By: Francesca Montillo
The story of San Pio is full of charm and spirituality capable of enchanting the faithful from all over the world. He is considered the spiritual heir of St. Francis of Assisi, and was the first priest to bear the signs of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on his body. His intercessions between the faithful and God were for many a cause of healing from physical ailments and a reason for rebirth in the spirit.
Francesco Forgione, better known as San Pio, was born in Pietrelcina on May 25th, 1887, a small town in the Benevento area, in the region of Campania. He was born into a poor and rather large family. From an early age, Francis felt the desire to dedicate his life totally to God and this was evident among his family and friends. His own mom would urge him to go out and play, but he preferred spending his time in the local church.
Finally at the age of sixteen, on January 6, 1903, he dedicated his life to the Lord. He began his career as a cleric in the Capuchin Order and, on August, 10 1910, he was ordained a priest in the Cathedral of Benevento. Thus began his priestly life. On September 4th, 1916, he moved to the convent of San Giovanni Rotondo where, with the exception of a few brief interruptions, he remained until his death on September 23, 1968.
It was on September 20th, 1918, during his morning prayer session that he received the gift of the stigmata. These were clearly visible and remained open, fresh and bleeding, for about half a century. This extraordinary phenomenon generated a particular attention towards the father. Doctors, scholars, journalists but above all ordinary people, felt they wanted to reach the holy friar in San Giovanni Rotondo.
For years the faithful from all over the world went to this stigmatized priest, to obtain his powerful intercession with God, receive grace and find healing of body and mind. Padre Pio lived over fifty years of his life in prayer, humility, suffering and sacrifice to put his love into practice.
In September 1968, thousands of devotees of the Father reached San Giovanni Rotondo to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the stigmata, something happened that no one could imagine. At 2:30 am on September 23, 1968, Padre Pio of Pietrelcina passed away. The stigmata, which appeared on 20 September 1918, and which the Capuchin received as a symbol of the Passion of Christ, remained open and bleeding until his death.
He was canonized in 2002 by Pope John Paul II. His spiritual testament, at the end of his life, was: “Love Our Lady and make her loved. Always say the Rosary. ” Scholars who have had the opportunity to recount Padre Pio describe him as a manifesto of holiness, a testimony of the concrete and rooted Gospel right into his soul.