Saint of the day
St. Pio of Pietrelcina
Francisco Forgione was born on May 25, 1887 near Naples, Italy. His parents were poor and hardworking. From childhood, Francisco had a deep love for prayer and a strong desire to be holy.
When Francisco was ten years old, a Capuchin Franciscan friar came to Pietrelcina. Francisco was impressed by his simplicity and humility. He decided that he would one day be a Capuchin priest. To help make his son’s dream a reality, Francisco’s father traveled to the United States to find work and earn the money needed to give Francis an education.
On January 6, 1903, Francisco entered the Capuchin community in Morcone. He was given the name Brother Pio. He was ordained a priest in 1910. Because of poor health, his superiors thought it would be better for him to spend some time in his hometown. He was assigned to his own parish church to assist his pastor. It was during this time that Padre Pio received a special grace. In order to be more like the suffering Jesus, he began to feel the nail marks of the crucifixion in his hands and feet, and the spear wound in his side. After a while they became permanent, but were invisible. On September 20, 1918, this stigmata would become visible and last for fifty years until his death.
After seven years in Pietrelcina, Padre Pio was sent to the Capuchin friary in Foggia. He was happy to be among his Franciscan brothers at last. And his community was happy to have him with them too, because he was always cheerful and witty. He began hearing confessions and soon crowds of people were coming to him for advice.
In July of 1916, Padre Pio’s superiors sent him to San Giovanni Rotondo, a remote village where they hoped he would have some peace and quiet. Here his health improved. But he also was experiencing extraordinary gifts from God. He could read souls, and was even able to help people in confession by reminding them of details he could only have learned from God himself. He also had the gift of bilocation (the ability to be in two places at the same time), and his stigmata gave off a fragrance of roses and violets.
Padre Pio’s superiors questioned whether or not these special gifts were real. In case they were a hoax, Padre Pio was forbidden to celebrate Mass in public and to hear confessions. This was a heavy cross for him, but he accepted it as another opportunity to be like Jesus. After a while, he was again permitted to administer the sacraments, and once again vast numbers of people crowded the church for his Mass and lined up to go to confession to him. Often, he heard over 100 confessions in one day!
Padre Pio spent most of his priesthood hearing confessions and giving hope and encouragement to countless people from all around the world. He did this right up to his death on September 21, 1968. He was declared a saint by Pope John Paul II in 2002.
Do we believe that in the Sacrament of Recon-ciliation we meet the Lord himself, who knows us better than we know ourselves and loves us more than we ever could? Let’s ask St. Pio to enlighten us so we can see the things in our life that keep us from following Jesus more closely. Then we can celebrate Reconciliation more fruitfully.