Saint Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio)
Francesco Forgione was born in Pietrelcina, Italy, on May 25,1887, and named in honor of St. Francis of Assisi. The devout Francesco at an early age felt drawn to the priesthood, and became a Capuchin novice at the age of sixteen. Ordained a priest in 1910, he became known as Padre Pio. During this time he suffered much, both physically and spiritually, all of which he accepted with praise and thanks to God, trusting that if God allowed it, God could use it for the good of others.
On September 20, 1918, while kneeling in front of a large crucifix, Padre Pio received the visible marks of the crucifixion, with wounds in his hands, feet, and side, making him the first priest to receive the stigmata in the history of the Church. On the day he died in 1968, at the age of 81, the wounds disappeared, a miracle Padre Pio had predicted 50 years earlier.
Padre Pio was blessed with many mystical gifts. The blood from the wounds of Jesus in his body carried a beautiful perfumed aroma. He had the gift of bilocation, or being in two places at the same time. He had the ability to read the hearts of the penitents who flocked to him during his long hours of hearing confessions. Padre Pio used the confessional to bring both sinners and devout souls closer to God; giving just the right word of counsel or encouragement to all.
Thousands went to his monastery in San Giovanni Rotondo suffering from all sorts of illness, including cancer, tuberculosis, blindness, etc. Many received healing through his intercession. Padre Pio had a great love for Mother Mary, Saint Michael the Archangel, and his Guardian angel, and received much help from them. He also had a great love and prayed much for the Souls in Purgatory.
In 1948, a young Polish priest heard about Padre Pio and visited him for Confession and spiritual direction. Though we do not what they shared, the young priest, Fr. Karol Wojtyla, was deeply moved by the encounter. Almost two decades later, in November 1962, now a bishop, Karol Wojtyla returned to Rome for the second Vatican Council. He sent a note asking Padre Pio to pray for his friend, Dr. Wanda Poltawska, a survivor of a Nazi concentration camp and mother of four, who had been diagnosed with a very serious and aggressive intestinal tumor. Padre Pio replied, “To this one, it is impossible to say no.” Padre Pio prayed all night for the woman. When Bishop Wojtyla called home two weeks later to hear how the operation went, he learned that the tumor had disappeared!
In May 1967, Dr. Poltawska herself was able to leave Communist Poland briefly for a trip to Italy. She journeyed to San Giovanni Rotondo, where she attended a Mass celebrated by Padre Pio. At the Mass, Poltawska could see Padre Pio’s own agony, the stains of blood from his wounds, the sweat running down his face. Afterward, she waited to greet him. He passed by her, walking slowly on his pierced feet. He stopped, then gazed at her, smiled, and said, “Now you are all right?” The doctor was stunned. She had never met Padre Pio, yet he recognized her. He had suffered for her, because he could not refuse the request of the young Polish Bishop. And, as Providence would have it, Dr. Poltawska was there, in Rome, on June 16, 2002, when her old friend, who had become the first Polish pope, John Paul II, canonized the gentle Padre as Saint Pio of Pietrelcina!
I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.
Submitted by guest blogger Bart Tesoriero