The life of Saint Padre Pio. Studies to prepare him for Religious Life – Admission to the Novitiate and First Profession (1901 – 1909 )
Francesco had a great thirst to learn. Because there were no schools in the village, some farmers volunteered to teach the children in the area. His greatest ambition was that children could learn to read and the brightest to write. The teaching was carried out during the night because of the existing need to work, both adults and children during the day. Francesco studied during this time. Other children preferred to play, but this was not one of their priorities. His preference was always to spend most of his time in prayer and study in the time allocated for learning. Padre Pio was a disciplined child, who understood the sacrifice that it was for his parents to sponsor his learning time.One day, while still a little boy, he accompanied his father, Horacio, on a pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of St. Peregrino. The church was full of faithful from everywhere. Francisco knelt to pray in front of the Shrine and observed the anguish of a mother who approached the altar with a deformed child in her arms and implored the Saint to intercede for the healing of his son.
While his father was preparing to leave the Church, Francis did not move in deep prayer of intercession for the child. The mother of this, in a fit of despair said loudly in front of the image of the Holy: “Heal my son, if you do not want to cure, take it, I do not want it” and saying this, threw the child on the altar . At the precise moment when the child touched the altar, it healed completely. This experience of the power of prayer greatly strengthened Francis’ confidence in the power of the intercession of the Saints.
Studies to prepare him for Religious Life
The moment came when Francis expressed his desire to be religious. His father, seeing the existing limitation of education in the village, emigrated to the United States and Jamaica looking for better economic solvency that would allow him to cover the expenses of education for Francesco. His parents, although humble, received great wisdom from the Lord to see the path that his son would follow. They made great sacrifices to make it possible.
It was during this time that his mother, Giuseppa, arranged for her son to receive the necessary training to enter the seminary. The only possibility at that time was to receive classes with Don Domenico Tizzani, a former priest who, having left the ministry, had contracted marriage. Don Domenico had the reputation of being a very good teacher, but something happened with the young Francisco who seemed to have a mental block in his presence. Mamma Giuseppa looked for another teacher for Francisco and found him in maestro Angelo Caccavo. With him, the young Francesco advanced with great rapidity and showed to have great capacity.
Preparation for the Novitiate
The days before entering the seminary were days of visions of the Lord, which would prepare him for great struggles. Jesus allowed him to see Francis the battlefield, the obstacles and enemies. On one side were radiant men, with white robes, on the other side, immense dark colored beasts. It was a terrifying scene and young Francisco’s knees began to tremble. Jesus tells him that he has to face the horrendous creature, to which Francis responds fearfully, begging the Lord not to ask him for something similar from which he could not be victorious. Jesus repeats his request again letting him know that he would be by his side. Francisco then enters a fierce battle, the pains inflicted on his body were intolerable, but he emerged triumphant. Jesus warned Francisco that he would enter into combat again with this demon throughout his life, not to fear: “I will be protecting you, helping you, always by your side until the end of the world.” This particular vision petrified Padre Pio for 20 years.The day before entering the Seminary, Francis had a vision of Jesus with his Blessed Mother. In this vision, Jesus puts His hand on Francisco’s shoulder, giving him courage and strength to move on. The Virgin Mary, on the other hand, speaks softly, subtle and maternally, penetrating into the depths of her soul.
Admission to Morcone’s Novitiate
Padre Pio always walked the narrow path, not allowing himself luxuries or anything that could deviate him from his relationship with Jesus. At 15 years of age, Francisco had advanced enough to enter the Seminary; it would be Friar Capuchino. He entered with the Franciscan Order of Morcone on January 3, 1902. Fifteen days after his entry, on January 22, 1902, Francis received the Franciscan habit that is made in the form of a cross and perceived that from that moment his life she would be “crucified in Christ”, she also took, by religious name, Fray Pio de Pietrelcina in honor of St. Pius V.
The Capuchin Fraternity in which he entered was one of the most austere of the Franciscan Order and one of the most faithful to the original rule of St. Francis of Assisi. Fasting and penance were common practices. Friar Pío embraced all forms of self-deprivation, always eating very little, on one occasion he fed only on the Eucharist for 20 days and although physically weak, he presented himself to classes with clear happiness. It was one of the best times of his life: “I am immensely happy when I suffer, and if I consented to the impulses of my heart, I would ask Jesus to give me all the suffering of men”.
(1901) It was at Piana Romana that Francesco told his parents of his desire to consecrate himself to the Lord. Grazio Forgione was very happy for his son’s choice, but the financial resources that they possessed weren’t enough to maintain him at school, so he was forced to emigrate to America.
( january 1st 1903) On New Year’s Day Francesco had another vision which convinced him that his life would be a continuous battle with the Evil One.
(january 6th 1903) His entrance into the noviciate of the Capuchin convent of Morcone was fixed for the feast of the Epiphany. His mother, already sad for the loss of her three children, with her broken heart said to Francesco: “My son, at this moment don’t think of your mother’s pain…I feel as if my heart is being torn apart, but Saint Francis is calling you and you must go”.
(january 22th 1904) Francesco and the other boys were dressed with the Capuchin habit, while professing the simple vows.
(january 25th 1904) Three days after he had pronounced his first vows, Brother Pio left the convent of Morcone to go to the convent of Saint Elia of Pianisi to begin his high school studies and to study Philosophy.
(octeber 1905) His teacher was Father Benedetto of San Marco in Lamis who eventually became his confessor.
(january 27th 1907) Young Pio pronounced his final vows of poverty, chastity and obedience as a son of Saint Francis belonging to the Capuchin Order.
(october 1907) In order to study Moral Theology, Brother Pio was sent to the convent at Serracapriola under the guidance of Brother Agostino of San Marco in Lamis, who would become his friend, confessor and spiritual guide for all of his life.
(november 1908) Brother Pio and his companions went to the convent at Montefusco in order to continue their studies. During this time Brother Pio continued to have periods in which he was unable to maintain food and sometimes suffered with a severe cough that shook him and also a high fever. His superiors, after consulting with a doctor decided to send him home to Pietrelcina for cure.
(december 19th 1908) In spite of his bad health, Pio received the Minor Orders in the cathedral of Benevento and two days after became a sub-deacon.