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A History Of Padre Pio
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Like St. Paul before him, Padre Pio da Pietrelcina had the Cross of the Lord at the center of his life and being, stationed there as the eternal fount of all wisdom, rectitude, strength and glory. For the good of the world, and in service to it through his love for Jesus Christ, Padre Pio presented himself a living sacrifice as the Scriptures called him to do. Like St. Paul, who said in his letter to the Galatians that "it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me," Padre Pio passed on to others all of the diverse treasures of grace that God had so mercifully granted to him. He never shirked from serving the ceaseless streams of men and women who looked to him for succor, and truly birthed an impressive lineage of sons and daughters "of the spirit."
Padre Pio was born on May 25, 1887, in the Archdiocese of Benevento at the village of Petrelcina. His parents, Grazio and Maria Forgione, baptized him the following day with the name Francesco. His was a devout family and he received the Sacrament of Confirmation at 12 years of age, making his First Holy Communion. He entered the Capuchin Friars novitiate at Morcone as a 16-year-old in 1903, taking the Franciscan habit along with the name Brother (Fra) Pio. After taking simple vows at the conclusion of his novitiate year, he continued in his calling and made solemn profession in January of 1907.
Young priest in joyful service
Padre Pio was ordained into the priesthood in August of 1910 at Benevento. He stayed in his family home for health-related reasons until 1916, when he was assigned to the friary of San Giovanni Rotondo, where he remained for over half a century until his death. It was the place chosen by the Lord Himself, Padre Pio knew, where filled with love for God and neighbor he could fulfill his vocation to aid mankind through the work of redemption. His entire life was a single exercise of reconciling penitents in confession, making sacrifices and offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
On September 20, 1918 he had a vision of Christ appearing, which resulted in Padre Pio having a physical wound on his side (an experience known as "transverberation," or a piercing of one's heart indicating a supernatural union of love with God). Shortly thereafter, in September, Padre Pio was in the choir loft of the Church of Our Lady of Grace when the wounded Jesus again appeared. Following this ecstatic occurrence, Padre Pio received the Visible Stigmata, Christ's five wounds. These remained with him for the balance of his life, some 50 years.
Within a brief time, the whole world had heard of the remarkable Padre Pio and his stigmata. Padre Pio was not interested in physicians explanations of his wounds, but accepted them as being God's holy will. He often said he would have preferred to suffer the pains of the Lord's Passion without being watched by the outside world, but did not question why the Lord let it be otherwise.
Later years, final days
It was in Padre Pio's celebration of Holy Mass that the observant faithful could see the pinnacle of the humble servant's apostolic calling, as well as the maturity and strength of his spiritual standing. His social commitment was broad and deep, too, and he relieved the suffering and pain of many through his foundation, Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza (House for Relief of Suffering), founded in 1956. His own suffering was well known, certainly, and his health had always been somewhat frail. In the last years of his life this frailty led to an accelerating decline that ended with his death on September 23, 1968.
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