St. Pius of Pietrelcina, priest
A poor brother who prays
Born into a poor Italian farm family, from a young age Francesco Forgione desired to be a friar. When he was sixteen, he entered the novitiate of the Capuchin Order, and took the name Brother Pius (Fra Pio). He was ordained to the priesthood in 1910; six years later, joined the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in San Giovanni Rotondo. He spent many hours every day hearing Confessions. The height of his apostolic commitment was the celebration of the Holy Mass. He described himself as “a poor brother who prays.” “Prayer is the greatest weapon we have,” he said. It is “a key to open the heart of God.”
An extraordinary meeting
In 1948, Padre Pio heard the Confession of a young Polish priest, Father Karol Wojtyła, who thirty years later would ascend the throne of Peter, taking the name John Paul II. It was during John Paul’s pontificate that Padre Pio was declared blessed. During the rite of beatification, the Pope said that in the humble friar, we see the image of Christ suffering and risen. “His body,” he said, “marked by the ‘stigmata,’ showed the intimate connection between death and resurrection… Not less sorrowful, and humanly much more scorching, were the trials he had to suffer as a consequence, one could say, of his singular charisms.” For Padre Pio, “suffering with Christ” was a gift: “In contemplating the Cross on Jesus’ shoulders,” he said, “I always feel strengthened and I exult with holy joy… All that Jesus suffered in His Passion, I too have suffered, insofar as it is possible for a human creature.”
“Relief from suffering”
The life of Padre Pio also shows an intense commitment to alleviate the sufferings of families. In 1956 he inaugurated the “Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza” (the House of Relief from Suffering), a new state of the art hospita. “It is the apple of my eye,” the friar said when the hospital opened. “This is the creation that Providence, with your help, has created. Gaze at it in wonder, and with me bless the Lord God. He has place upon the earth a seed that He will warm with the His rays of love.”
Padre Pio died during the night of 23 September 1968, at the age of 81. On 16 June 2002, he was proclaimed a saint by Pope John Paul II. In his homily, the Pope said, “The life and mission of Padre Pio prove that difficulties and sorrows, if accepted out of love, are transformed into a privileged way of holiness, which opens onto the horizons of a greater good, known only to the Lord."