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His Friends Remember Padre Pio
National Catholic Register ^ | January 13, 2001 | Andrew Walther

Posted on 01/17/2002 1:41:50 PM PST by Lady In Blue

National Catholic Register

His Friends Remember Padre Pio

First in a Series
2002's Saints to Be
Padre Pio, Juan Diego, Msgr. Josemaría Escrivá

National Catholic Register

Register Correspondent

SAN GIOVANNI ROTONDO, Italy - Although he died in 1968, the popularity of Padre Pio - a stigmatist, reader of souls, mystic soon to be declared a saint - has grown over the years.
In fact, this simple Capuchin friar is so well known that more pilgrims journey to the small town of San Giovanni Rotondo every year than to Fatima, Lourdes, or any other shrine in the world except Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.

While Blessed Padre Pio will be canonized sometime this year, the date of the canonization is still uncertain, said Charles Abercrombie, the English language editor of the Voice of Padre Pio, the official bimonthly magazine of the cause of Padre Pio published by the friary in which he lived in San Giovanni Rotundo. But he says the friars have asked for a date in May, and the date will be known in late January after negotiations between the Vatican and the municipal officials in Rome.

Blessed Padre Pio has become a "popular figure ... especially in Italy" since "because of his humble background, people can relate to him," says Abercrombie. In the United States, too, Padre Pio is immensely popular, and Abercrombie sees that trend dating back to the 1940s when "many American soldiers during World War II came here and met Padre Pio."
Capuchin Father Ermelindo runs the English-speaking office at the friary where Padre Pio once lived. He said that Padre Pio once told him, "After my death, I will get more attention than when I was alive."

Added Father Ermelindo: "I was here then and now." He noted that, even today, construction is under way for a new church near the shrine, which will be able to seat 10,000, since the current church is too small to accommodate the crowds.
He recalled with a smile that in 1958 when the then new church was opened, Padre Pio remarked that it was too small, saying, "What have you built me, a matchbox?"

Crosses to Bear

But Padre Pio did not always attract this kind of attention. He was born May 25, 1887, in Pietrilcina in southern Italy into the Forgione family, a family of poor farmers. In 1903, at the age of 15, he entered the Capuchin novitiate, and was ordained in 1910 at the age of 23. Between 1915 and 1918 Padre Pio was called up several times by the army, but was ultimately discharged because of his chronically poor health.

It was on Sept. 20, 1918, that Padre Pio received the stigmata - the wounds of Christ's crucifixion - while praying in the choir loft of the 16th-century church attached to the friary.
After this event, his fame grew, and by 1922 he had attracted the attention of many people - including the Vatican's Holy Office, which began an investigation. As a result of this investigation, which concluded that Padre Pio was not experiencing anything supernatural, the Holy Office attempted to transfer him to another monastery in 1923. An uprising of the people in San Giovanni prevented the move. Nevertheless, the friar was not allowed to say Mass publicly, or even to correspond with those who wrote him.

In Terlizzi, a small town near Bari, about two hours from San Giovanni, another Capuchin who knew Padre Pio said of him, "Knowing Padre Pio was like knowing Jesus Christ," he said.

The key examples from Padre Pio's life he says, are "silence and obedience."

Referring to the years when Padre Pio was suppressed, Padre Pancracio noted: "With one word he could have changed things, but he kept silent."

It was not until 1934 that all of the restrictions on him were finally lifted and people began to flock from around the world to see him. Still, in addition to the stigmata, he had many crosses to bear. Some people spread vicious rumors about him, and Padre Pio reported that the devil himself came on many occasions to physically beat him.

This suffering allowed him to touch many souls, and he was especially sought after as a confessor. He is renowned for his ability to read souls and recount a person's sins in more detail than the penitent.

The stories of Padre Pio's advice in the confessional are numerous, and range from kind to stern. To one man who told the Padre that he did not believe in hell, Padre Pio replied: "You will when you get there."

Countless people, even hardened atheists and agnostics, were converted while visiting Padre Pio, and because of his gift for reading souls he was also sought for his spiritual advice. People the world over consider themselves his spiritual children. Padre Pio was likewise sought out for physical cures - he was especially famous for curing the blind, and those with cancer. He cured countless people of a variety of other ailments as well.

Padre Pio used to say: "In heaven I can do much more for all of you than by being here on earth"; and according to Father Ermelindo people are still cured, and Padre Pio is still saving souls. "Many come to ask for [cures of] the body, but have a spiritual conversion and ask for confession," explained Father Ermelindo.

And physical cures still happen as well. Padre Ermelindo cited the miracle approved for Padre Pio's canonization, the cure of Matteo Colella from what should have been a fatal bout of meningitis.

But it is the spiritual conversions that Father Ermelindo insists are the most important:
"People today have lost the faith," he said "but they find in this saint the guide to God."

Popular Prayer Groups

Many priests and lay people belong to "Padre Pio Prayer Groups," which are formally registered at the House for the Relief of Suffering, the hospital built in San Giovanni through the efforts of Padre Pio. These prayer groups had their statutes approved by the Vatican in 1986, and by 1998 numbered over 2,100, with 50 in the United States.

Charles Mandina, who spent several months with Padre Pio during the 1960s, working as his English translator and correspondence secretary, was a member of one of the first U.S. groups in 1968 in Los Angeles. "The first group was in San Giovanni," he recalled, and "was in response to Pope Pius XII's request that priests encourage people to pray more."

Since then, the prayer groups have been administered by many different priests from many different congregations.

At the first prayer group in Los Angeles under Salesian Father Albert Negri, there "were over 700 people" who attended regularly, said Mandina.

Among the priests in Los Angeles who took charge of the group in later years was diocesan Father Jack McKenna, who gave up a chance to play with the New York Yankees after Padre Pio told him to be a priest during World War II. "You need a priest in order for the group to work," explained Mandina.

At least four popes have been vocal in their support of Padre Pio: Benedict XV, Pius XII, Paul VI and John Paul II, who met Padre Pio personally before he was Pope.

In a May 3, 1999, speech to pilgrims who had come to Rome for the beatification of Padre Pio, Pope John Paul II said:

"The prayer groups and the House for the Relief of Suffering: These are two significant 'gifts' which Padre Pio has left us. ... As for the prayer groups, he wanted them to be like beacons of light and love in the world. He longed for many souls to join him in prayer: 'Pray,' he used to say, 'pray to the Lord with me, because the whole world needs prayers. And every day, when your heart especially feels the loneliness of life, pray, pray to the Lord together, because God too needs our prayers!'

"It was his intention to create an army of praying people who would be a 'leaven' in the world by the strength of prayer. And today the whole Church is grateful to him for this precious legacy, admires the holiness of her son and invites everyone to follow his example."

Andrew Walther wrote this story from Milan, Italy.


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TOPICS: Culture/Society; Miscellaneous
KEYWORDS: padrepio
1 posted on 01/17/2002 1:41:50 PM PST by Lady In Blue
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To: Lady In Blue
BTTT for Padre Pio!
2 posted on 06/16/2002 7:10:08 PM PDT by Salvation
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To: Salvation
Bless your heart,Salvation! I almost forgot,until I remembered this afternoon that I had put in this post.
3 posted on 06/16/2002 7:14:57 PM PDT by Lady In Blue
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To: Lady In Blue
A very nice article.
4 posted on 06/17/2002 6:12:14 PM PDT by ELS
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Thank you,ELS!
5 posted on 06/17/2002 7:47:55 PM PDT by Lady In Blue
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To: Lady In Blue

BTTT on the Memorial of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, September 23, 2005!

6 posted on 09/23/2005 8:46:53 AM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Lady In Blue
American Catholic’s Saint of the Day

September 23, 2005
St. Padre Pio da Pietrelcina

In one of the largest such ceremonies in history, Pope John Paul II canonized Padre Pio of Pietrelcina on June 16, 2002. It was the 45th canonization ceremony in Pope John Paul's pontificate. More than 300,000 people braved blistering heat as they filled St. Peter's Square and nearby streets. They heard the Holy Father praise the new saint for his prayer and charity. "This is the most concrete synthesis of Padre Pio's teaching," said the pope. He also stressed Padre Pio's witness to the power of suffering. If accepted with love, the Holy Father stressed, such suffering can lead to "a privileged path of sanctity."Many people have turned to the Italian Capuchin Franciscan to intercede with God on their behalf; among them was the future Pope John Paul II. In 1962, when he was still an archbishop in Poland, he wrote to Padre Pio and asked him to pray for a Polish woman with throat cancer. Within two weeks, she had been cured of her life-threatening disease.

Born Francesco Forgione, Padre Pio grew up in a family of farmers in southern Italy. Twice (1898-1903 and 1910-17) his father worked in Jamaica, New York, to provide the family income.

At the age of 15, Francesco joined the Capuchins and took the name of Pio. He was ordained in 1910 and was drafted during World War I. After he was discovered to have tuberculosis, he was discharged. In 1917 he was assigned to the friary in San Giovanni Rotondo, 75 miles from the city of Bari on the Adriatic.

On September 20, 1918, as he was making his thanksgiving after Mass, Padre Pio had a vision of Jesus. When the vision ended, he had the stigmata in his hands, feet and side.

Life became more complicated after that. Medical doctors, Church authorities and curiosity seekers came to see Padre Pio. In 1924 and again in 1931, the authenticity of the stigmata was questioned; Padre Pio was not permitted to celebrate Mass publicly or to hear confessions. He did not complain of these decisions, which were soon reversed. However, he wrote no letters after 1924. His only other writing, a pamphlet on the agony of Jesus, was done before 1924.

Padre Pio rarely left the friary after he received the stigmata, but busloads of people soon began coming to see him. Each morning after a 5 a.m. Mass in a crowded church, he heard confessions until noon. He took a mid-morning break to bless the sick and all who came to see him. Every afternoon he also heard confessions. In time his confessional ministry would take 10 hours a day; penitents had to take a number so that the situation could be handled. Many of them have said that Padre Pio knew details of their lives that they had never mentioned.

Padre Pio saw Jesus in all the sick and suffering. At his urging, a fine hospital was built on nearby Mount Gargano. The idea arose in 1940; a committee began to collect money. Ground was broken in 1946. Building the hospital was a technical wonder because of the difficulty of getting water there and of hauling up the building supplies. This "House for the Alleviation of Suffering" has 350 beds.

A number of people have reported cures they believe were received through the intercession of Padre Pio. Those who assisted at his Masses came away edified; several curiosity seekers were deeply moved. Like St. Francis, Padre Pio sometimes had his habit torn or cut by souvenir hunters.

One of Padre Pio’s sufferings was that unscrupulous people several times circulated prophecies that they claimed originated from him. He never made prophecies about world events and never gave an opinion on matters that he felt belonged to Church authorities to decide. He died on September 23, 1968, and was beatified in 1999.


At Padre Pio's canonization Mass in 2002, Pope John Paul II referred to that day's Gospel (Matthew 11:25-30) and said: “The Gospel image of 'yoke' evokes the many trials that the humble Capuchin of San Giovanni Rotondo endured. Today we contemplate in him how sweet is the 'yoke' of Christ and indeed how light the burden are whenever someone carries these with faithful love. The life and mission of Padre Pio testify that difficulties and sorrows, if accepted with love, transform themselves into a privileged journey of holiness, which opens the person toward a greater good, known only to the Lord.”


"The life of a Christian is nothing but a perpetual struggle against self; there is no flowering of the soul to the beauty of its perfection except at the price of pain" (saying of Padre Pio).

7 posted on 09/23/2005 9:07:41 AM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Lady In Blue

BTTT on the Memorial of St. Pio of Pietrelcina, September, 23, 2006!

8 posted on 09/23/2006 9:19:03 AM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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