Chronology of Padre Pio
1887 - May 25: Born in Pietrelcina, Italia
1903 - January 6: At the age of 15 years, he enters the Franciscan novitiate (OFM Cap.) in Morcone.
1904 - January 22: Professes as a Franciscan
1910 - August 10: Priestly ordination in Benevento
1918 - September 20: Receives the stigmata (the wounds of Christ)
1923 - 1933 He was prohibited from celebrating Mass in public and from communicating with his spiritual children; victim of calumny.
1947 The prayer groups of Padre Pio begin.
1956 - May 5: Inauguration of the house "Sollievo della Sofferenza" (alleviating suffering)
1968 - September 23: Passes away in San Giovanni Rotondo
1998 - December 21: Recognition of his first miracle
1999 - May 2: Beatificaation
2001 - December 20: Recognition of second miracle
2002 - June 16: Canonization in the Vatican
ABOUT PADRE PIO
Padre Pio entered the Capuchins at the age of 15. He was ordained on August 10th of 1910. He was then assigned to Saint Giovanni Rotondo in 1916 and lived there until his death. He received the stigmatas on the 20th of September of 1918 and had them for 50 years. He entered eternal life on the 23rd of September of 1968, was beatified by Pope John Paul II on the 2nd of May of 1999 and canonized by him on the 16th of June of 2002.
“I only want to be a friar who prays…”
“Pray, wait, and do not worry. Worrying is useless. God is merciful and will listen to your prayer... Prayer is the best weapon we have; it is the key to the heart of God. You should speak to Jesus, not only with your lips but with your heart. In reality, in some occasions you should speak to Him with the heart….” –Padre Pio
Padre Pio is one of the greatest mystics of our time, loved everywhere in the world. He taught us how to live a radical love for the heart of Jesus and for His Church. His life was prayer, sacrifice, and poverty. He attained a profound union with God A famous confessor, Padre Pio spent up to 16 hours daily in the confessional. Some had to wait up to two weeks to be able to go to confession with him because the Lord allowed them to see through this simple priest the truth of the Gospel. His life was centered on and revolved around the Eucharist. His Masses moved the hearts of the faithful due to his profound devotion which he attained through the Virgin Mary.
Extraordinary discernment: He had the ability to read hearts and consciences.
Prophecy: He was able to announce events of the future.
Healing: Miraculous healings attributed to him through the power of prayer.
Bilocation: He was able to be in two places at the same time.
Perfume: The blood of his stigmata smelled like flowers.
A multitude of pilgrims would go see him and he also received many letters asking for prayer and advice.
The doctors who studied the stigmata of Padre Pio were not able to heal his wounds or give an explanation for them. They calculated that he would lose a cup of blood daily, but his wounds never became infected. Padre Pio would say that they were a gift from God and an opportunity to struggle to be more and more like Jesus Christ Crucified.
His beatification had the most attendance in history. The plaza of Saint Peter and its surroundings were not able to contain the multitude that attended his beatification.
Padre Pio is a powerful intercessor. The miracles continue to multiply.
Francis Forgione (Saint Padre Pio) was born in the womb of a humble and religious family on Wednesday, May 25th of 1887 at five o’clock in the evening, the time when the church bells rang to call all the faithful to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary in her month. Saint Padre Pio was born in a small village named Pietrelcina in the south of Italy in the province of Benevento. His parents, Horacio Forgione y María Giuseppa de Nunzio Forgione, both farmers, entrusted the protection of their newborn to Saint Francis of Assisi. This is why they baptized him with the name of Francis the day after he was born.
When he was still just a baby, Padre Pio would cry with grief to the point that his father was not able to rest at night due to how strong and constant was the crying. His father would say, “The baby would never run out of air.” Once when his father and he were by themselves at home, his father was not able to stop his crying and he set him down on the bed and said, “It seems like the devil has been born in my house.” Padre Pio recalls that from that precise moment he never cried like that again.
The Forgione family lived in the poorest area of Pietrelcina. Francis was poor, but like he himself would say later on, he never lacked anything. Values were different back then; a child considered himself blessed if he had the basics to live. He was a very sensitive and spiritual child.
Beginning of his Extraordinary Experiences
His life continued in the area around the church Saint Mary of the Angels which we may say was like his “home.” It was there he was baptized, he received his First Communion, his Confirmation, and precisely there, at the age of five, he had an apparition of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Lord placed His hand over Francis’ head and He promised Francis that he would be a faithful follower of His. The course of his life and his vocation would remain sealed from that moment on. Padre Pio offered himself at such a young age as a victim. That year would mark the life of Francis for forever. He began to have apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary that would continue the rest of his life. He also made a special deal with his guardian angel with whom he had the grace to communicate all his life and the one which served greatly in the mission he would receive from God.
It is also at that age that the devils began to torture him. He was accustomed to rest under the shade of a particular tree during the hot and sunny days of summer. Friends and neighbors testify that it was during more than one occasion that they say him fighting with what seemed like his shadow. These battles would continue the rest of his life.
He was a quiet, different, and shy boy. Many say that at such a young age he already showed signs of a profound spirituality. He was very pious, remaining many hours inside the church after Mass. He even made arrangements with the sacristan so that he would have permission to visit the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament when the church was closed.
Cured by Chilis
In the time period when Padre Pio was still a child, typhoid fever was a fatal illness and little Francis was seen at the point of death from it. The fever was so high that the doctor himself informed his mother that little Francis only had a few hours to live. His mother, even with the pain she experienced in her heart, continued her domestic duties and prepared, as usual, food for the workers who helped with the land. The food that Guiseppa prepared was fried chilis and the workers did not finish them because they were so hot. To the little sick boy the scent of the chilis seemed very appetizing and as soon as he was alone, not being able to walk, he dragged himself to where the chilis were and he ate them all.
When he was finished eating, he returned to his bed and was very thirsty. He called his brother Michael so that he could bring him something to drink. His brother brought him a bottle of milk and served him some on a spoon, as they had been doing so before. Francis, instead, took the entire bottle and drank it all to the surprise of his brother.
When his mother returned later to look for the chilis, she found the plate empty and could never imagine that Francis was the one who could have eaten them. Although this food could have proved fatal for him, it caused radical changes. From this moment on, Francis was healed from typhoid fever and he totally regained his health.
A Miracle in His Presence
One day, while still very young, he accompanied his father Horacio on a pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of Saint Pilgrim. The church was full of faithful from all over. Francis kneeled to pray before the Sanctuary and he observed the anguish of a mother who approached the altar carrying a deformed child in her arms and implored the Saint to intercede for the healing of her son. Meanwhile his father prepared to leave the Church, Francis would not move from his profound prayer of intercession for the child. His mother in a rage of desperation said out loud in front of the statue of the Saint, “Cure my child; if you do not want to cure him, take him, I do not want him,” and after saying this, she dropped the child on the altar. In the precise moment the child touched the altar he was completely cured. This experience of the power of prayer strengthened the trust Francis had in the power of the intercession of the Saints.
Francis had a great thirst for learning. Since there were no schools in the village, some farmers volunteered to teach the children of the area. Their greatest ambition was that the children may learn to read and, for those who were more brilliant, to write. Teaching would take place in the evening due to the need of both the adults as well as the children to work during the day. Francis studied during this time. Other children preferred to play, but that was not one of his priorities. He preferred to always spend the majority of his time in prayer and studying during the designated time for learning. Padre Pio was a much disciplined boy who understood the sacrifice his parents would make to support his time of learning.
Studies to Prepare Him for Religious Life
The time came when Francis manifested his desire to be a religious. His father, upon seeing the existing limitation of an education in the village emigrated to the United States and Jamaica seeking a better economic solution that would pay the educational costs for Francis. His parents, although humble, received great wisdom from the Lord to see the path their son needed to follow. They made great sacrifices so that this would become possible.
It was during this time that his mother Giuseppa made arrangements so that her son received the necessary formation to be able to enter the seminary. The only possibility during that time was to take classes with Don Domenico Tizzani, a former priest who had left the priesthood and married. Don Domenico had the reputation of being a good teacher, but something would happen when he was with young Francis that he seemed to have a mental block in his presence. Mrs. Giuseppa looked for another teacher for Francis and found Angelo Cavacco. With him, young Francis advanced rapidly and showed great capacity.
Preparation for the Novitiate
Days prior to entering the seminary were days of visions from the Lord that would prepare him for great struggles. Jesus allowed Francis to see the battle ground, the obstacles, and the enemies. On one side there were brilliant men, with white vestments; on the other side, there were huge, horrible beasts colored in black. It was a terrifying scene and the knees of young Francis began to tremble. Jesus told him he needed to confront the horrible creature, but Francis replied fearfully, begging the Lord that He not ask for something he would not accomplish victoriously. Jesus repeated his petition, letting him know that He would be on his side. Francis, then, began a fierce combat, the pains inflicted in his body were intolerable, but he came out triumphant. Jesus warned Francis that he would combat again with this devil throughout his entire life and told him not to be afraid, “I will be protecting you, helping you, always on your side until the end of the world.” This particular vision petrified Padre Pio for 20 years.
The day before entering the seminary, Francis had a vision of Jesus with his Blessed Mother. In this vision, Jesus placed His hand on Francis’ shoulder, giving him courage and strength to move on. The Virgin Mary, on her part, spoke to him softly, subtly, and maternally, penetrating the deepest part of his soul.
Entrance into the Novitiate of Morcone
Padre Pio always walked the narrow path, not allowing any luxuries or anything that could make him stray from his relationship with Jesus. At the age of 15, Francis had advanced enough to be able to enter the seminary; he would become a Capuchin Friar. He entered the Franciscan Order of Morcone on the 3rd of January 1902. Nineteen days after his entrance, on the 22nd of January 1902, Francis received the Franciscan habit which is made in the form of a cross and he perceived that from that moment his life would be “crucified in Christ.” He took the religious name Friar Pio of Pietrelcina in honor of Saint Pius V.
The Capuchin Fraternity in which he entered was one of the most austere of the Franciscan Order and one of the most faithful to the original rule of Saint Francis of Assisi. Fasting and penance were regular practices. Friar Pio embraced all the forms of self-privation, always eating very little. On one occasion he was nourished solely from the Eucharist for 20 days and although he was physically weak, he would participate in class with obvious happiness. It was one of the best times of his life, “I am immensely happy when I suffer, and if I consent to the impulses of my heart, I would ask that Jesus give me all the suffering of mankind.”
In 1905, only two years after having entered the seminary, Friar Pio experienced for the first time a bilocation. While praying accompanied by another friar one cold night of January around 11pm, he found himself very far away in a very elegant house in which a father was agonizing at the same time his daughter was being born. Our Blessed Mother appeared to Friar Pio telling him, “I entrust to your care this creature; she is an unpolished precious stone. Work in her, instruct her, make her shine as much as possible because one day I want to adorn myself with her.” To which he answered, “How could this be if I am a poor student and I still do not even know if I will be fortunate to become a priest? And if I don’t become a priest, how can I take care of this poor little girl so far away?” The Virgin Mary answered, “Do not doubt. She will come to you, but you will meet her beforehand in the Basilica of Saint Peter.” Immediately he found himself back where he had been praying minutes before.
Eighteen years later this now young lady showed up in the Basilica of Saint Peter, tired and looking for a priest with whom she could confess and receive spiritual direction. It was already late and the basilica was going to close, she looked around and saw a friar entering the confessional and closing the door. The young lady approached him and began to share her problems with him. The priest absolved her from her sins and gave her the blessing. In gratitude, the young lady wanted to kiss his hand, but upon opening the confessional she only found an empty chair.
One year later, the young lady went on a pilgrimage to Saint Giovanni Rotondo. Padre Pio was walking through the halls of the cells full of pilgrims and upon seeing the young lady amongst them, he pointed her out and said, “I know you. You were born the day your father died.” The young lady, surprised, waited a long time to be able to confess with Padre Pio and clarify her concerns. Padre Pio welcomed her in the confessional with these words, “My daughter, you have finally come; I have waited so many years for you!" The young lady even more surprised expressed that he was wrong, this being the first time she visited Saint Giovanni, to which Padre Pio answered, “You already know me, you came last year to the Basilica of Saint Peter.”
The young lady became his spiritual daughter, always obeying his advice. She married and formed a solid and exemplary Christian family.
On the 10th of August of 1910, Padre Pio was ordained a priest in the Cathedral of Benevento, Italy. That afternoon he wrote this prayer, “Oh Jesus, my yearning and my life, I ask you to make of me a holy priest and a perfect victim.”
The day of his ordination, his father was in America, but his mother, his brother Miguel and his wife, and his three sisters were with him on that special day. At the end of the Holy Mass, his mother and his siblings approached the banister to receive their first blessing. His mother was not able to hold her tears from so much emotion as well as from the pain of thinking about the absence of her husband whose sacrifice made possible the ordination of his son.
As was usual, the newly ordained priest celebrated his first Mass in his hometown church. For Padre Pio it was in Saint Maria of the Angels, the same church where 23 years prior he had been baptized, where he received his First Communion and the Sacrament of Confirmation.
Padre Pio would tell his spiritual children “If you desire to attend the Holy Mass with devotion and obtain fruits, think of the Sorrowful Mother at the foot of Calvary.”
Back in Pietrelcina
The more the young priest climbed to perfection, the more he was threatened by the devil. The more he was tormented by Satan, the more he grew in faith and love for the Lord. Shortly after his ordination, his fevers and the ills that always made him suffer during his studies came back. He was sent to his hometown Pietrelcina so that he could regain his health.
Every time the attempt was made to reinstate him to religious life in the monastery, they failed since his health became worse. His priestly life in Pietrelcina included much prayer accompanied by many religious works, such as theological studies, catechism for the town’s children and meetings with individuals and families.
During this time period in Pietrelcina, his former professor, the former priest, Tizzani, was agonizing. His daughter, seeing how close to death he was, called Padre Pio so that he could help her father since Padre Pio was providentially passing by her house at that time. The dying man received from Padre Pio the grace of God and the eternal salvation of his soul. He made his confession with tears of repentance and died in peace.
First Apparition of the Stigmatas
During his first priestly ministry, in 1910, Padre Pio manifested the first symptoms of the stigmatas. In a letter he wrote to his spiritual director he described them as follows, “In the middle of my hands a red stain appeared the size of a penny accompanied by an intense pain. I also felt much pain beneath my feet.” These pains in the hands and feet of Padre Pio were the first accounts of the stigmatas that were visible until 1918.
One time, the pain that Padre Pio experienced was so sharp that he shook his hands which felt like they were burning. His mother asked him, “What is that? Do you play the guitar now?” Padre Pio did not respond.
This time in his hometown was a period of great spiritual battles with the devil but also of great consolations through ecstasies and mystical phenomena, both interior as well as exterior ones, spiritual and physical. The devil would appear to him in various ways. Sometimes he would appear in the form of animals, of women dancing impure dances, of jailers who would.
His Return to Monastic Life
On February 17th of 1916, Padre Pio left Pietrelcina and headed towards Foggia, to where the superiors called him so that he may offer a spiritual service. Thanks to the prayers of Rafaelina Cerase, a very sick lady who was near death, Padre Pio was able to return definitively to community life. This good woman offered herself to God as a victim so that Padre Pio could listen to confessions and thus provide a great benefit for souls.
Although Padre Pio was never able to return to Pietrelcina, his love for it never diminished. During the Second World War, Padre Pio said in reference to his town, “Pietrelcina will be preserved like the apple of my eyes.” Before dying, he spoke prophetically, “During my life I have favored Saint Giovanni Rotondo. After my death, I will favor Pietrelcina.”
First Visit to Saint Giovanni Rotondo
On July 28th of 1916, Padre Pio arrived at Saint Giovanni Rotondo for the first time. Saint Giovanni Rotondo was back then a small village in the peninsula of Gargano, surrounded by very poor homes, with no lights, no drinkable water, no piping system, no paved roads, and with no means of modern communication, very similar to the lifestyle of the small villages back then. The monastery is located about two kilometers from the town and to go there you had to go by donkey. The monastery included one small and rustic church named Our Lady of Grace from the 14th century.
Permanent Return to Saint Giovanni Rotondo
Padre Pio was invited to Saint Giovanni by Father Guardian and his brief visit was from July 28 to August 5. During this visit the health of Padre Pio seemed to have improved somewhat, something which pleased the Provincial Father and he ordered that under obedience, Padre Pio return to Saint Giovanni for some time until his health improved. Padre Pio returned to the Monastery of Gargano on September 4th of 1916. In the designs of the Lord, what was at first thought of as something temporary lasted 52 years until the death of Padre Pio.
Padre Pio was called to the military three times during the First World War and the three times he was sent back after a brief period due to health reasons. The last time he was called his health deteriorated so much that the doctors themselves discharged him to “allow him to die in peace at home.” The short time he was in the military caused great pains in his soul due to the hardness of hearts of the soldiers, the blasphemies he heard, and being away from monastic life. Another great pain was not being able to offer Mass every day. Padre Pio was discharged from the military with papers that testify to his conduct, his honor, and fidelity for his country although he was saved from desertion charges for not reporting himself to an appointment due to a mistake from the mailperson of Saint Giovanni Rotondo who did not know that Francisco Forgione and Padre Pio were the same person and that is why he did not know to whom to give the appointment.
The Minor Seminary
Padre Pio served as spiritual father of young men who were part of the minor seminary which at that time was in Saint Giovanni Rotondo. He was in charge of providing them with meditations, of confessing them, and of having spiritual conversations with them. He prayed much and watched their spiritual growth. He even went to the point of asking permission to offer himself as a victim to the Lord for the perfection of this group whom he, as he would say himself, “loved with tenderness.”
One day when he went out for a stroll with the young men he told them, “One of you pierced my heart.” They were left perplexed before such a commentary, but they did not dare ask who the guilty one was. “One of you this morning made a sacrilegious Communion. To think that it was me who gave it to him during the Mass.” The guilty young man knelt down and confessed his guilt. Padre Pio made a sign to the others so that they go back. It was right there on the street that he heard his confession and restored him to the grace of God.
What undoubtedly has made Padre Pio famous is the phenomenon of the stigmatas: the five wounds of Christ Crucified he visibly carried on his body for 50 years.
A little over a month after receiving the piercing of the heart, Padre Pio received the now visible signs of the Passion of Christ.
Padre Pio described this phenomenon and spiritual grace to his director out of obedience, “It was the morning of the 20th of September of 1918. I was in the chapel praying the prayer of thanksgiving for the Mass and I felt little by little that I was elevated to a softer prayer. Suddenly, a great light blinded me and Christ who was bleeding in all parts appeared to me. From his wounded Body came out rays of light that looked like arrows that hurt my feet, hands, and side.
When I returned to myself, I found myself on the floor and full of wounds. My hands, feet, and side bled and they hurt even enough to make me lose all my strength to stand up. I felt as if I was dying, and I would have died if the Lord would not have come to support my heart that I felt palpitating strongly in my chest. I crawled on the floor until I arrived at my cell. I laid down and I prayed, I saw once again my wounds and I cried, elevating hymns of gratitude to God.”
The stigmatas of Padre Pio were deep wounds in the center of his hands, feet, and left side. He had hands and feet which were literally pierced and living blood came out from both sides, making Padre Pio the first priest with stigmatas in the history of the Church (Saint Francis of Assisi was not a priest).
The provincial of the Capuchins of Foggia invited Professor Romanelli, a physician and director of a prestigious hospital so that he could study the case and give his opinion. Doctor Romanelli did not have the slightest doubt of the supernatural character of the phenomenon. Shortly afterwards, the General Curia of the Capuchins in Rome sent another specialist to Saint Giovanni Rotondo, professor Jorge Festa. His conclusions were that “the stigmatas of Padre Pio had an origin which scientific knowledge was very far from being to explain. The reason for their existence goes beyond human science.”
News of Padre Pio’s stigmatas spread rapidly. Soon afterwards, thousands of people went to Saint Giovanni Rotondo to see him, kiss his hands, confess with him, and attend his Masses.
The word STIGMATA comes from the Greek and it means “mark” or “sign on the body,” and it was the result of the seal of a hot iron with which slaves were marked. In a medical sense, stigmata means a reddish stain over the skin that is caused because blood exists the vessels by a strong nervous influence, but never to the point of perforation. The stigmatas the mystics have had are real lesions of the skin and tissues, true wounds that, like in this case, have been described by Doctors Romanelli and Festa.
The Holy See Intervenes in the Investigations
After minute investigations, the Holy See wanted to intervene directly. Back then, Father Augustin Gimelli, a Franciscan, physician, founder of the Catholic University of Milan and great friend of Pope Pius XI, was a great celebrity in matters of experimental psychology.
Father Gimelli went to visit Padre Pio, but since he did not have written permission to examine his wounds, he refused to show them to him. Father Gimelli left Saint Giovanni with the idea that the stigmatas were false, of neurotic nature, and he published his idea in an article in a very popular magazine. The Holy Office made use of the opinion of this great psychologist and made public a decree which declared the little proof of the supernatural nature of the facts.
First Great Proof; Ten Years of Isolation
During the following years, there were three other decrees and the last one was condemning, prohibiting visits to Padre Pio or maintaining any relationship with him, even in letters. Consequently, Padre Pio spent ten years, from 1923 to 1933, completely isolated from the exterior world within the walls of his cell. During these years, he not only suffered the pains of the Passion of the Lord in his body, but he also felt in his soul the pain of isolation and the weight of suspition. His humility, obedience, and charity never denied the accusations.
The Sacrifice of the Mass
Padre Pio awoke every morning at 3:30am and he prayed the Divine Office for the readings. He was a prayerful priest and lover of prayer. He would repeatedly say, “Prayer is the bread and life of the soul; it is the breath of the heart. I do not want to be anything more than this, a friar who loves.” He celebrated the Holy Mass in the mornings accompanied by two religious. Everyone wanted to see him and touch him, but his presence inspired so much respect that no one dared to move in the slightest. Mass lasted almost two hours and all of those present would submerge in a particular way into the mystery of the sacrifice of Christ, multitudes would gather tightly around the altar holding their breath. Even though no essential difference exists in the celebration of the Holy Mass from any other priest because the priest and the victim is always Christ, with Padre Pio the image of the Savior, pierced in his hands, feet, and side, was more transparent.
Padre Pio lived the Holy Mass, suffering the pains of the Crucified and giving a profound sense to the liturgical prayers of the Church. In the annals of the Church, Padre Pio is the first priest with stigmatas; he was in essence a priest, and his holiness was essentially priestly. All of his life revolved around this reality in which he offered his mouth, his hands, and his eyes to Christ. When he would say, “This is my Body…This is my Blood,” his countenance would transfigure. Waves of emotions would toss him, all of his body would project itself in a mute imploration. “The Mass,” he said once to a spiritual son, “is Christ on the Cross, with Mary and John at the foot of the same one and the angels in adoration. Let us cry of love and adoration in this contemplation.” Meanwhile the Father celebrated the Holy Sacrifice, time seemed to detain itself. One time Padre Pio was asked how he could spend so much time standing on his wounds during the entire Holy Mass. To this he responded, “My daughter, during the Mass I am not standing, I am hung with Jesus on the Cross.”
Padre Pio loved Jesus with so much strength that he experienced in his own body a true hunger and thirst for Him. “I have such a hunger and thirst before I receive Jesus that I could soon die of anguish. And precisely because I could not be without uniting myself to Jesus, I often, even with fevers, see myself obliged to go and nourish myself with his body.” Padre Pio would say that “the world can survive without the sun, but never without the Mass.”
In one occasion, he was asked if the Blessed Virgin Mary was present during the Holy Mass and he responded, “Yes, she places herself at a side, but I can see her, what a joy. She is always present. How can it be that the Mother of Jesus, present in Calvary at the foot of the Cross, who offered her Son as a victim for the salvation of our souls, not be present in the mystical calvary of the altar?”
Martyr of the Sacrament of Mercy
Whoever participated in the celebration of the Eucharist with Padre Pio could not remain at ease in his or her sin. After the Holy Mass, Padre Pio sat down in the confessional for long hours, giving preference to men whom he said were in most need of confession. Being so many who went to confession it was necessary to establish order and confessing with Padre Pio easily took three or four hours of waiting.
There are many impressive testimonies and moving conversations generated through confessions with Padre Pio. He was severe with the curious, the hypcrites, and the liars, and loving and compassionate with those who truly repented. One of the gifts that impressed the people the most was that he could read people’s hearts.
One time Padre Pio was asked why he threw out the penitents from the confessional without giving them absolution, and he responded, “I throw them out, but I accompany them with prayer and suffering, and they come back.” The anger was only superficial. He explained once to one brother, “My son, I have taken up a different form only in the exterior. The interior has not moved at all. If I do not do it this way, they do not convert to God. It is better to be reproached by a man in this world, than to be reproached by God in the other one.” An example of this occurred one day when Padre Pio noticed a young man who was crying while not mindful of the people around him. Padre Pio approached him and asked him why he was crying. The young man replied that “he cried because he had not received absolution.” Padre Pio consoled him with tenderness and said, “Son, see, I have not denied you absolution so that I could send you to hell but rather to Paradise.”
The Apostolate of Happiness
Padre Pio was a man very harsh against all type of sin, but at the same time tender, jovial, and a lover of life. He was a brilliant conversationalist, with the astuteness of maintaining his listeners in suspense. He enjoyed jokes very much, and in his repertoire, there were always some that referred to soldiers, politicians, and religious. From the mouth of Padre Pio, jokes and anecdotes were not only clean humor and simple distraction, but also a type of apostolate: the apostolate of happiness and of good humor.
One hot evening when he went for a stroll as he frequently would with his spiritual brothers and sons, he recounted the following anecdote, “One time a young juggler who was not able to sing the psalms nor pray the prayers with his brothers became a monk. As soon as the chapel was left empty, he would approach the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary and he would do pirouettes to ingratiate himself with her and the Child Jesus. One time the sacristan friar saw him and he advised the Abbot. After having observed him for a while, he was marvelled upon seeing that the statue of the Virgin Mary took life. The Virgin Mary would smile and the Child Jesus would clap his little hands. Each one of us, Padre Pio would say, makes a clown of himself in the job that God has assigned us. The most ignorant friar would offer the Queen of Heaven the only thing he knew how to do, and She gladly accepted it.”
To the many who would have recourse to him to ask for his intercession in moments of need, Padre Pio would always give a helping hand through prayer. One time a monsenior recounted that a farmer he knew had a very strong and sudden molar pain one evening. In his desperation in feeling that Padre Pio had not listened to his plee of intercession, he took a shoe and threw it against the framed photograph of Padre Pio. As time passed and having forgotten the irreverent gesture, he went to confession with Padre Pio who replied in the confessional, “And you still have the courage, even after the blow with the shoe that you gave me on my face…”
One of the most famous healings of Padre Pio was that of a little girl named Gema who had been born with no pupils in her eyes. Her grandmother took her to Saint Giovanni Rotondo with the hope that the Lord would do a miracle through the intercession of Padre Pio. He blessed her and made the sign of the cross over her eyes. The girl recuperated her vision, although the miracle did not end there. Gema was able to see ever since that moment but she was left without pupils. As an adult, Gema entered religious life.
Padre Pio and the Children
Padre Pio also had a great love for children. When he was asked for the intercession of a baby who came with complications, or for any child who was sick, he would intercede until he obtained the grace. A chancellor whose wife’s delivery was approaching and carried many complications went to consult Padre Pio and to ask him for prayers. “Go in peace, Padre Pio told him, and no operations.” At the moment of the birth the situation became complicated and the doctors told him that if they did not operate right away they feared the chance of death of both the mother and the baby. The chancellor desperately went to the room next door where there was a photograph of Padre Pio on the wall and in front of it he began to insult and curse him. He had not finished letting everything out when he heard the cry of a baby. He ran out of his wife’s room and he found a beautiful baby boy born “without operations” to the surprise of the doctors. After some days, the chancellor went to Saint Giovanni to confess and to give thanks to Padre Pio who responded, “It is alright, but all of the mean words and insults you said in front of my photograph you do not have to repeat them again.”
On another occasion, a boy from Saint Giovanni Rotondo who was gravely ill and who was thought he would die at any given moment, started to laugh and recovered his health almost instantaneously. His mother asked him what he felt and the boy responded, “Mom, Padre Pio tickled my feet.” Padre Pio had tickled his feet and he was healed.
Padre Pio had amongst those who solicited him a group of spiritual children whom he promised to aid with his prayers and cares in exchange for living a fervent life of prayer, virtue, and works of charity. Amongst this group of those devoted there are countless anecdotes in which the real and opportune care of Padre Pio manifested itself in an extraordinary way. Amongst these anecdotes is the one of a young man whose mother would take to Padre Pio since he was a small child and one day, upon leaving the convent to take the bus back home, an automobile ran him over from behind, projecting him across the air. Meanwhile he flew over the automobile, he saw the image of the Virgin Mary of the convent upside down and realized what was happening. He was able to shout, “My dear Virgin Mary, help me.” They took him immediately to the hospital and all of the exams showed that everything was fine even though they could not explain the source of the blood on his shirt. As soon as he was able to, he left and ran towards the monastery to thank Padre Pio who was praying in the chapel. He responded, “Don’t thank me, give thanks to the Virgin Mary, it was Her.” After seeing him with his eyes full of love and a great smile on his lips, he told him, “My son, I cannot leave you alone not even for one minute.”
Called to Co-redemption
The life of Padre Pio is full of extraordinary events that it is necessary to find their causes in his intimate life. He who is called to serve in the redemptive mission of Jesus Christ has to suffer much morally and physically. These sufferings purify that soul and enkindle in them each time more the love of God. In a letter written by Padre Pio in 1913 he wrote, “The Lord allows me to see, as in a mirror, that my entire life will be a martyrdom.”From the time he entered religious life until he received the stigmatas, the life of Padre Pio was a way of the Cross. In 1912 he wrote, “I suffer, suffer much but I do not desire at all that my cross be alleviated because to suffer with Jesus is very pleasant.” To a spiritual daughter he said one day, “Suffering is my daily bread. I suffer when I do not suffer. The crosses are the jewels of the Spouse, and I am jealous of them. Woe to he who puts himself in between the crosses and me!”
His Greatest Project on Earth
The evening of the 9th of January of 1940, Padre Pio gathered three of his greatest spiritual friends and he proposed to them a project to which he himself referred as “his greatest work here on earth,”the founding of a hospital that would be called “House of Relief from Suffering.” Padre Pio took out from his pocket a gold coin which he had received once as a gift and said, “This is the first stone.” On the 5th of May of 1956 the hospital was inaugurated with the blessing of Cardinal Lercaro and an inspiring speech from Pope Pius XII. The purpose of the hospital is to cure the sick person both spiritually and physically: faith and science, mysticism and medicine, all in accordance with helping the entire person: body and soul.
Transverberation of the Heart
Transverberation is an extraordinary grace that some saints like Saint Teresa of Jesus and Saint John of the Cross have received. The heart of the person chosen by God is pierced by a mysterious lance or what is experienced as a dart that upon penetrating leaves behind a wound of love that burns meanwhile the soul is elevated to the highest levels of the contemplation of love and pain.
Padre Pio received this extraordinary grace on August 5th of 1918. With simplicity, Padre Pio narrated the following to his spiritual director, “I was listening to the confessions of the young men the night of the 5th of August when all of a sudden I was very frightened upon seeing with the eyes of my mind a celestial visitor who appeared right in front of me. In his hand he carried something like an iron lance with a very sharp tip. It seemed as if fire was coming out of the tip. I saw the person thrust the lance violently in my soul. I could barely complain when I felt I was dying. I told the young man to leave the confessional because I felt very sick and did not have the strength to continue. This martyrdom lasted without any interruptions until the morning of the 7th of August. From that day I felt a great affliction and a wound in my soul that is always open and causes me agony.”
“What humanity is lacking,” he would frequently repeat, “is prayer.” As a result of World War II, Padre Pio founded “Prayer Groups of Padre Pio.” The groups multiplied all over Italy and the world. When Padre Pio died there were 726 groups of 68,000 members, and in March of 1976 they increased to 1,400 groups with more than 150,000 members. “I invite souls to pray and this surely upsets Satan. I always recommend to the groups the Christian life, good Works, and especially, obedience to Holy Mother Church.”
Second Trial and Persecution
Human envy went after the work of Padre Pio. Since 1959, newspapers and weekly magazines began to publish articles and mean and calumnious reports against the “House of Relief from Suffering.” To take away from Padre Pio the donations that came from all over the world to support the House, his enemies planned a series of false documentation and they went to the point of sacrilege, placing microphones in his confessional to find anything with which to accuse him.
Some offices of the Roman Curia conducted investigations, they took away the administration of the House of Relief from Suffering and his prayer groups were abandoned. The faithful were advised neither to attend his Masses nor to confess with him.
Padre Pio suffered much because of this last persecution that lasted until his death, but his faithfulness and intense love for Holy Mother Church was firm and constant. In the middle of the pain this suffering caused, he used to say, “Sweet is the hand of the Church even when she slaps because it is the hand of a mother.”
Fifty Years of Pain and Blood
On Friday, the 20th of September of 1968, Padre Pio had had the stigmatas of the Lord for 50 years. It was a great celebration in Saint Giovanni. Padre Pio celebrated the Mass in his usual time. Around the altar there were 50 large flowerpots full of red roses for his 50 years of blood. In the same miraculous manner that the stigmatas had appeared in his body 50 years before, now, 50 years later and some days before his death, they disappeared without leaving any trace of five decades of pain and blood with which the Lord had confirmed his mystical and supernatural origin.
His Step into Eternal Life
Three days later, murmuring during long hours, “Jesus, Mary,” Padre Pio died the 23rd of September of 1968. Those present stayed a long time in silence and in prayer. Then a long and unstopable cry burst out. The funeral of Padre Pio was impressive. One had to wait four days so that the multitudes of people would be able to pass by to say goodbye. It is estimated that more than 100 thousand people participated in his burial.
A Promise of Love
One day Padre Pio was asked, “Did Jesus show you the places of your spiritual children in paradise?” “Of course, a place for all the children that God would entrust to me until the end of the world, if they are consistent in the path that takes you to heaven. It is the promise that God made to this miserable person.” “And in paradise, are we going to be close to you?” “Oh silly one, what kind of paradise would it be for me if I did not have all of my children close to me. “But I am afraid of death.” “Love casts out fear. We call it death, but in reality it is the beginning of true life. And later, if I help you in your life here, how much more will I help you in the decisive battle.