Born from a humble peasant family in Pietrelcina, south of Italy. He was given the name Francesco Forgione on May 25, 1887. He served as an altar boy during his childhood and was certain to offer his life to God. The Forgione was a religious family, they attended mass and recited the holy rosary daily.
Padre Pio joined the Capuchins when he was 15 and took the name Pio. For health reasons in 1917, he was assigned to the friary in San Giovanni, Rotondo. A year after, he received a stigmata, wounds the same as Christ’s passion on the hand, feet and side, after a vision of Jesus on September 20, 1918. The gift as we all know was God-sent for holy Pio. However, things happen differently that time for the authenticity of his stigmata were in question and things became complicated for him. There were accusations that challenged the humble priest’s reputation and he accepted these in all humility. Because of complicated reasons, he was not allowed to say Mass publicly and hear confession, and he followed out of obedience. It was trying times for Padre Pio since he was known to be close and helped a lot of people who’s fond of him. But he once said, “In all the events of life, you must recognize the Divine will. Adore and bless it, especially in the things which are the hardest for you.” “Accept every pain and inconvenience that comes from Heaven. Thus, you will attain perfection and sanctification.”
He was known in all the monasteries in Italy for his miracles and ability to see the forthcoming events of people’s life and fate . There were so many testimonies and witnesses to his holiness and miracles that many flock to his masses and line for confession. Many can attest to Padre Pio’s ability to know certain details in their lives, and even read their intentions and future. For whatever reasons, bus loads of people visit the place, it is undeniable that many can attest to Padre Pio’s holiness and gift to bring many souls closer to God.
For over fifty years, Padre Pio bore the stigmata in pain and complete submission, accepting the will of God while he faced the adversities in his monastic life.. Some people question the authenticity of his’ stigmata wounds. The stigmata was seen and checked by medical and church authorities. However, weeks before he died the wounds start to heal and disappear with no trace or scar on his skin. Padre Pio once said, “Do not let your heart become troubled by the sad spectacle of human injustice. Even this has its value in the face with all ease. And it is from this that one day you will see the justice of God rising with unfailing triumph.”
Saint Padre Pio is also a firm believer of the importance of the Holy Mass. He is known to have a very solemn and devout celebration of the mass. It is fortunate for all of us that one of his last mass was recorded and can be seen on Youtube. He stressed that, “Every Holy Mass, heard with devotion, produces in our souls marvelous effects, abundant spiritual and material graces which we, ourselves, do not know…It is easier for the earth to exist without the sun than without the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass!” This generation has been lucky that technology was able to capture Padre Pio’s activities in videos. Seldom can we actually experience and see a beloved saint say mass and do many other things.
He was able to say his last mass on September 22, 1968, though his health was weak and failing, with the help of his Capuchin brothers. Padre Pio died in the morning of 23rd of September in his cell in San Giovanni Rotondo. It is said that before he died, he was saying the names “Gesu, Maria” (Jesus, Mary).
Many books and documentaries were written on the life of this beloved saint. Miracles happened during his lifetime and continued even after his death. There were accounts wherein he was seen to have appeared to sick people in their deathbeds long after his death. Padre Pio keeps on healing the sick and the needy just as he promised. “After my death I will do more. My real mission will begin after my death.”
Today, San Giovanni Rotondo has become a popular pilgrimage site as many devotees around the world would like to pay homage to the saint. To experience the place where Padre Pio lived many days of his priestly life. There stands the church-shrine of the saint, a hospital built on his leadership to help the sick and suffering, and his incorrupt body enclosed in a glass coffin.
Padre Pio is a saint of the 21st century. His popularity grew all over the world in an overwhelming manner. It was evident when his incorruptible heart was brought to the Philippines in 2018, even his Capuchin brothers were surprised by the love shown by the Filipinos. Even the devotees from the different parts of the country were amazed at how people endure long lines to be able to touch the glass enclosure with Padre Pio’s heart relic. But the excitement and love was worth it not minding the weariness and the long wait. That’s the work of God, the Holy Spirit that brings fire to the people.
The gift of Saint Padre Pio to bring people closer to God, to love Mother Mary, the value of the Holy Mass continues more than fifty years after. His heart full of love and holiness carries the energy and spiritual joy to his devotees. And he made that promise until it’s time he said, “I will stand at the gates of Heaven and I will not enter until all of my spiritual children are with me.”
Saint Padre Pio, pray for us.