Some Saints seem larger than life, even in their humility. St. Padre Pio is surely one of these. Known for his gifts of the stigmata, bilocation, and prophesy, he evokes that sense of divine mystery which has helped renew the faith of millions.
St. Padre Pio was born Francesco Forgione on May 25, 1887 in Pietrelcina, Italy, and was raised in a very devout family who attended Mass and prayed the Rosary daily. At a very young age he was drawn to spiritual things, playing church and making known his desire to be a priest. He entered the Capuchins in 1903 and was ordained in 1910.
Padre Pio was exceptional as a spiritual director, relying on five rules for spiritual growth: weekly confession, daily communion, spiritual reading, meditation and examination of conscience (www.ewtn.com). In 1918 he entered into ecstasy while praying and received the stigmata, the five wounds of Christ, which he bore for 50 years, only disappearing just before his death in 1968.
Mass was the climax of his day; he prepared for it for hours and celebrated it with the utmost reverence. Those fortunate souls who sat in the pews during his Masses were reminded of the awe and majesty which surrounded them. So much of the humble friar’s life was involved in the supernatural, and miracle upon miracle unfolded from San Giovanni Rotondo where lived for most of his life. Stories of his appearance and the consequential healing of many began to surface, and as word of his gifts spread, more and more people flocked to see him. Finally the Holy See ordered Padre Pio to stop preaching and hearing confessions and to celebrate Mass in private. For three years he obeyed, until in 1934 the bans were lifted by Pope Pius XI.
One project which was dear to his heart was the building of a hospital, House for the Relief of Suffering, which he undertook in 1940 and completed in 1956. He died at the age of 81, and was canonized in 2002.
Padre Pio on Christian Perfection (Taken from Letters II, Oct. 23, 1914)
We must ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten us to three great truths: 1) our Christian vocation, 2) greater knowledge of our eternal inheritance, 3) to penetrate more deeply the mystery of how wretched sinners such as ourselves have been led to salvation.
A person who desires perfection needs to undertake both internal and external action. In striving toward internal perfection, we must first practice the virtue of charity. When a person loves money, honors, and good health, he does not always possess what he loves, whereas he who loves God possesses Him at once. Also, the soul needs patience. The virtue of patience maintains order in one’s interior life. Love, joy and peace are virtues which perfect the soul with regard to what is possesses, while patience perfects it with regard to what it endures.
Padre Pio encourages his spiritual children to practice externally the virtue of kindliness, to be agreeable and courteous. Polite manners draw others to imitate one in the devout life. If others do not respond to kindness, we need the virtue of forbearance. Never desist from one’s effort to help others, even if they are not deriving benefit of our help.
Strive for meekness, which makes us stifle our anger when we see our efforts repaid with ingratitude, insults or offenses. Add faithfulness, by which the soul gains confidence.
Virtues which perfect the devout person with regard to control of his own senses are modesty, continence and chastity: modesty, governing all exterior acts; continence, restraint over senses of sight, touch, taste, smell and hearing; chastity, which ennobles our nature and makes it similar to the angels.
Happy the one who possesses these fine virtues, all of them fruits of the Holy Spirit who dwells within him. Such a soul has nothing to fear and will shine in the world as the sun in the heavens. (www.padrepio.com)
Perhaps the greatest significance of Padre Pio’s life is his humble witness to the supernatural in our lives. Often we forget the miracle which life itself is, and those which surround us each day. God is in His Heaven, and He waits to shower us with graces. We only need to be open to believing and receiving them. Amen!