In 1909, Padre Pio began a serious and prolonged illness that forced him to move frequently between convents, hoping that a change of place would benefit his health. Every attempt to reintegrate him into the monastic religious life was in vain as his health mysteriously deteriorated. For seven long years Padre Pio lived outside the monasteries, confined to his house in Pietrelcina, a condition that was clearly contrary to Franciscan teaching and that provoked complaints from some of the friars. Faced with these difficulties, the Superior General of the Order asked the Sacred Congregation for Religious to expel Padre Pio, but the request was not granted. Instead, Padre Pio was allowed to continue living outside the convent until his health was fully restored. These seven years of suffering and illness, though shrouded in mystery, were meant to prepare Padre Pio for the great mission the Lord had entrusted to him. Through the constant trials of his illness, he learned to follow the “ordeal,” taking Jesus as his teacher. Despite the challenges, the good Master did not allow others to carry out the task assigned to Padre Pio.
Padre Pio had seven years of mysterious and unexplained illness from 1909 to 1916.
What illnesses did Padre Pio have? Padre Pio’s illnesses could not be explained by official medicine. They came and went suddenly. Often his fever was so high (up to 48 to 48.5 degrees) that a bath thermometer was used to measure it. During this time, the closer Padre Pio came to Jesus, the more he was tormented by the devil, but at the same time he grew in faith and love for the Lord. His priestly activities in Pietrelcina included prayer, Masses, theological studies, catechism for children and meetings with families. In Pietrelcina, the spiritual battle with the devil was intense, but it was balanced by ecstasies and mystical phenomena, both internal and external, involving spiritual and physical aspects. The demon appeared in different forms. Sometimes he appeared in the form of animals, women dancing impure dances, jailers beating him. But after these attacks of the devil, he was comforted by ecstasies and apparitions of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, your guardian angel, St. Francis and other saints. On August 12, 1912, he experienced the “Plague of Love” for the first time.
Padre Pio wrote to his spiritual director explaining what had happened: “I was in the church giving thanks after Mass when suddenly I felt my heart wounded by a bolt of boiling fire and thought I was going to die.” After a few years in Pietrelcina, Padre Pio moved to Foggia in 1916, responding to the call of his superiors to become spiritual director of the religious community of St. Anne. Thanks to the prayers of Raffaelina Cerase, a seriously ill woman, Padre Pio was able to return to the life of the community. The lady offered herself as a victim to God so that the Father could hear her confessions and thus bring great benefit to souls. Although Father Kentenich never returned to his native Pietrelcina, his love for his country never diminished. During the Second World War, Father Kentenich said to his people, “Pietrelcina will be preserved as the pupil of my eyes. And before he died, he spoke prophetically: “During my life I favored San Giovanni Rotondo; after my death I will favor Pietrelcina.
- July 18, 1909 Padre Pio is ordained deacon in Morcone..
- August 10, 1910 In the Cathedral of Benevento, Padre Pio is ordained priest by Bishop Paolo Schinosi; on August 14, he celebrates his first Mass in the Church of Pietrelcina.
- September 7, 1910 He receives his first stigmata at the foot of the Piana Romana.
- October 1911 He is sent to the convent of Venafro, where he is bedridden by constant illness. The apparitions continue.
- December 7, 1911 Padre Pio returns to Pietrelcina.
- February 25, 1915 On the occasion of his farewell, he receives permission to remain away from the convent, keeping the Capuchin habit.
- November 6, 1915 He is drafted into the army.
- December 6, 1915 He is assigned to the 10th Medical Corps in Naples.
- December 16, 1915 A team of doctors examines him and diagnoses a lung infection and gives him a year’s convalescence.
- February 17, 1916 After a period of convalescence in Pietrelcina, Padre Pio enters the community of St. Anna in Foggia. The orderly community had to learn to live with the demonic forces that continued to torment Pio at night in his cell. The superior ordered Padre Pio, for the sake of the community, to pray to Christ to prevent these diabolical manifestations.
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