The life of Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, history and biography
The history of Padre Pio told through the facts, events, and experiences in his life – A biography of Padre Pio with key dates. Throughout Padre Pio’s life, he faced a great deal of suffering and adversity. Even today, Padre Pio’s miracles, his healings and his extraordinary works are wonderful examples for all of us.
Young Padre Pio
- His youth (1887-1903) Francesco Forgione, widely known as Padre Pio, was born on May 25th, 1887 in Pietrelcina, a small town in southern Italy. His parents were named Orazio Forgione and Maria Giuseppa de Nunzio.
He was baptized the day following his birth. His childhood and teen years were spent in Pietrelcina in a farming community. Those serene, peaceful days were divided among his home, church, and school. The idea of consecrating his life to God forever had been his since he was a little boy.
One of his spiritual director was a capuchin monk, Father Agostino Daniele. His account tells of how Padre Pio began seeing visions and experiencing spiritual rapture from age 5. One of his other spiritual director, Father Benedetto Nardella, wrote that: “Around age five, he felt the need to give himself over to God. On the main altar, the Heart of Jesus appeared to him and signalled him to approach the altar, and then put His hand on his head. From that moment on, I could feel the intensity of his love for Jesus grow as well as his desire to give himself over to God.” At age 12, he received the sacrament of the first communion and then confirmation the following year.
Padre Pio: Novice and Friar
- Padre Pio, Capuchin Friar (1903-1910) Francesco wanted to become a Capuchin friar. His wish was granted on January 6th, 1903, when he entered into the Convent of Morcone (Benevento), in the novitiate order of the Capuchin Friars Minor in the religious Province of Sant’Angelo – Foggia.
On January 22nd, 1903, he donned the Capuchin habit and took the name of Friar Pio. On January 22nd, 1904, he took his simple vows, and then transferred to the Convent of Sant’Elia in Pianisi (Campobasso). There, on January 27th, 1907, he took his solemn vows.
Between 1904 and 1909, Padre Pio stayed at several convents to complete his scholastic and religious studies. He had to return home several times for health reasons. On July 18th, 1909, he was made a deacon in the church at the Convent of Morcone.
Padre Pio: Illness and Priesthood
- Padre Pio’s Time in Pietrelcina (1910-1916) For ongoing health reasons, Friar Pio stayed in Pietrelcina with his family. At the end of 1916, he was assigned to the Convent of Sant’Anna in Foggia.
On August 10th, 1910, he was ordained as a priest in the chapel of the Duomo of Benevento. Only his mother was present as his father had emigrated to America.
His time in Pietrelcina was spent exercising his priesthood ministry under the direction of the head priest, in fervent prayer, and in close correspondence with his spiritual director.
Beginning in September of 1911, the first stigmata appeared on his hands, but were not permanent. This phenomenon repeated itself almost every week until 1918.
During this period, Padre Pio was almost always ill. He suffered particularly vicious afflictions but also experienced heavenly visions and frequent spiritual rapture.
On November 6th, 1915, he was drafted into the military in the Benevento District, and was later transferred to Naples. His stint in the military was interrupted by long periods of leave, granted for health reasons. His military service ended on March 16, 1918, when he was released due to his dire physical conditions.
Padre Pio: Stigmata and Spiritual Gifts
- Padre Pio’s Years of Mystical Phenomena and Divine Gifts (1916-1919) On July 28th, 1916, he arrived at San Giovanni Rotondo for the first time, and was accompanied by Padre Paolino. This convent was deemed “temporary,” but became his permanent home until his death (September 23rd, 1968).
During his first two years there, Padre Pio remained in written communication with his spiritual directors, people who he considered his “spiritual children”, and with all those souls who sought his help.
While at the convent, he was given the position of Director of Seminary Teachers. Soon thereafter, a small group of faithful devotees formed around Padre Pio as they sought spiritual direction. This was his first “Prayer Group”.
The year 1918 was one full of mystical phenomena and divine gifts for Padre Pio:
- August 5-7th, he received the “transverberation of the heart.” (EP. 1, 1051-1056)
- September 20th, he received the “stigmata.” (EP. 1, 1092-1095)
Padre Pio: Tribulation and Adversity
- Padre Pio’s Years of Slander and Accusations (1919-1931) This was a very upsetting and painful time in Padre Pio’s life. In 1919, as a result of several news articles written about his stigmata, people flocked to the Convent of San Giovanni Rotondo. These devoted people came primarily to hear his Mass and to go to confession.
This is how a whirlwind of slander and accusations against Padre Pio began. The Holy Office was compelled to intervene, imposing restrictions on Padre Pio and requiring him to distance himself from the Convent of San Giovanni Rotondo. This decision incited his most devoted followers to revolt, concerned that Padre Pio would be transferred far away. The convent’s order was immediately suspended.
At the same time, the supreme tribunal of the Holy Office began performing numerous medical and religious inspections. At this time, Padre Pio continued his life of prayer and sincere discipleship by ministering through confession, and by living in strict obedience to his superiors and the church hierarchy.
Padre Pio: Ministry Suspended
- Padre Pio’s Years of Segregation (1931-1933) On June 9th, the Holy Office ordered Padre Pio to suspend all of his ministry, except for Mass, which could only be performed alone or without parishioners, and in the interior chapel in the convent.
Throughout this period of segregation, which lasted until July 15th, 1933, he carried out his days in this way: around two hours celebrating Mass; prayers until noon, interspersed with about an hour of study; prayers again in the afternoon, from the evening almost until midnight.
Padre Pio: Pilgrims and Penitents
- Padre Pio’s Years of Relative Calm (1933-1955) On July 16th, 1933, Padre Pio was given permission to celebrate Mass again in the church. Later, he was also allowed to hear men’s confessions, and a few months later, also women’s confessions.
At this point, he took up again his ministry as “martyr of the confessional.” Many seeking forgiveness flocked to attain absolution, and their numbers grew at an alarming rate. His superiors at the convent were forced to develop a system for making reservations to keep the crowds organized and avoid disorder.
Many of his devoted followers flocked to hear him say Mass, as well, but the church in the convent wasn’t able to accomodate all the worshippers. On June 5th, 1954, Padre Pio had to celebrate Mass outside on the plaza in front of the church.
Around this time, records show that many distinguished people, scholars, and politicians from all over the world came to see Padre Pio.
In response to the heartfelt and pressing appeals by Pope Pius’ XII to pray, Padre Pio founded “Prayer Groups.” He said: “Let’s get to work. Let’s roll up our sleeves. Let’s be the first to respond to the Pope’s appeal.” Today, there are over two thousand Prayer Groups throughout the world.
During the dark years of the second world war, Padre Pio was a “consoling angel” for many wives and mothers who came to him asking for prayers for their loved ones on the front line, and to hear any news from them. Even in this time of relative calm, there was no shortage of disappointment. Examples include having to deal with anonymous letters discrediting his moral conduct, Pope John XXIII ordering further investigations into his life, and a decree from the Holy Office condemning certain unauthorized books on Padre Pio’s life and works.
Padre Pio: Period of Social Efforts
This was a period in which Padre Pio began efforts to benefit society, efforts which later had incredible growth. On May 19th, 1947, construction began on a hospital that the Saint of Pietrelcina has greatly desired, called “Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza” (House of Relief from Suffering).
- May 5th, 1956: Dedication of the “Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza.” It is a technologically advanced medical facility designed to handle even the most severe medical situations. Padre Pio celebrated Mass outside to a congregation of fifteen thousand people.
- July 2nd, 1956: Work began on the construction of the new church as a result of the ever-increasing number of devoted followers.
- 1956-1958: Dedication of day care centers, schools, and a business school.
- July 1st, 1959: Consecration of the new church, dedicated to “Santa Maria delle Grazie” (Holy Mary of Grace)
The Final Years of Padre Pio’s Life
- Final Years of Life (1959-1967) He was subjected to a mysterious illness which began on April 25th, 1959, and ended on August 7th when the statue of the Madonna of Fatima stopped at San Giovanni Rotondo. Padre Pio attributed his recovery to the intercession of the Virgin. From July 30th to September 17th, Mons. Carlo Maccari made an apostolic visit which resulted in an renewed explosion of support for Padre Pio. The press viciously attacked the church hierarchy, the Order of the Capuchin Friars, and the Convent of San Giovanni Rotondo.
His physical condition was getting worse every passing day. Padre Pio struggled to walk, and soon had to use a wheelchair to get around. He was often unable to celebrate Mass, which began to worry his doctors and his devoted followers. More and more, Padre Pio preferred to stay by himself and pray. On November 24th, 1965, with permission from the Holy See, he began to celebrate Mass while seated.
On August 10th, 1960, Padre Pio celebrated 50 years in the priesthood. In 1962, and in the years that followed, he received numerous visits from bishops and other church officials who had come to Rome for the Vatican Council.
Padre Pio: His Final Days
On September 22, Padre Pio celebrated Mass at 5 in the morning. As he finished, he completely collapsed on the altar. He then went to the confessional to do confession, but was unable due to his condition. At 10:30, he blessed a large group of people who crowded the plaza in front of the church. Then, at 6:00 in the evening, he blessed the parishioners who had assembled in the church for prayer.
In the small hours of the morning, at 2:30 on September 23rd, 1968, Padre Pio died, after having the sacrament of confession, renewing his vows, and receiving the sacrament of the anointing of the sick. He was laid in an open casket for four days as his devoted followers paid their respects. At 2:30 in the afternoon on September 26, they held his funeral, which was attended by around one hundred thousand devotees. At 11:30 that night, he was buried.
Padre Pio: Venerable, Blessed, and Saint
- On March 20th, 1983, the diocesan procedure was initiated for the canonization of Padre Pio as Servant of God.
- On January 21st, 1990, Padre Pio was declared Venerable by Pope Giovanni Paolo II.
- On May 2nd, 1999, Padre Pio was declared Blessed with a memorable celebration in Saint Peter’s Square, presided over by His Holiness, Father Giovanni Paolo II.
- On June 16th, 2002, Padre Pio was declared a Saint by His Holiness, Giovanni Paolo II.
The liturgical reminder of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina was inserted into the Roman Calendar on September 23rd, the date of his “birth into Heaven.”
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