Patron Saint Spotlight: St. Padre Pio

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St. Padre Pio is the patron saint of civil defense volunteers, adolescents, January blues, stress relief, and Pietrelcina, Italy.

When it comes to biographizing saints, St. Padre Pio (born Francesco Forgione) has it all: mysticism, stigmata and, of course, unwavering piety. Padre Pio was born in 1887 to poor farmers in Pietrelcina, Italy, within the Campania region of Southern Italy. Indeed, Pio seemed to have all the makings of a saint from early on, having dedicated himself to God at just 5 years old. At 15, Padre Pio joined the order of the Friars Minor in Morcone, Italy, where he impressed his superiors and fellow students with his deep piety. At the age of 23, Padre Pio joined the priesthood and offered his first Mass at Our Lady of the Angels after being ordained at the Cathedral of Benevento in Campania.

Despite his strong convictions, Padre Pio was plagued by a series of health issues throughout his life. As a child, he suffered from bronchitis, a kidney stone, and abdominal pains, among various other ongoing health problems. In his late 30s, Padre Pio had surgery for an inguinal hernia and a cyst on his neck. Later in life, he came down with a case of pleuritis that caused him to be bedridden for several months, and he also suffered from ongoing arthritis. Despite this, St. Padre Pio was said to possess the gift of healing others and performing miracles. He was also known to have the ability to sustain for long periods of time without food or sleep.

St. Padre Pio was also known for exhibiting visible stigmata — bleeding wounds at his hands and feet that appear to correspond with the wounds suffered by Christ during the crucifixion — as well as supernatural phenomena such as healing, reading souls and the ability to physically appear in two places at one time. The most controversial of these phenomena was the stigmata, which despite being observed by many medical professionals, was strongly questioned by those of both the religious and non-religious communities. Some have accused St. Padre Pio of inflicting the wounds himself using carbolic acid, but the Catholic Anti-Defamation League strongly contested the claims. Padre Pio’s stigmata purportedly emitted the scent of perfume and flowers, a phenomenon known as the odour of sanctity that has been possessed by several saints.

The Death and Legacy of St. Padre Pio

Throughout his life, St. Padre Pio spread much positivity and became known for his humility (he often shunned attention garnered from the stigmata), his healing touch and his sense of humor. Thus, his devotees are often equally as joyful and comic — they love jokes like “When the devil goes to sleep at night, he prays for protection against St. Padre Pio.” The patron saint was also known to possess a great love and commitment to virtue and chastity and is said to have reconciled thousands of Catholics back to their faith. Due to the deep mark he left on followers, he was consistently suggested for sainthood until he was canonized by Pope John Paul II 34 years after his death.

St. Padre Pio died in 1968 at the age of 81, just one day after the 50th anniversary of receiving the stigmata. He was buried in a crypt at the Church of Our Lady of Grace Chapel in San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy, but his body was exhumed in 2008 and now sits on display at the church, which houses the Shrine of St. Padre Pio. He was beatified on May 2, 1999, in Vatican City and canonized on June 16, 2002, by  Pope John Paul II.

For obvious reasons, St. Padre Pio has become a sort of “rock star” in the world of patron saints and is one of the most popular saints in the world. The shrine at San Giovanni Rotondo attracts some 7 million pilgrims each year, making it the second most visited shrine in the world, only after Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico.

This is but a short glimpse into the life of one of the world’s most cherished saints, yet his life was full of fascinating intricacies. To learn more about Padre Pio, we recommend the titles “Padre Pio: Man of Hope” by Renzo Allegri and “Padre Pio: The Stigmatist” by Fr. Charles Mortimer Carty.

Praying St. Padre Pio

Pray to St. Padre Pio on his feast day of Sept. 23 on the Roman Rite Calendar or whenever you need an advocate for any of his patronages: civil defense volunteers, adolescents, January blues, stress relief, and Pietrelcina, Italy. St. Padre Pio became the patron saint of civil defense volunteers in 2004 after a petition from the Italian bishops’ conference and support from the Department of Civil Protection. Padre is the unofficial patron saint of January blues and stress relief due to his famous words, “Pray, hope and don’t worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.” Of course, we pray to St. Pedro Pio for the health and well-being of his hometown of Pietrelcina and Italy as a whole.

The following prayer to St. Padre Pio can be said anytime you’d like to seek the intercession of this beloved saint.

Glorious Saint Pio, bearing the wounds of Christ you generously accepted your sufferings and labored faithfully for the good of all souls. Help me to embrace that same attitude of acceptance in my life. With confidence, I ask for your intercession to obtain the grace of (make your request), which I ardently desire. If it is not, however, God’s will that this should come to pass, then help me to find serenity and joy in God’s choices for me. Amen

By Laurel Whitworth

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