It is a modern hospital which is staffed with a distinguished medical personnel and equipped with the most efficient up-to-date equipment. Such a hospital was needed in that area, so much so that one year later it was found to be too small and Padre Pio had to add more wings.
Today it holds 1,000 beds and a large nurses residence. It flourished and still flourishes through the prayers of Padre Pio and the charity of his many friends, especially from America, under the management of the Holy See. Many doctors from all parts of the world volunteer their services. A large congregation of sisters staffs the hospital. As a place of mercy and science, it is a city-hospital technically adequate for clinical needs. Padre Pio contemplated the addition of a mental institute that would provide for the complete recovery of the whole man thus the physical as well as mental health of man. Despite his death, plans are still underway to fulfill Padre Pios dream.
Mindful of our Ladys message at Fatima, and heeding the repeated recommendations of Pope Pius XII, Padre Pio some years ago requested the formation of groups of lay people who, under the spiritual direction of a priest, would offer one hour of adoration weekly, or at least monthly, would approach the sacraments frequently, and would pray for the intentions of our Holy Church.
As a result, these prayer groups have mushroomed. They were named after Padre Pio because he led this apostolate in the Capuchin Church of Our Lady of Grace in San Giovanni Rotondo where it originated. His hospital is now the international center for these prayer groups.
One of the chief objectives of these prayer groups is for all participants to develop in themselves the love of Christ more fully and to share this love with their neighbors their brothers and sisters in Christ. This is basic Christian spirituality! The response was most gratifying. Over 725 groups were founded all over the world by the time he died. Since his death, their numbers have increased to over 2,000.
His death came as a surprise. It came soon after the celebration of his 50th anniversary of his stigmata. In the middle of the night of September 23, 1968, Padre Pio had a feeling that he was dying. His breathing became difficult. He called for Fr. Pellegrino. He wanted to go to Confession and to renew his religious profession. As the friars gathered near him, he begged their pardon for any offenses and extended his blessing to these friars and also to all his spiritual children. Quietly and prayerfully he breathed his last at 2:30 a.m. on September 23, 1968. He died exhausted from a long life of suffering and from bronchial asthma.
His funeral rites were a triumph. He was mourned all over the world. It is estimated that over 100,000 people from all parts of the globe participated in the final tribute to this saintly friar on the day of his funeral.
St. Pio remains with us in Spirit! His intercession is extremely powerful. His prayer still gives health back to the gravely ill, makes cripples walk and the blind see, restores peace and serenity to tormented souls and to converts, atheists, and sinners.
His message for all of us is one of hope, joy, and comfort. His exemplary charity for souls can be summed up in his own words "I can refuse no one. How can I, when the Lord never refuses me a grace!" He is still the Good Samaritan, always ready to carry the cross for others and to be of service, especially as a victim for sinners.
On May 2, 1999, Padre Pio was beatified by Pope John Paul II in St. Peters Square. He will be canonized by the same Pope on June 16, 2002 and be known as St. Pio of Pietrelcina.
May he continue to bless and intercede for each one of us.
May Padre Pio intercede for us when our bishops meet in Dallas.
Padre Pio ping!
He also has a first class relic of Padre Pio which he treasures. He was thrilled recently when they showed the little Italian baby Rose on television. She weighed only 10 oz at birth and, if memory serves me correctly, was the tiniest premature baby to survive. Near her incubator at the hospital, was a picture of Padre Pio.
He remembers when Padre Pio died, and was drawn to him after hearing of his Saintly life, and spiritual gifts.
They say the Saints chose us, we don't chose them. I think this must be true because my Dad's devotion to and love for Padre Pio is so "real", that I know their relationship is a mutual one.
It's really interesting to watch a Lutheran explaining his Catholic devotion to a Saint to his Baptist friends.
I think you have a Catholic there in your Dad! May God continue to bless him and your mom.
Padre Pio Foundation
PADRE PIO TEACHES ON CHRISTIAN PERFECTION Taken from Letters II, Oct. 23, 1914
Padre Pio told his spiritual daughter, Raffaelina Cerase, to pray to her Guardian Angel and to the saint whose name she bore for grace and wisdom. This heavenly light is the finest grace one could ask for. It cannot be acquired by prolonged study or through human teaching, but is directly infused by God.
We must ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten us to three great truths: 1) our Christian vocation, 2) greater knowledge of our eternal inheritance, 3) to penetrate more deeply the mystery of how wretched sinners such as ourselves have been led to salvation.
A person who desires perfection needs to undertake both internal and external action. In striving toward internal perfection, we must first practice the virtue of charity. When a person loves money, honors and good health, he does not always possess what he loves, whereas he who loves God possesses Him at once. Also, the soul needs patience. The virtue of patience maintains order in one's interior life. Love, joy and peace are virtues which perfect the soul with regard to what it possesses, while patience perfects it with regard to what it endures.
Padre Pio encourages his spiritual children to practice externally the virtue of kindliness, to be agreeable and courteous. Polite manners draw others to imitate him in the devout life. If others do not respond to kindness, we need the virtue of forbearance. Never desist from one's effort to help others, even if they are not deriving benefit of our help.
Strive for meekness, which makes us stifle our anger when we see our efforts repaid with ingratitude, insults or offenses. Add faithfulness, by which the soul gains confidence.
Virtues which perfect the devout person with regard to control of his own senses are modesty, continence and chastity: modesty, governing all exterior acts; continence, restraint over senses of sight, touch, taste, smell and hearing; chastity, which ennobles our nature and makes it similar to the angels.
Happy the one who possesses these fine virtues, all of them fruits of the Holy Spirit who dwells within him. Such a soul has nothing to fear and will shine in the world as the sun in the heavens. Padre Pio. </p align=center>
What a perfect teaching.
What a celebration we'll have on the 16th!
I pray that the soon-to-be St. Padre Pio also pray for the future cannonization of another great Capuchin - Ven. Fr. Solanus Casey, OFM Cap - of Detroit. I pray that Ven. Solanus become the first US male saint soon!
Pax et bonum.