St. Padre Pio – Feast-day 23rd September

0n 25th May 1887, a baby boy was born to Grazia Forgione and Maria Guiseppa Di Nunzia. This little boy was named Francesco and he was the fourth of six children.  From an early age Francesco showed a strong spiritual disposition and was regularly found praying in the fields while out to pasture on the family’s land. From a very young age he knew he was called to be a priest and one day he met a friar called friar Camillo who was a capuchin.Francesco was fascinated with him and from then on he knew he wanted to join the order of Capuchins. In January of 1903 at the age of 16 he entered the Franciscan capuchins and took the name Fra Pio Da Pietrelcina. Seven years later  on 10th Aug 1910 he was ordained a priest. Padre Pio suffered from lung and intestinal troubles from a young age, and this continued throughout his life. Due to his ill health he was often moved between various monasteries and when his health began to deterioriate. He was  advised to return to Pietrelcina. Every day after he celebrated Mass there, he would go to the nearby fields of Piana Romana and pray and meditate on scripture. One day while he was praying here, Jesus and our Lady appeared to him and he received the stigmata, the sacred wounds of Our Lord on his hands and feet. With these wounds came intense suffering and pain. He did not mind the suffering, he was willing to suffer, but he asked God to make the wounds invisible and God answered his prayer for a short time, but then about a year later the wounds became visible again for all to see.  In 1916 his superiors allowed him to go to Our Lady of Grace Monastery in San Giovanni which at that time was a primitive and almost inaccessible place and here in the Friary of Santa Maria delle Grazie begins an extraordinary mission for Padre Pio as miracle worker and apostle of the confessional. On 20th September 1918 Padre Pio was praying before the crucifix in the monastery chapel after Mass, when he received a celestial visitor. From that moment, until just before his death fifty years later, be bore the visible bleeding wounds of Christ in his hands, feet and side. Padre Pio wore half gloves to hide the holes in his hands and a sash to absorb the blood from his side. He was in terrible pain all of the time but kept this suffering to himself. He had to go through various medical examinations to ascertain the cause of the wounds but they could never be explained by medical science nor could anyone give any explanation as to why there was a divine fragrance, likened to the scent of roses,that came from his wounds.The word about the stigmata spread rapidly and people from all over Italy and other parts of the world flocked to San Giovanni to meet this friar and to have their confession heard by him.

Padre Pio was gifted with the special grace to see into the hearts, minds and souls of those who came to him in Confession, and he would sometimes spend up to nineteen hours a day hearing confessions. Padre Pio also had the gift of  bi-location which was the ability to be in several different places at the same time and he also had the ability to communicate with people’s guardian angels. He would often ask people to ‘send him their Guardian angel’ with their message if they were unable to come to him themselves. Many people especially those who wrote to him, or who were sick, or those in need of his help, reported having had a visit from him and there was no way that these visits could be explained, as others reported him being with them at exactly the same time. The Friary was overflowing with letters coming from all corners of the world asking for his help and his prayers. The queues outside the church grew bigger and bigger. The devotion grew so big that Padre Pio came under investigation from his superiors, and From 1931- 1933 he was forbidden to say Mass in public or hear confessions.

Padre Pio lived by obedience and so he conformed to the wishes of his superiors, until the ban on his public appearances was lifted. Padre Pio met Pope John Paul 11 on several occasions when he was a seminarian and he could tell that this was to be the future Pope, he also foresaw the attack on Pope John Pauls life. Although lots of money passed through Padre Pio’s hands through donations that were handed in to the friary and those that came in the post, he did not use any of it for himself. This was obvious by the simple life that he led, and by the cell that he lived in. He had a vision for the people of San Giovanni – he wanted to have a first class hospital built there for them, and, through his ministery, he collected enough money in donations for work to begin on this project, and his dream was now becoming a reality. On 16th May 1947 the foundation stone for ‘the home for the relief of suffering’ was blessed by Padre Pio, and on 5th May 1956 the ‘casa  Sollievo Della Sofferenza’ opened its doors.

Padre Pio called it a ‘home’ rather than a hospital as he wanted people to feel loved and nourished both physically and spiritually when they attended there. Today, this hospital has over 400 beds and it is one of the main research centres in Southern Italy.  Padre Pio had an immense devotion to our Lady. Saying the Rosary brought him great joy. He said ‘Love our Lady, make others love her. Always say your Rosary and say it well. Satan always tries to destroy this prayer but he will never succeed. It is the prayer of her who triumphs over everything and everyone’.  Padre Pio died on   23rd September 1968 and his wounds completely disappeared. He was beatified on 2nd May 1999 and was declared a Saint by Pope John Paul 11 on 16th June 2002.  Padre Pio was obedient in life and he is also obedient in death.    Reflection of the life of St. Padre Pio Padre Pio  truly was a Holy Priest who followed in footsteps of the wonderful Saint Francis of Assisi. He lived his life by obedience to the teachings of the Catholic Church, and he said ‘where there is no obedience- there is no virtue,  where there is no virtue – there is no good,  where there is no good – there is no love,  where there is no love- there is no God and where there is no God – there is no paradise Padre Pio gives us whatever we need, it may not always be what we want, sometimes it will be what we want, and sometimes we have to be persistent in prayer but when you pray to him he will intercede for you and he can obtain for us from God the particular graces we need for the particular difficulty or situation we find ourselves in. Many people experience a beautiful sweet fragrance of roses if they are praying to Padre Pio. It is like walking into a garden of roses in full bloom and you can experience this fragrance at the most unexpected time, and in the most unexpected place. This is padre Pios gentle way of comforting us, and letting us know that he is with us and he hears our prayers. Padre Pio is a spiritual doctor to us all and he prescribes a Rose for every single one of us. That Rose is –  the Rosary, Obedience, to the teachings of the Catholic Church, Sacraments – and Experiencing God’s Love. Padre Pio said that ‘it is easier for the earth to exist without the sun, than without the Holy Sacrafice of the Mass’. The Mass was his life and this is what he wrote in rememberance of his First Mass: Jesus My breath, my Life Today, trembling I elevate you In a mystery of Love With you let me be for the world The way – the truth – the life And for you a Holy Priest   Remember his words –‘ Pray,  Hope   and don’t worry’  

Patricia McNally

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