ST. PIO OF PIETRELCINA

St. Pio of Pietrelcina commonly known as Padre Pio was a friar, Priest, stigmatist and mystic. He became famous for bearing stigmata (a term to describe body marks, sores, or sensations of pain in locations corresponding to the crucifixion wounds of Jesus Christ, such as the hands, wrists, and feet.)

He was born as Francesco Forgione to Grazio Mario Forgione and Maria Giuseppa Di Nunzio Forgione on May 25, 1887, in Pietrelcina, a farming town in the southern Italian region of Campania. The members of the family attended daily Mass, prayed the Rosary nightly, and abstained from meat three days a week in honor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Although Francesco’s parents and grandparents were illiterate, they memorized the Scriptures and narrated Bible stories to their children. His mother said Francesco was able to see and speak with Jesus, the Virgin Mary and his guardian angel and that as a child, he assumed that all people could do so. On January 6, 1903, at the age of 15, he entered the novitiate of the Capuchin friars at Morcone where, on January 22, he took the Franciscan habit and the name of Friar Pio, in honor of Pope St. Pius I, whose relic is preserved in the Sant’Anna Chapel in Pietrelcina. He took the simple vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

Commencing his seven-year study for the priesthood, he traveled to the friary of St. Francis of Assisi by oxcart. Three years later on January 27, 1907, he made his solemn profession. At 17, he suddenly fell ill, complaining of loss of appetite, insomnia, exhaustion, fainting spells, and terrible migraines. He vomited frequently and could absorb only milk and cheese. During prayer, Brother Pio remained in a stupor, as if he were absent. One of Pio’s fellow friars claims to have seen him in ecstasy, levitating above the ground. In 1910, Brother Pio was ordained a priest by Archbishop Paolo Schinosi at the Cathedral of Benevento. Four days later, he offered his first Mass at the parish church of Our Lady of Angels. His health being precarious, he was permitted to remain with his family until 1916 while still retaining the Capuchin habit.

On September 20, 1918, while hearing confessions, Padre Pio had his first occurrence of the stigmata. This phenomenon continued for fifty years, until the end of his life. The blood flowing from the stigmata smelled of perfume or flowers, a phenomenon mentioned in stories of the lives of several saints and often referred to as the odour of sanctity. Life became more complicated after that. Physicians, Church authorities and curiosity seekers came to see Padre Pio. In 1924 and again in 1931, the authenticity of the stigmata was questioned. Padre Pio was not allowed to celebrate mass publicly or hear confessions. But he did not complain about all this.

By 1933, the tide began to turn, with Pope Pius XI ordering the Holy See to reverse its ban on Padre Pio’s public celebration of Mass. The pope said, “I have not been badly disposed toward Padre Pio, but I have been badly informed.” In 1934, he was again allowed to hear confessions. He was also given honorary permission to preach despite never having taken the exam for the preaching license. Pope Pius XII, who assumed the papacy in 1939, encouraged devotees to visit Padre Pio.

Early in the morning of September 23, 1968, Padre Pio made his last confession and renewed his Franciscan vows. As was customary, he had his rosary in his hands, though he did not have the strength to say the Hail Mary loud. Till the end, he repeated the words “Gesù, Maria” (Jesus, Mary). At around 2:30 a.m., he said, “I see two mothers” (taken to mean his mother and Mary). At 2:30 a.m. he died in his cell in San Giovanni Rotondo with his last breath whispering, “Maria!”
T

he pope declared Padre Pio a saint on June 16, 2002. An estimated 300,000 people attended the canonization ceremony. St. Pio of Pietrelcina is currently known as the patron saint of civil defense volunteers.

Sharon Vas, Student representative, ACC

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