St. Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio)
St. Pio Of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio) grew poor and uneducated in a village near Naples, Italy, in 1887. He came from an illiterate family who owned farmland. He worked on the land as a boy. His family was deeply religious, celebrated the saints, feast days. They participated in devotions, processions, fasts, the Mass. Padre Pio heard his call for vocations when he was about 10 years old and decided to dedicate his life to God as a Franciscan friar. He received private tutoring and then at the age of 15 entered a nearby Franciscan friary at age fifteen. He took the name Pio in honor of a saint honored in the city where he grew up. He was ordained a priest in 1910.
Padre Pio lived virtually his entire priestly life at the Franciscan friary in San Giovanni Rotondo. He began to experience the stigmata, (marks of the sufferings of Christ) in 1918. His hands bore Jesus’ nail scars and would bleed. He had sharp pains in his side by where Jesus’ side was pierced with the lance. He displayed supernatural gifts: bilocation, prophecy, miracles, and healings. It was said that he was forbidden to attend the canonization of St. Therese of Lisieux but was reportedly seen there as he had bilocated. His personal routine of prayer and mortification was itself stupefying. He did not want his private passion to play out in public, but it did. He became famous in Italy for being holy. Then he became widely known the world over. By the time of his death in 1968, Padre Pio was a bona fide Catholic superstar.
Jesus inhabited every part and corner of the mind, soul, and imagination of Padre Pio. His life fused with Jesus so totally that his body bore all the marks the crucified Jesus. He had the same nail marks and bloody wounds. Father Pio merged with Christ such that to look upon the friar’s hands was to see the crucified palms of the Son of God on Calvary.
People flocked to witness Padre Pio say long, intense, devotional Masses. He was found to be totally authentic, totally sincere, and totally holy. His life was a rebuke of sin. He did not fake “share” others’ burdens by joining them in sin. He entered into the real drama of life by embodying Christ. A true Christian is authentic when he separates himself and his friends from sin, when he creates the mystique of Christ around him, and, like Christ, draws all men to himself.