23 Sep Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, Confessor
Today is the feast day of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina. Ora pro nobis.
Born Francesco Forgione (named after Saint Francis of Assisi), this young saint grew up in a family of farmers in the small town of Peitrelcina (southern Italy). Twice, his father left the family, working in Jamaica, Queens (New York), to supplement the family income. From his childhood, it was evident that Francesco was a special child of God. Francesco was very devout even as a child, and at an early age felt drawn to the priesthood. At this young age, devoted to Our Blessed Mother, Francesco began praying the Holy Rosary every day. He eventually demonstrated great love for Our Lady of Fatima, attributing a cure of his own illness to her intercession.
At the age of 15, Francesco joined the Capuchins as a novice, and received the habit in 1902. After seven years of study, he took the name Padre Pio upon ordination in 1910. Drafted during World War I, he was discharged after the discovery that he had tuberculosis. In 1917 he was assigned to the friary in San Giovanni Rotondo, 75 miles from the city of Bari on the Adriatic. He would live the remainder of his life there, but his life was about to become much more blessed, and much more complicated.
On September 20, 1918, as he was making his thanksgiving after Mass, Padre Pio had a vision of Jesus. This was the first of many ecstasies this holy man would experience. When the vision ended, he had the stigmata in his hands, feet and side. The doctor 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 scarring and the skin was completely renewed. He had predicted 50 years prior that upon his death the wounds would heal.) The wounds of the stigmata 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 when Padre Pio thought of those he directed (even if they were not present), they reported that they were surrounded by the odor of violets.
Saint Pio (1887-1968), mystic, confessor, and stigmatic. For the majority of his life, Padre Pio bore the continually bleeding stigmata of Christ and experienced the pain and suffering of His Passion. Famous for preaching, “Love is the first ingredient in the relief of suffering,” Padre Pio bore these daily pains with grace and humility, joining his suffering to that of Christ, and drawing upon his experience to guide others in the paths of righteousness. In one of the largest canonization ceremonies in history, Pope John Paul II spoke of Padre Pio in 2002, highlighting his prayer and charity, as well as his patient suffering. “This is the most concrete synthesis of Padre Pio’s teaching,” said the Holy Father. If accepted with love such suffering can lead to “a privileged path of sanctity.”
Padre Pio saw the benefits of suffering with joy, and the path of righteous suffering that leads to the Lord.
On Friday, September 20, 1968, the 50th anniversary of Padre Pio’s receiving the Stigmata, he was very weak. He confined to a wheelchair, but still said Holy Mass. And he heard Confessions until ordered by his superior to cease for rest. It as if the people knew for they began coming in great numbers, praying for their beloved Padre. On Sunday he said his last Mass, heard his last Confessions and gave the crowds his final blessing.
On Monday, the 23rd, very early in the morning—it was just past midnight—he asked his confreres to come; he made his last Confession. He received Extreme Unction—as I have said—one of the favored few, that is, dying before the complete disorientation, in this case, the introduction of the rite of the Sacrament of the Sick which is not the equivalent of Extreme Unction. Now the Church has the power and authority to make changes in this Sacrament because Christ did not give the Apostles the form directly, like he did with the Consecration of the Blessed Sacrament and Baptism. But all the Saints warn us against the rejection of Tradition, to which the Sacrament of Extreme Unction belongs as do all the Sacraments. Changes where permitted in the sacred rites are to be of necessity. Nothing whatsoever mandated the change here.
At 2 AM he exclaimed that he could see his two mothers, his earthly mother and Our Lady. Even now his hands were still bleeding as he held his Rosary, unable now to say a Hail Mary. With his dying breath he uttered Gesu, Maria, Gesu, Maria, Gesu, Maria. And he passed into eternity with these words.
After he died his wounds were miraculously healed and most wondrous of all there was no blood left in his body, as if he had bled his last drop to suffer for Christ, as Christ suffered
His body is entombed in the crypt of Our Lady of Grace Church at the monastery in San Giovanni Rotondo. The Saint said that a body should be buried where its souls departed from it. Padre Pio’s beloved mother, who had died in his arms while she visited him for Christmas in 1929, is also buried in San Giovanni Rotondo Rotundo, next to her husband, who died in 1946, after he had made the monastery his home in his old age.
Image: Father Pio de Pietrelcina (6)
Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff