Lifelong CatechesisForming Catholic identity across generations
For a large part of the liturgical year, we devote ourselves to listening to the mystery of Christ in all its aspects unfolded as we seek God's truth and understanding.
St. Pio of Pietrelcina, Priest, 1887-1968
Born on May 25, 1887, in Pietrelcina, Benevento, Italy, the son of Grazio Mario and Maria Giuseppa Forgione, this saint was baptized Francesco Forgione. The boy inherited the piety of his family and knew from a young age that he wanted to be a priest. He entered the Capuchin order months before his sixteenth birthday and was ordained a priest at the age of 23. It was at this time that he became Padre Pio, the name for which he became world famous.
Padre Pio came to the monastery of San Giovanni Rotondo in 1916 and, essentially, remained there until his death in 1968. Much occurred at the monastery during the 50+ years that he lived there.
This saint was given many gifts by God. In 1918, while praying in front of a crucifix, he was given the visible stigmata, the wounds that Christ received on the cross. These wounds, fresh and bleeding, would remain with him for fifty years until shortly before his death.
Padre Pio was also given the gift of reading the hearts of those who came to him for confession or spiritual guidance. As his reputation grew, people flocked to him for his guidance. He would often spend ten to twelve hours per day in the confessional. All of those who came to him became his spiritual children and he prayed for them and their families daily.
In 1940, Padre Pio convinced some doctors to come to San Giovanni Rotondo to open a hospital. Though World War II intervened, he never lost sight of that goal and, in 1956, the Home to Relieve Suffering began operations.
During that war, as the allied armies rolled through Italy, many GI’s made the pilgrimage to San Giovanni Rotondo to attend Mass with Padre Pio. They—and their families—became spiritual children of this holy man. Through these GI’s, the fame of Padre Pio spread to the western hemisphere and many from the US and Canada came to the monastery in the years following the war. One veteran, who had the privilege of dining with the monks both during the war and later, noted how little Padre Pio ate—a doctor once noted that the amount of food that he consumed was not enough to keep a one year old infant alive and well. In the meals that the veteran had with the monk, he said that after eating a few bites, Padre Pio would put the rest of the food on his visitor’s plate, fearing that he would not get enough to eat.
Something noted by all who came in contact with Padre Pio was his sense of humor. While he suffered constant pain from the stigmata and loss of blood, he was still capable of causing some of his fellow monks to double over with laughter with his droll comments.
Shortly before his death on September 23, 1968—a date that he had predicted some years before—the stigmata on his body were healed and this saint died in peace. More than 100,000 people came to his funeral to pay their respects.
On June 16, 2002, more than a half-million people gathered in Rome as Pope John Paul II declared him, Saint Pio of Pietrelcina. His life is celebrated by a memorial on September 23. St. Pio is the patron of civil defense volunteers.
Padre Pio's message today: During his lifetime, this saint became the spiritual father to many thousands of people, not just those who came to him, but to their families and friends. He promised to wait outside the gates of heaven until all of his children had entered.