Padre Pio: Seeing through the suffering

Saint Padre Pio is one of the world’s most popular and well-loved Saints. His story is one of true dedication and devotion of God, and his spiritual gifts still stun even the most secular of scholars. What’s even more amazing is that Pio is a relatively modern saint, having only passed away in the 1960’s! Padre Pio is proof that Saints still walk among us—keep reading to learn more about his remarkable life and legacy.

Padre Pio 1

Padre Pio was born on May 25th, 1887 in a small town in southern Italy. His parents were two peasant farmers who worked hard to care for their 5 children. Pio was the second eldest, with one older brother and three younger sisters. With his parents being devote Catholics, the whole family was held to a strict Catholic lifestyle which included attending daily Mass and praying the Rosary each night. While his parents were illiterate, they memorized scripture and would tell Pio and his siblings stories from the Bible by memory. Pio felt a special connection to Jesus and Mary from a young age, and it’s said that he could see and speak to Jesus, Mary, and his guardian angel as a child. He simply thought that all children had this ability—little did he know that he was selected by God to accomplish great things! Because of this upbringing, Pio knew by the time he was five that he wanted to devote his entire life to Christ. He began taking penances in his youth. His most notable penance including sleeping on the stone floor and using a stone as a pillow which his mother, as you can imagine, highly discouraged!

While Pio’s childhood was certainly rich in spiritual connection and growth, it was also one of great physical hardship. As a young boy, Pio contracted several severe illnesses such as typhoid fever and gastroenteritis. These illnesses were only the beginning of what would be a life-long health struggle for Pio, but this didn’t stop him from following God’s will. As he grew older, Pio started to experience prolonged visions and ecstasies where he would spend time with the Lord. This ignited his desire to enter into religious life, and at the young age of 15 he was officially made a member of the Capuchin Order of Friars as a novice. On January 22, 1903, he took the Franciscan habit and the name Friar Pio (his baptized name was Francisco) in honor of Pope St. Pius. As a friar, he took simple vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

When Pio was 17, he was struck with another bout of bad health and those around him started to notice changes in him. While praying, he seemed to be completely detached from reality and in some instances there were reports of him levitating off the ground. This, again, was only a precursor to what was to come throughout his life. His health continued to decline, and he was sent home to stay with his family to recover. His illness, however, did not prevent him from being ordained a priest in 1910. While normally this would require Pio to enter immediately into community life, due to his poor health he was permitted to stay with his family until 1916, when his health progressed enough and he was able to move to Our Lady of Grace Capuchin Friary. He would stay at this friary for the rest of his life, aside from his brief time serving in World War I in the Medical Corps (While Pio was enlisted and served for a few months, he was quickly sent home due to his poor health.)

 

Padre Pio 2
Padre Pio celebrating Mass

 

It wasn’t until 1918 that Pio would receive the spiritual gift that would spark his worldly fame. It was in 1918 while hearing confessions that Padre Pio received the stigmata. The marks on his hands, feet, and sides would stay with him his entire life, and they reportedly smelled of flowers or perfume. The occurrence was painful, and later would be accompanied by transverberation, which is a piercing of the heart that indicates a union with God. While very painful, Pio accepted these graces from God and understood that to be in pain was to be in union with Christ. While he didn’t prefer to make any of this suffering public (Pio even wore mittens to hide the marks on his hands), news of Padre Pio spread throughout the world, and he soon became a sign of hope for those recovering from the first World War. Countless doctors and laypeople like came to examine his marks but no one could offer a logical explanation. It was clear that Padre Pio was a true servant of Christ—and the world was taking notice!

Throughout the rest of his life, Pio was known for possessing several spiritual gifts including healing of the sick, bilocation, levitation, prophesizing, extreme fasting from both sleep and food, the ability to read hearts, the gift of tongues, and the ability to convert people. He became a very famous priest and would later become a spiritual director. His focus always remained in walking in Christ’s footsteps. He even outlined five rules for spiritual growth which were:

1. Weekly confession
2. Daily communion
3. Spiritual Reading
4. Meditation
5. Examination of conscience.

One of his most famous quotes “Pray, hope, and don’t worry” was adopted by Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Sadly, Padre Pio died in 1968 at the age of 81 due to health complications. It wasn’t long before he was declared a Saint on June 16, 2002 after several miracles were attributed to him. It was also discovered during his canonization that his body was incorruptible. Saint Padre Pio and his wise teachings are something we should all strive to live by—his ability to see past his suffering and keep his focus on Christ is just one of the many reasons why he is revered around the world today.

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski

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