While popularly known for receiving the stigmata, St. Padre Pio is also remembered for a dedicated prayer life, through which he offered spiritual insights and encouragement to many who sought his counsel.
Born in Pietrelcina, Italy on May 25, 1887, he was baptized Francesco Forgione, the fourth of eight children to Maria Giuseppa DeNunzio and Grazio Maria Forgione. At the age of 5, he dedicated his life to God. From early on in his childhood, he showed a special love for the religious life. He joined the Capuchin Franciscan Friars when he was 15 years old and at 23, he was ordained to the priesthood and became known as Padre Pio.
After celebrating Mass one morning in 1918, he received the stigmata, the appearance of bodily wounds in locations corresponding to Christ’s crucifixion wounds. He also was known for his ability to read hearts, gleaning the spiritual condition of their souls. Many sought his counsel in the confessional; others received spiritual guidance through correspondence with him. Many miraculous cures have been attributed to his intercession, including during his life on earth.
But those things weren’t the source of his holiness. Rather, in his humility and love for Jesus and the Blessed Mother, he maintained an extraordinary spirit of prayer. Padro Pio spent many hours of the day in prayer and said that lack of prayer was a reason why society was falling apart. Prayer is the best weapon we have, he said, which opens others to the heart of God.
“In books we seek God, in prayer we find Him,” he said. “Prayer is the key which opens God’s heart.” His prayer life led him to accept God’s will in all he experienced in his lifetime.
Padre Pio died on Sept. 23, 1968 at the age of 81. He was canonized in 2002 by Pope St. John Paul II. His feast day is Sept. 23.