Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Padre Pio: "My real mission will begin after my death."

Padre Pio, born Francesco Forgione in 1887, was one of our centuries most miraculous saints. Throughout his life, Padre Pio journeyed with Christ, in a very intimate way. As one may have guessed, this caused anger from Satan, whose attacks become all the stronger the closer someone comes to Christ. With this relationship, Padre Pio suffered greatly, and bore the afflictions of Christ. In this essay, I will explore the life of Padre Pio, and explain the sufferings and joys he endured.

At a very early age, Padre Pio was very pious. His family, though illiterate, memorized the Bible and passed down religious tradition to their children. As a child, Pio communicated with Jesus, Mary, and his Guardian Angel, and did so with such ease that he at first though anyone could easily.

As a youth, Padre Pio experienced visions and ecstacies, and was drawn, by the age of 10 to the life of a Capuchin friar. When he was the right age, his family brought young Pio to the Capuchin community to see if he was eligible to enter their ranks. They said they would willingly accept him, on condition that he further his education first.

Pio's father had to go to the United States in order to make the money necessary for young Pio to get the right education. At the age of 15, Pio entered the Capuchin community. During his novitiate, it is believed that Pio was subjected to attacks by the Devil, which appeared in the form of a monstrous black dog with red eyes.

Padre Pio is famous for his visible stigmata in the form of the wounds bore by Christ. However, much before receiving visible stigmata, Padre Pio was subjected to inivisible stigmata, in which he received the pain of the wounds, without the wounds themselves. The pain was often quite severe.

Padre Pio spent much time in prayer, until he was assigned to go to war during the first world war. Padre Pio disagreed with the War, calling it "the suicide of Europe".

During this period of spiritual suffering, it is believed that Padre Pio was frequently attacked by the Devil, both physically and spiritually. It is believed that the devil also used diabolical tricks in order to increase Padre Pio's torments. These included apparitions as an "angel of light" and the alteration or destruction of letters to and from his spiritual directors. (Thanks to Wikipedia for this information).

As one of his most supernatural sufferings, Padre Pio received Transverberation. World War I was still going on, and in the month of July 1918, Pope Benedict XV who had termed the World War as "the suicide of Europe" appealed to all Christians urging them to pray for an end to the World War. On July 27 of the same year, Padre Pio offered himself as a victim for the end of the war. Days passed and between August 5 and August 7, Padre Pio had a vision in which Christ appeared and pierced his side. As a result of this experience, Padre Pio had a physical wound in his side. This occurrence is considered as a "transverberation" or piercing of the heart indicating the union of love with God.

Padre Pio was very embarrased of his visible stigmata, and tried to hide it as much as possible. Padre Pio prayed, not to be released from the pain of stigmata, but from the visible signs of it. He said: "I will raise my voice and will not stop imploring him until in his mercy he takes away, not the wound or the pain, which is impossible since I wish to be inebriated with pain, but these outward signs which cause me such embarrassment and unbearable humiliation."

Although Padre Pio would have rathered remain in secret, the world soon knew of the stigmata he suffered, and the miracles he worked. Eventually, everyone in the Christian world and beyond knew of Padre Pio.

People close to Padre Pio affirm that he received many gifts including the gifts of healing, bilocation, levitation, prophecy, miracles, extraordinary abstinence from both sleep and nourishment (One account states that Padre Agostino recorded one instance in which Padre Pio was able to subsist for at least 20 days at Verafeno on only the Eucharist without any other nourishment), the ability to read hearts, the gift of tongues, the gift of conversions, and the fragrance from his wounds.

The Death of Padre Pio
The deterioration of Padre Pio's health started during the 1960s in spite of which he continued his spiritual works. On the day after the fiftieth anniversary of his receiving the Stigmata, he experienced great tiredness. On September 22 his voice was weak when he said Mass. Early in the morning of September 23, 1968, Padre Pio made his confession and renewed his Franciscan vows. As was customary, he had his Rosary in his hands, though he had not the strength to say the Hail Marys. Till the end, he repeated over and over the words: GesĂș, Maria – Jesus, Mary. At around 2:30AM, he said,"I see two mothers" (taken to mean his mother and Mary). At 2:30AM breathed his last in his cell in San Giovanni Rotondo with his last breath whispering, "Maria!". His mortal remains were buried on September 26 in a crypt in the Church of Our Lady of Grace, and his funeral was attended by over a hundred thousand people. He was often heard to say, "After my death I will do more. My real mission will begin after my death." The accounts of those who stayed with Padre Pio till the end state that the stigmata had completely disappeared without even leaving a scar . Only a red mark "as if drawn by a red pencil" remained on his side which also then disappeared.

May we all say a prayer to Saint Padre Pio, whose powerful intercession we can count on every day!

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