The life of Pio Forgione, better known as “Padre Pio,” reads like a Medieval hagiography. Biographers recount his devout childhood, refusing to play with the “blasphemous” children of the village and preferring instead the company of his guardian angel.
At the age of 41, already renowned for his spiritual gifts and personal holiness, Padre Pio became the first priest to receive the stigmata, the visible wounds of the Crucifixion, on his hands, feet and side.
Padre Pio possessed the ability to “read hearts,” gleaning the spiritual condition of their souls. For this reason, he was a sought after confessor. Thousands of people from all over the world flocked to the friary at San Giovanni Rotundo where Padre Pio heard confessions, sometimes for up to 16 hours a day!
In addition, the “odor of sanctity” surrounded the Capuchin friar. At times, some said they caught the sweet smell of roses while others described it as a pungent fragrance, like fine pipe tobacco.
Perhaps the most incredible of Padre Pio's gifts was his ability to bilocate. He was able to appear in two places at the same time. Often he would visit his spiritual children in different parts of the world while never leaving the friary at San Giovanni.
He was constantly attacked by demons, who caused a ruckus in his room at night and afforded Padre Pio and his brothers little sleep. His consolation was in talks with Jesus, the Blessed Virgin and his guardian angel.
Many miraculous cures were attributed to the intercession of Padre Pio, even during the course of his earthly life. He was truly a kind of modern-day miracle man.
However, none of these were the secret of Padre Pio's holiness. Rather, these were the rays of light thrown from a raging fire that cast back the shadows of sin, suffering, and the powers of darkness. The source of that intense flame was a deep humility and a fervent love of Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary.
One has only to read some of the many letters Padre Pio wrote to his spiritual director and spiritual children to get a sense of his ardent love and profound trust in the goodness of God and the intercession of Our Lady...
“Never fall back on yourself alone, but place all your trust in God and don’t be too eager to be set free from your present state. Let the Holy Spirit act within you. Give yourself up to all His transports and have no fear. He is so wise and gentle and discreet that He never brings about anything but good. How good this Holy Spirit, this Comforter, is to all, but how supremely good He is to those who seek Him.”
“The Lord is a Father, the most tender and best of fathers. He cannot fail to be moved when His children appeal to Him.”
“How many time I have entrusted to this Mother (the Virgin Mary) the painful anxieties of my heart. And how many times she has consoled me…..With what great attention she accompanied me to the altar this morning. It seemed to me that she had nothing else to think about but me, filling my heart with holy sentiments.”
Padre Pio may have been approached as a modern-day miracle man, but the greatest miracle was his complete openness to the action of God's grace in his life. His only concern was obedience to the will of God and the salvation of souls. Indeed, it was due to the disposition of his soul that God was able to work many miracles through his intercession.
Let us continue to pray for many holy priests and religious. St. Padre Pio, pray for us!