St Padre Pio

23Sep15

Today is the feast day of the much loved St Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, cannonized in 2002.  This short video gives a glimpse of who he was http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=311 but there is so much more to know about this modern day saint.Saint Pio of Pietrelcina (25 May 1887 – 23 September 1968) was a Capuchin priest from Italywho is venerated as a saint in the Catholic Church. He was born Francesco Forgione, and given the name Pio when he joined the Capuchins; he was popularly known as Padre Pio after his ordination to the priesthood. He became famous for his stigmata.

Francesco Forgione was born to Grazio Mario Forgione (1860–1946) and Maria Giuseppa de Nunzio Forgione (1859–1929) on 25 May 1887, in Pietrelcina, a farming town in the southern Italian region of Campania.  His parents made a living as peasant farmers.  He was baptized in the nearby Santa Anna Chapel, which stands upon the walls of a castle.   He later served as an altar boy in this same chapel. Restoration work on this chapel was later undertaken by the Padre Pio Foundation of America based in Cromwell, Connecticut.   His siblings were an older brother, Michele, and three younger sisters, Felicita, Pellegrina, and Grazia (who was later to become a Bridgettine nun).   His parents had two other children who died in infancy.   When he was baptised, he was given the name Francesco, which was the name of one of these two.   He claimed that by the time he was five years old he had already taken the decision to dedicate his entire life to God.   He is also said to have begun inflicting penances on himself and to have been chided on one occasion by his mother for using a stone as a pillow and sleeping on the stone floor.   He worked on the land up to the age of 10, looking after the small flock of sheep the family owned.   This delayed his education to some extent.

Pietrelcina was a highly religious town (feast days of saints were celebrated throughout the year), and religion had a profound influence on the Forgione family. 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 memorised the Scriptures and narrated Bible stories to their children. It is claimed by his mother that 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.

As a youth Pio claimed to have experienced heavenly visions and ecstasies.   In 1897, after he had completed three years at the public school, Francesco was drawn to the life of a friar after listening to a young Capuchin friar who was, at that time, seeking donations in the countryside. When he expressed his desire to his parents, they made a trip to Morcone, a community 13 miles (21 km) north of Pietrelcina, to find out if their son was eligible to enter the Capuchin Order. The monks there informed them that they were interested in accepting Francesco into their community, but he needed more educational qualifications.

Francesco’s father went to the United States in search of work to pay for private tutoring for his son Francesco, so that he might meet the academic requirements to enter the Capuchin Order.   It was in this period that Francesco received the sacrament of Confirmation on 27 September 1899.   He underwent private tutoring and passed the stipulated academic requirements. On 6 January 1903, at the age of 15, he entered the novitiate of the Capuchin Friars at Morcone where, on 22 January, he took the Franciscan habit and the name of Fra (Brother) Pio in honor of Pope St Pius V, the patron saint of Pietrelcina.   He took the simple vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

Priesthood

To commence his six-year study for priesthood and to grow in community life, he travelled to the friary of St. Francis of Assisi by oxcart.  Three years later on 27 January 1907, he made his solemn profession. 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 the Angels. His health being precarious, he was permitted to remain with his family until early 1916 while still retaining the Capuchin habit.

On 4 September 1916, Padre Pio was ordered to return to his community life. Thus he was moved to an agricultural community, Our Lady of Grace Capuchin Friary, located in the Gargano Mountains in San Giovanni Rotondo. Along with Padre Pio, the community had seven friars. He stayed at San Giovanni Rotondo until his death, except for his military service.

A strong believer in Christian meditation, Padre Pio stated: “Through the study of books one seeks God; by meditation one finds him“.   This statue in Rome shows him with a rosary.

When World War I started, four friars from this community were selected for military service.   At that time, Padre Pio was a teacher at the seminary and a spiritual director. When one more friar was called into service, Padre Pio was put in charge of the community.   Then, in the month of August 1917 Padre Pio was also called to military service.   Although not in good health, he was assigned to the 4th Platoon of the 100th Company of the Italian Medical Corps.   Although hospitalized by mid-October, he was not discharged until March 1918, whereupon he returned to San Giovanni Rotondo and was assigned to work at Santa Maria degli Angeli (Our Lady of the Angels) in Pietrelcina.   Later, in response to his growing reputation as a worker of miracles, his superiors assigned him to the friary of San Giovanni Rotondo.   In all, his military service lasted 182 days.

Padre Pio then became a spiritual director, guiding many spiritually, considering them his spiritual daughters and sons. He had five rules for spiritual growth, namely, weekly confession, daily Communion, spiritual reading, meditation, and examination of conscience.

He compared weekly confession to dusting a room weekly, and recommended the performance of meditation and self-examination twice daily: once in the morning, as preparation to face the day, and once again in the evening, as retrospection. His advice on the practical application of theology he often summed up in his now famous quote, “Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry”. He directed Christians to recognize God in all things and to desire above all things to do the will of God.

On September 20, 1918, Padre Pio was kneeling in front of a large crucifix when he received the visible marks of the crucifixion, making him the first stigmatized priest in the history of Church. Thedoctor who examined Padre Pio could not find any natural cause for the wounds. Upon his death in 1968, the wounds were no longer visible. In fact, there was no scaring and the skin was completely renewed. He had predicted 50 years prior that upon his death the wounds would heal. The wounds of thestigmata were not the only mystical phenomenon experienced by Padre Pio.

The blood from the stigmata had an odor described by many as similar to that of perfume or flowers, and the gift of bilocation was attributed to him. Padre Pio had the ability to read the hearts of the penitents who flocked to him for confession which he heard for ten or twelve hours per day. Padre Pio used the confessional to bring both sinners and devout souls closer to God; he would know just the right word of counsel or encouragement that was needed. Even before his death, people spoke to Padre Pio about his possible canonization. He died on September 23, 1968 at the age of eighty-one. His funeral was attended by about 100,000 people.

Pray,pray to the Lord with me, because the whole world needs prayer.  And every day, when your heart especially feels the loneliness of life, pray.  Pray to the Lord, because even God needs our prayers. (St Padre Pio)

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