St. Padre Pio de Pietrelcina
Priest Stigmatic (1887 - 1968)
"The cross of Christ is truly the outstanding school of love, the love of this faithful disciple drew hearts to Christ and to his demanding Gospel of salvation", said the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II when raising Padre Pio of Pietrelcina to the honours of the Altar on 2 May 1999. Indeed, the actual beatification of Pio could very well have been considered complete in the purification he underwent in that "outstanding school of love", the cross, a purification that brought people and the Good News closer to each other than ever before.
Born on 25 May 1887 to Grazio Forgione and Maria Giuseppa De Nunzio in Pieterlcina, Italy, Francois to the name of Pio at his investiture on 22 January 1903 at the Capuchin Friary at Morcone. He made his solemn profession on 27 January 1907 and was ordained priest on 10 August 1910. Filled with love of God and neigbhour, Pio demonstrated remarkable zest for his vocation which he considered a call to work for the good of his fellowmen. Such was the depth of the piety of this worthy son of Francis d' Assisi that, as early as in 1910, the Lord singled him out for that most significant of graces, the stigmata, i.e., a representation of his wounds. However, it was not until 20 September 1918 that the visible scars of those wounds were finally imprinted on his person at San Giovanni Rotondo.
A man of deep piety, prayer and prudence, the special mission that characterized his life a priest manifested itself in numerous ways. The special charism he had for spiritual direction and sacramental reconciliation, at which he spent long hours daily, helped bring the touch of God's forgiving love into the aching heart of suffering, sinful humanity. His sanctity made a great impact on all he came in contact with, so much so that he was called the second Saint Francis! But it was his awe-inspiring manner of celebrating the Eucharist that could be best considered the pinnacle of all his apostolic activity.
Padre Pio was widely believed to have been the recipient of numerous mystical experiences such as visits from our Blessed Mother, bilocation, i.e, being seen in two different places at one and the same time, communication with angels, the gifts of prophecy and healing, etc. However, he was not without his share of anguish and suffering, brought about by the doubts and suspicions harboured and expressed by many as regards the authenticity of his stigmata. Yet, the good padre took it all in his stride in the true Franciscan spirit of resignation.
The first priest-stigmatic of the Church, he became and remained the focal point of edification for numerous believers until he breathed his last on 23 September 1968, prompting Pope John Paul II to comment thus at his canonization on 16 June 2002: "Padre Pio was a generous dispenser of divine mercy.."
Reflection :"The life of a Christian is nothing but a perpetual struggle against self; there is no flowering of the soul to the beauty of its perfection except at the price of pain" (St. Padre Pio de Pietrelcina).