September 22, 2016

St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, Priest, Stigmatic, Mystic, and the Miraculous Abilities Ascribed to Him

St. Pio of Pietrelcina
September 23rd, is the memorial of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, (1887-1968) better known as Padre Pio, the 20th century Capuchin priest, stigmatic and mystic, who during his lifetime, was a spiritual father to innumerable souls. He is the only priest in the history of the Church to receive the stigma — the divine marks of predilection — from our Lord’s Passion and Death. For much of his priesthood, Padre Pio suffered the spiritual, emotional and physical anguish of Christ’s holy wounds.

In addition, he was given the miraculous gifts of bilocation, transverberation, (a divine piercing of the heart indicating union with God) the odor of sanctity, the ability to read souls, the ability to see and communicate with spiritual beings, (i.e. guardian angels, demons, the departed) and the capacity to write and comprehend languages foreign to him. Moreover, his brother Capuchins testified under oath that he levitated, healed by touch, and experienced divine ecstasies while praying, as well as, horrific nightly demonic manifestations, during which, he was beset by devils who would beat, torture and humiliate him.

St. Padre Pio was born Francesco Forgione in the farming village of Pietrelcina, Italy, and baptized the following day. His parents, Grazio and Maria Forgione. were deeply devout Catholic peasants. At the age of 5, Francesco dedicated his life to God. The Forgione family attended daily Mass and prayed continuously. Although Francesco’s parents were illiterate, they memorized Sacred Scripture and taught its wisdom to their children. At 15, Francesco entered the novitiate of the Capuchin Friars in Morcone, taking the name Pio. His prodigious intellect and spiritual giftedness were apparent. Four years later, he made his first profession. On August 10, 1910, at the Cathedral of Benevento, he was ordained a priest.

St. Padre Pio Receives the Stigmata of Our Lord’s Passion

Perhaps the most distinguishing mark of Padre Pio’s holiness was bearing the stigmata, through which he shared in the suffering of Christ. Initially, our Savior’s sacred wounds, though felt by Fra. Pio, were not visible. On the morning of September 20, 1918, after celebrating Mass in the Church of Our Lady of Grace next to the friary, Padre Pio retired to the choir stalls in thanksgiving. Kneeling in loving adoration before the outspread, bloodied figure of Christ crucified, he experienced a peacefulness which invaded his whole being, a peacefulness, that he later described as "similar to a sweet sleep". What happened next is recorded in a letter Padre Pio wrote barely a month later to fellow friar Padre Benedetto:

"It all happened in a flash. While all this was taking place, I saw before me a mysterious Person, similar to the one I had seen on August 5th, differing only because His hands, feet and side were dripping blood. The sight of Him frightened me: what I felt at that moment is indescribable. 'I thought I would die, and would have died if the Lord hadn't intervened and strengthened my heart which was about to burst out of my chest. The Person disappeared and I became aware that my hands, feet and side were pierced and were dripping with blood."

The stigmata would remain with Padre Pio for the rest of his life. Unbeknownst to many, he felt the crown of thorns pressing into his scalp and the agony resulting from Jesus’ scourging. But by far, the most excruciating affliction he endured was the grievous shoulder wound from Christ carrying the cross. It bled constantly, causing him indescribable pain that could not be relieved. Padre Pio confided this torment only to his confessor and the future Saint John Paul II, Fr. Karol Wojtyla.

The humble Capuchin friar was renowned for his personal sanctity, miraculous interventions, and prayerful celebration of the Divine Liturgy. As word spread, Padre Pio himself became a point of pilgrimage for both the pious and the curious. Beginning in 1922, the Holy Office, (now the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) began restricting Padre Pio’s public ministry while the supernatural events surrounding his life were investigated. The future saint was forbidden from celebrating Mass in public and hearing confessions. In 1933, Pope Pius XI ordered the Holy Office to reverse its ban on the public celebration of Mass, saying "I have not been badly disposed toward Padre Pio, but I have been badly informed." Soon afterward, all of Padre Pio’s faculties were restored in full.

In 60 years of religious life, spent at San Giovanni Rotondo, Padre Pio dedicated himself to prayer, and to the ministry of reconciliation and spiritual direction. Like Saint Francis of Assisi, his physical body testified to the selfless sacrifice and boundless love of God especially for the sick in body and in spirit. Padre Pio’s daily activity centered on the sacraments of Confession and Mass. Holy Mass was the source and summit of his calling, the moment of closest communion with Christ. In the words of St. John Paul II: "[St. Pio] felt called to share in Christ's agony, an agony which continues until the end of the world."

From his youth, Padre Pio suffered from poor health. In the last years of his life, he declined rapidly. Early in the morning of September 23, 1968, Padre Pio died at age 81. He was canonized by St. John Paul II on June 16, 2002. His incorrupt remains lie in a crypt in the church of Saint Pio, located beside San Giovanni Rotondo. Almighty ever-living God, who, by a singular grace, gave the Priest St. Pio a share in the Cross of your Son and, by means of his ministry, renewed the wonders of your mercy, grant that through his intercession we may be united to the sufferings of Christ, and so brought happily to the glory of the resurrection.

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