Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I hope many of you will be joining us as we bless our new statue of Padre Pio after the Noon Mass this Sunday. A very generous parish family donated the statue, and we are blessed to have him in our Church. He is a saint with an incredible story, and one who continues to have a profound impact on so many people of faith today. Here is a snippet of his biography from padrepio.com:
Saint Pio of Pietrelcina was born Francesco Forgione on May 25th, 1887 into a family of Italian peasant farmers. By the time he was five years old, he had already made the decision to dedicate his life to God. He began taking on penances to prove his dedication and love for God, and expressed a great desire to be involved with the Catholic faith, mainly because of his upbringing. The Forgione family was devoted to their faith.
As a child, he worked on the farm by taking care of a small flock of sheep and went on to join the Capuchin Franciscan Friars in Morcone. This is where he took on the name “Friar Pio”. Capuchin priests seek extreme poverty, strictness, and simplicity. They try to live as closely to St. Francis’ ideals as possible. Once he joined the Friary of St. Francis, he had several bouts of serious illness and religious ecstasy. Friars would report that strange noises would come from his cell. Padre Pio had frequently spoken about attacks from the devil, and it was there that these battles took place.
After being drafted into the Italian armed forces and serving two stints there, he settled in our Lady of Grace Capuchin Friary located in San Giovanni Rotondo. He stayed there for the remainder of his life.
In August of 1918, he began experiencing a painful stigmata that would come and go over a period of weeks. This would soon become permanent, and remain on his body for the next 50 years. It only disappeared miraculously a few days before his death in September 1968. Countless experts and doctors looked at his wounds with no clear explanation. Some questioned the authenticity of the wounds, and others could not find a sure diagnosis. Padre Pio never had a fever or drops in blood pressure, but the wounds bled day after day for 50 years.
In the beginning, Padre Pio felt great humiliation at the wounds on his body. The visible stigmata on his body was one that brought him great pain, but he welcomed it. He welcomed the pain for all of mankind. He had stated many times that his “greatest wish was to die.” He was visited by so many pilgrims wishing to see some of the miraculous manifestations that his presence attracted.
Padre Pio died of a heart attack at Our Lady of Grace in San Giovanni Rotondo on September 23rd, 1968. On June 16th, 2002, Padre Pio was Canonized by Pope John Paul II.
This is only an outline of an incredible story. He was said to read souls in confession – reminding penitents if they forgot a sin – uniting toughness with God’s mercy. He was known to bi-locate, where many encountered him far away. And an incredible number of healings have been attributed to him, still years after his death. Let us pray that his presence in our parish is a source of great grace and consolation.
Padre Pio – pray for us!
Yours in Christ,