September 23, 2015

Today Is the Memorial of Saint Padre Pio

Padre Pio was born in 1887 in the Italian village of Pietrelcina. He joined the Capuchin Friars at age sixteen and was ordained a priest seven years later. For fifty years at the monastery of San Giovanni Rotundo he was a spiritual advisor, confessor, and intercessor. His life was devoted to the Eucharist and prayer. Despite such notoriety, he often said, "I only want to be a poor friar who prays."

The Life of St. Pio of Pietrelcina

Pio was born Francesco Forgione to a southern Italian farm family, the son of Grazio, a shepherd. At 15 he entered the novitiate of the Capuchin Friars in Morcone; joining the order at 19. He suffered several health problems, and at one point his family believed he had tuberculosis. He was ordained on 10 August 1910.

While praying before a cross on September 20, 1918, Padre Pio received the stigmata. He is the first priest to be so blessed. As word spread, especially after American soldiers brought home stories of Padre Pio following WWII. Pio became a point of pilgrimage for the pious and the curious. He heard confessions by the hour, and could read the consciences of those who held back. He was reportedly able to bi-locate, levitate, and heal by touch.

In 1956 he founded the House for the Relief of Suffering, a hospital that serves 60,000 a year. Padre Pio died on September 23, 1968, age 81.

Today there are over 400,000 members worldwide in prayer groups begun by Padre Pio in the 1920s.

His canonization miracle involved the cure of Matteo Pio Colella, age 7, the son of a doctor who works in the House for Relief of Suffering, the hospital in San Giovanni Rotondo. On the night of June 20, 2000, Matteo was admitted to the intensive care unit of the hospital with meningitis. By morning doctors had lost hope for him as nine of the boy's internal organs had ceased to give signs of life. That night, during a prayer vigil attended by Matteo's mother and some Capuchin friars of Padre Pio's monastery, the child's condition improved suddenly. When he awoke from the coma, Matteo said that he had seen an elderly man with a white beard and a long, brown habit, who said to him: "Don't worry, you will soon be cured." The miracle was approved by the Congregation and Pope John Paul II on 20 December 2001.

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