St. Pio was born in 1887 in Pietrelcina, a town in southern Italy. His family were farmers, and his father worked also as a shepherd to support the family. In fact, when St. Pio was a boy his father was gone for periods of time because he had come to America looking for work, sending money back to his family. When St. Pio was 15 he entered the novitiate of the Capuchin Friars and made his first vows when he was 19. He suffered several health problems, but he was eventually ordained at age 22 on 10 August 1910, and was known after that as Padre Pio.
He had been a priest for about eight years. One morning he was praying before a crucifix, when he received the stigmata. He is the first priest ever to receive this outward mark of union with Christ Crucified – St. Francis of Assisi was a deacon. In fact, because this became a source of curiosity for so many people, Padre Pio was forbidden from having any public ministry for some years, even having to say Mass privately. This was a tremendous burden for him, but he accepted it in complete obedience to his superiors. But as word spread, especially after American soldiers brought home stories of Padre Pio following WWII, the priest himself became a point of pilgrimage for both the pious and the curious. He would hear confessions by the hour, reportedly able to read the consciences of those who held back. He was able to bi-locate, levitate, and heal by touch, although he himself never understood or emphasized these gifts.
People always seem to be most fascinated with these dramatic gifts, but the foundation of St. Pio’s life was his total love for Jesus, especially in the Blessed Sacrament, and his life of prayer for others, especially prayer for healing – both spiritual and physical healing. In fact, in 1956 he founded the House for the Relief of Suffering, a hospital that today serves about 60,000 patients a year.
St. Pio died in 1968, and people continued to report many miracles and healings that had come through his intercession. Pope John Paul II beatified him in 1999, and then in 2002 he was canonized in the presence of more than 300,000 people who gathered in Rome for the Mass.
O Almighty God, who hast compassed us about with so great a cloud of witnesses: Grant that we, encouraged by the good example of thy servant St. Pio of Pietrelcina, may persevere in running the race that is set before us, until at length, through thy mercy, we may with him attain to thine eternal joy; through Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.