Communicantes: August - October 2002

Padre Pio
By Roger Zielke


Saint Padre Pio

Padre Pio is now Saint Padre Pio. He was canonized by Pope John Paul II on June 16, 2002. For many years in the past, thousands of people have climbed up the mountain path in San Giovani Rotondo, Italy, to visit, or at least see Padre Pio, the famous stigmatized Capuchin monk. He was the firt priest in the history of the Catholic Church to bear the holy wounds of Christ.

Padre Pio was born in the village of Pietrelcina, Italy, on May 25, 1887. His parents gave him the name of Francesco Forgione. There were eight children in total, three of whom died in infancy. His parents were simple hard working farmers. They were so poor, that his father Orazio went to the United States twice, in order to be able to provide for his family and earn enough money to educate Francesco for the priesthood.

As a child, Francesco avoided the company of other children, and did not take part in their games. He had a great horror of sin and cried when he heard anyone blaspheming, or taking God’s name in vain. Even when he was seven years old, he could tell if somebody was in the state of sin. >From the time he was a child, Francesco would often think about the things of God and keep himself recollected.

In 1902, when Francesco was 15 years old, he entered the novitiate of the Capuchin Friars. He had poor health, but a strong will, and with God’s help, he completed the required studies and was ordained a Franciscan priest in 1910.

On September 20, 1918, Padre Pio received the wounds of Our Lord, in his hands, feet and later on, his side. His long life was filled with hours and hours of suffering, penance, the hearing of confessions and prayer – especially the Rosary. Padre Pio said thousands and thousands of Rosaries.

Padre Pio had a very deep union with God and a tremendous love for the Mass, the Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady. He also had great devotion to his guardian angel and to St. Michael.

For over 50 years, Padre Pio suffered greatly, but he was not one to complain. He still kept his great sense of humour and practised great charity towards all, forgetting about himself. He worked many miracles through his prayers, both during his life and after his death.

All things must come to an end, and Padre Pio died on September 23, 1968. Almost 100,000 people came to his funeral. Later his body was entombed in the crypt of Our Lady of Grace Church. Now thousands and thousands of people go to visit and pray at Padre Pio’s tomb. San Giovanni Rotondo has become in a sense another Lourdes, and one of the most popular shrines in the world, visited by thousands and thousands of people.

Padre Pio was like another St. Francis of Assisi. He was looked upon as a saint even while he was living. People would take every means possible to obtain a seat in the church where he said Mass. The people would line up near the church door by 4:00 in the morning, or even earlier. It was worth your life to get in the way of those women who wanted to be the first into the church, to see their beloved Padre. They would listen for the sound of rattling keys, then pandemonium ... As the doors of the church opened, a tidal wave of people poured into the church. If you didn’t stand your ground, you would be literally jostlet, trampled, thumped and pushed aside. Amidst all this thumping and bumping the women would roar and scream and shout at each other. They would abuse each other, using every means to be the first inside. The poor sacristan had a bad time of it, trying to make himself heard above the tumult, “Pagans! Rogues! Scoundrels! ... Can’t you wait? For the love of God, are you Christians or beasts?” But his words fell on deaf ears.

La Casa di Sollievo della Sofferenza

La Casa di Sollievo della Sofferenza, the hospital founded by Padre Pio


I saw this pack of people on film, which was taken at the actual scene. Believe me, it was worth your life to be amongst these women, at this time. Possibly, one would be safer with a truck load of watermelons rolling into the church than all these women.

Once settled in the church, the men and women were changed from wolves to lambs. They had attained their goal and now they knelt in prayer, looking more like angels, even though they were packed in like sardines.

But why did all these people use such violence to see Padre Pio? He was their “saint”. They loved him with a passion. To them, Padre Pio was everything, and their greatest joy next to God and His saints.

When Padre Pio said Mass it was different. True there were other priests who said Mass very devoutly, but Padre Pio’s Mass was special. His Mass took from 1½ to 1¾ hours. He had much to pray for and many to pray for.

Padre Pio said many beautiful words about the Mass, thus revealing the very depths of his soul.

“It is easier for the earth to exist without the sun, than without the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass”.

“The Holy Mass is a sacred union of Jesus and myself. I suffer unworthily all that was suffered by Jesus who deigned to allow me to share in His great enterprise of human Redemption”.

“When attending Holy Mass, renew your faith and meditate on that Victim who is being immolated for you in order to appease Divine Justice. Do not leave the altar without shedding tears of pain and of love for Jesus who was crucified for your eternal well-being”.

“Every holy Mass, heard with devotion, produces in our souls marvelous effects, abundant spiritual and material graces which we ourselves, do not know.”

Padre Pio suffered when he said Mass. It was hard for him to walk with his pierced feet. During Mass, when he looked upon the Crucifix, he was transformed. If you were able to observe the good Pardre, you would see that his face was filled with emotion, now fear, then joy, now sorrow, then agony. He would speak with Our Lord. Tears would roll down his cheeks... And what did he beg of Our Lord? He would plead with God, and beg grace from Him for himself and others. But most of all he would love God. How often did he repeat these beautiful words to God, “My Jesus, save everyone; I offer myself as a victim for everyone; strengthen me, take my heart, fill it with Your love, then command of me what You will.”

Padre Pio was always full of charity. He wanted all souls to go to Heaven. He had thousands of spiritual children. He said, “I belong to everyone. Everyone can say, ‘Padre Pio is mine’. I love my exiled brothers very much. I love my spiritual children as much as my own soul, and even more. I have restored them to Jesus with pain and with love. I can forget myself, but not my spiritual children, and I assure you that, when the Lord calls me, I will say to Him: ‘Lord, I shall remain at the gates of Paradise; I shall enter only when I have seen the last of my children enter’.”

Padre said also, “I suffer so much because I can not lead all of my brothers to God. At times I am on the verge of heartbreak when I see so many suffering souls whom I am unable to help, and so many brothers who are allied to Satan!”

Many people, even today, are being accepted as Padre Pio’s spiritual children. This can be done, because before dying, Padre Pio told his Franciscan brothers, that they could accept spiritual children on his behalf, after he was dead.

Ah! The great mercy of God. Can we ever be grateful enough? God gives us Himself in the Holy Eucharist. He sends us the Holy Ghost to strengthen us. He gives us Mary and Joseph, and all the angels and saints to help us. He gives us First Friday and First Saturday devotions to help save our souls.

And to top it all off, God gives to a doubting world another St. Francis of Assisi, but this time a priest, who bears the wounds of Christ and has all the spiritual gifts of the saints. Then this great man, this Padre Pio, accepts thousands as his spiritual children and promises to wait at the gates of Heaven until each and every one of them has entered! And people say God is not merciful! Retract your words, oh hard of heart! There is a God, and He is full of Mercy and Goodness.

How many people Padre Pio brought back to God! When the world has ended, and all is said and done, will Padre Pio be responsible for saving millions of souls? For sure thousands, and what a blessing it will be to see, not a picture or statue, but our beloved Padre Pio in person. For some, it will not be the first time, but for many it will be the first time.

Padre Pio was full of the wisdom of God. Inside the confessional and out, he gave much spiritual advice to his penitents and spiritual children. Some of his counsels were:

“In all that you do, always be humble, guarding jealously the purity of your heart and the purity of your body; these are the two wings which shall raise us to God and make us almost Divine.”

“Try to serve the Lord with all your heart and with all your will. He will always bless you more than you deserve.”

“Pray and hope; do not get upset. Anxiety serves no purpose. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.”

“Accept every pain and inconvenience that comes from Heaven. Thus you will attain perfection and sanctification.”

“Bear in mind that the more pleasing a soul is to God, the more it must be tried. Therefore, courage, and go forward, always.”

“Always keep close to Our Heavenly Mother, because She is the sea that must be crossed, in order to reach the shores of eternal splendor, in the Kingdom of Dawn.”

“Charity is the Queen of virtues, Charity holds the virtues together like a string of pearls. Just as the pearls fall when the string is broken, so too, are the virtues lost when charity is lacking.”

“Be careful never to become discouraged when you are spiritually ill. If God permits you to be weak and fall, it is not for the purpose of abandoning you, but rather, to make you humble, and more careful in the future.”

“Be calm in regards to your spirit, and always confide completely in Jesus. Make an effort to always conform to the Divine will in everything, in pleasure, and in adversity. Don’t worry about tomorrow!”

“Make Christian use of your money and savings, then so much misery will disappear; so many aching bodies and afflicted beings, will find help and comfort.”

Saint Padre Pio, pray for us!


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