Feast Day: September 23
Patron of: Forgiveness
Keywords: healing, miracles
Quote: “Pray, hope, and don’t worry.”
Symbols: crucifix, stigmata
Denounced by Vatican officials as a fraud, and his mystical gifts frequently viewed with suspicion by his immediate superiors, Pio of Pietracelina was sequestered away in the remote monastery of San Giovanni Rotondo where it was expected that he would labor as a monk in obscurity. His adeptness in both physical and spiritual healing and his ability to read hearts and minds while in confession made him wildly popular among the common people of that impoverished region of Italy. Today, the town of San Giovanni Rotondo is the second most visited place by religious pilgrims who venture there to pay homage to one of the most popular saints of the twentieth century, Padre Pio. Made a saint in 2002, Padre Pio has no official patronage. Because of his devotion to the powers of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and his own suffering due to the mistrust of his superiors, he is frequently invoked to bring the grace of forgiveness to a situation.
Born Francesco Forlione in Pietracelina, a town north of Naples, he was named for his patron saint, Francis of Assisi. Coming from a religious family, he said he had spiritual visions of Christ and the Virgin Mary from a very young age. He never mentioned them to anyone as he assumed all people had such gifts. He was ordained as a Capuchin friar in 1910 taking the name Pio (meaning “Pious”) but was sent home due to a diagnosis of tuberculosis. While convalescing he offered himself as a conduit of suffering in exchange for the salvation of others. Eventually, in 1916 he was conscripted into the army where he contracted such a high fever that he was sent home to die. Upon his miraculous recovery from this illness, the Capuchin order sent him to the very remote monastery of Our Lady of Grace in San Giovanni Rotondo in Puglia, a province of Southern Italy. On September 20, 1918, while praying in the stillness of the church, Pio went into a trancelike state where he saw Christ standing before him bleeding from the wounds of the crucifixion. Pio’s heart almost burst in sympathy before coming out of the state in intense pain. Upon regaining consciousness he found himself to be afflicted with the same wounds of the crucifixion. It was this condition which only ended at his death in 1968, which would bring him under intense scrutiny by church officials for the rest of his life.
Pio’s talents for deciphering what people meant to tell him during confession but were too embarrassed or ashamed to bring up, became immediate apparent to the local townspeople and he developed a great following among them. They credited him with an incredible capacity of healing, mending physical ills, familial squabbles, and curing spiritual desolation. When Vatican Officials severely limited his official duties, the one mass he was allowed to say at 5 AM, had thousands lining up the night before so that they may be with him. Without ever leaving the monastery, he was known as “the living saint” as he sighted in hospitals and at sickbeds hundreds of miles away. The onset of World War Two spread his cult on an international level as soldiers from Australia, other parts of Europe, and the United States witnessed his miraculous abilities. By the late 1940’s he was receiving hundreds of international prayer requests per day. He eventually founded a hospital for the hopelessly ill, the internationally acclaimed House for the Relief of Suffering, which treats tens of thousands of people each year and survives solely on charitable donations.
The animosity that many Vatican officials had against Padre Pio was dissolved in 2002 when Pope John Paul II declared him a saint. This pope knew Pio’s powers firsthand as he had visited him fifty years before as a young seminarian in the hopes of obtaining a cure for a friend. Not only did his friend’s cancer go into remission, but Pio’s strange prediction of this obscure Polish priest’s rise to pope also came true.
Novena to Padre Pio
(It is important to note that Padre Pio himself recited the Novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus for the intentions of those who requested his prayers every day.)
Dear God, Thou hast generously blessed Thy servant, St. Pio of Pietrelcina, with the gifts of the Spirit. Thou hast marked his body with the five wounds of Christ Crucified, as a powerful witness to the saving Passion and Death of Thy Son. Endowed with the gift of discernment, St. Pio labored endlessly in the confessional for the salvation of souls. With reverence and intense devotion in the celebration of Mass, he invited countless men and women to a greater union with Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.
Through the intercession of St. Pio of Pietrelcina, I confidently beseech Thee to grant me the grace of (mention your intentions here). Amen.
Recite three Glorias.
(Excerpted from The Novena App by Barbara Calamari and Sandra DiPasqua).