St Pio of Pietrelcina

by Sherna Bhadresa

Early life and vocation

Padre Pio is a saint of our times, having only died in 1968. Indeed, many people living now, have met him and are his spiritual children. He was born in Pietrelcina in Italy in 1887 and died in San Giovanni Rotondo, where he spent most of his life. He was given the name Francis: not a coincidence as at the age of 16, he would enter the Franciscan Capuchin Friary.

He is a truly remarkable saint, who even as a child had an abhorrence of sin, preferring to spend time in solitude rather than joining in the games of other children. He felt his calling to the priesthood during a sermon he heard when he was only 10 years old.

He always had a great love and devotion to Our Blessed Mother, Mary. From an early age he saw Jesus and Mary, and his guardian angel and conversed with them, thinking that it was normal and others saw them too! His thoughts were on eternal life, rather than life here in the world. Our Lord promised young Francis a splendid crown if he persevered and fought in this life; and the child Francis was a willing victim.

His life was plagued with illnesses. At his first High Mass after his ordination, the preacher quipped how he was too ill to become a preacher so hoped that he would instead become a great confessor: how true that turned out to be!

The stigmata, his apostolate as a confessor and director of souls

On September 20, 1918, at the age of 31, he received the stigmata: bloody wounds in his hands, feet, and side, reproducing those of Jesus crucified. What is lesser known is the wound on his shoulder which Jesus revealed was His most painful wound when he carried the cross to Calvary. Padre Pio lost the equivalent of a glass of blood every day for the next fifty years.

Padre Pio had many supernatural gifts. One of the most notable (although they are all notable) was that he was able to bi-locate; during the war pilots even testified that they saw him in the sky stopping them from dropping bombs on certain significant places!

Padre Pio’s mission was the conversion of souls. He would often spend ten to fifteen hours a day in the confessional. He was able to read the hearts and minds of people which resulted in thousands of penitents flocking to him for confession. That being said, one wouldn’t always get an easy ride in the confessional. Padre Pio would withhold absolution if a penitent was not contrite or withheld any sins. He often reminded them of past sins or would send them away to prepare fully before coming back. He would never hear the confession of one who was inappropriately dressed but would send them away to be properly clothed. He would suffer much when he had to treat someone harshly, but he would say it was needed for their conversion. Even in the confessional, some penitents confirmed that they would see the friar perspiring and sometimes they saw drops of blood coming from his forehead while they described their sins. “Souls, souls! How costly is your salvation!” Padre cried out one day.

But all of this was nothing compared to the number of conversions during just one of his Holy Masses. More souls were converted during just one Holy Mass than all the other miracles of Padre Pio combined. His Mass would frequently last more than two hours, and his pain was visible throughout, especially at consecration. We must be reminded from this that each time we come to Mass, we come to Calvary.

What does Padre Pio teach us?

During his entire life, Padre Pio was a martyr - not only a red martyr through the suffering of the stigmata but he was also a white martyr. He was persecuted throughout his life by other religious and the Church.

This willing victim teaches us to be a victim for Christ in this world, so that we can be with him for eternity, through daily suffering and sacrifice. We must do this, with prayer for our salvation, especially the rosary. He would say more than 30 rosaries a day “Love Our Lady and make her loved; always recite the Rosary and recite it as often as possible” And of course, the Holy sacrifice of the Mass - “If we only knew how God regards this Sacrifice, we would risk our lives to be present at a single Mass…the earth could exist more easily without the sun than without the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.”

So, let us follow Padre Pio’s example and ask for his intercession that we may work tirelessly for the salvation of souls, pray much, suffer willingly and not lose hope. And when we are tempted by pride the following prayer recited by Padre Pio teaches us that without Our Lord by our side we cannot come to him and it is his grace alone that draws us to him and keeps us faithful:

Stay with me Lord

For without thy presence I forget Thee, Thou knowest how easily I abandon thee

Stay with me Lord

For without thy strength I fall, Thou knowest how weak I am

Stay with me Lord

For without thee my fervour fails, Thou art my life

Stay with me Lord

For without thee I am in darkness, Thou art my light

Stay with me Lord

That I might hear thy voice

Stay with me Lord

That I might follow thee

Stay with me Lord

That I might love thee more

Stay with me Lord

That I might stay with thee

If thou wouldst have me faithful to thee

Stay with me Lord

And as our beloved Padre Pio says “be of good cheer; abandon yourselves to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and let Him take care of everything.”

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