On September 23, we celebrate the Feast of St. Pio Pietrelcina, or Padre Pio, as he is known worldwide. Padre Pio was a man who bore numerous sufferings and trials throughout his life with great patience, seeing in them a way to conform himself more with Our Lord Crucified. A man of constant prayer, “I am a poor Franciscan who prays,” he said, of charity and generosity in administering the Sacrament of Confession, Padre Pio saw Jesus in the sick and the suffering.
During his life, a lot of people had recourse to the Italian Capuchin Franciscan monk to ask him prayers and intercede for them to God. The future Pope and Saint, John Paul II was among them who as the then Archbishop of Cracow (Poland), asked him to pray for a Polish lady, sick with throat cancer. In two weeks’ time, she had been cured of her illness. A lot of people have reported cures through the intercession of Padre Pio when he was still alive. As such, many wanted to have a souvenir from him and resorted to cutting his habit, as what happened with St. Francis.
On September 20, 1918, while doing his thanksgiving after Mass, Padre Pio had a vision of Jesus. When the vision ended, he had the stigmata in his hands, feet and side.
His life became more complicated after that. A lot of people among which were medical doctors, Church authorities and curiosity seekers came to see him.
Aside from the pain and blood loss brought about by the stigmata, his other sufferings were: extremely high fever which broke the mercury thermometer leaving the doctors puzzled and the frequent night visits, insults, attacks and thrashing by the devil, angered by the many souls gained by Padre Pio for Christ. These physical batterings left him bruised, bloodied and sleepless on many occasions. He also suffered the calumnies received from ecclesiastical personalities and authorities. Nevertheless, Padre Pio maintained his serenity, abandoning his fate into God’s hands.
On two occasions (1924 and 1931), the authenticity of the stigmata was put into question. He was prohibited from celebrating the Holy Mass publicly and from hearing confessions. In spite of all these, Padre Pio maintained his calm, without complaining. Soon after, these prohibitions were lifted.
He died on September 23, 1968, was beatified in 1999 and was canonized on June 16, 2002 by Pope John Paul II, before a record-breaking crowd at the St. Peter’s Square. In his homily, St. John Paul II said: “The life and mission of Padre Pio prove that difficulties and sorrows, if accepted out of love, are transformed into a privileged way of holiness, which opens onto the horizons of a greater good, known only to the Lord.”
Visit San Giovanni Rotondo, where Padre Pio spent most of his life and where his tomb can be found today. See the cell in which Padre Pio lived and died and the crucifix in front of which he received the stigmata while praying in the Church of Our Lady of Grace.