Padre Pio was born in 1887 to a deeply religious family in Southern Italy, and christened Francisco Forgionne. Young Francisco was noted for his exceptional piety. At an early age, he committed himself to God. Much later on, Padre Pio stated that as a young child he had conversed with angels and been attacked by a demon. He was to experience many such visions throughout his life.
When he was ten, young Francisco announced to his parents his desire to join the priesthood. At the age of fifteen, the young man took the vows of a Capuchin novice. He took the vows of a Capuchin monk at age nineteen, and, after some more years of study, was ordained a priest at age twenty three. Francisco took up residence in the Capuchin community in Foggia.
In 1910, the young priest celebrated his first Mass, and became known as Padre Pio. Not long afterward, he had a vision of Jesus and Our Lady. They bestowed on him the wounds of Christ, called the Stigmata. The young Padre Pio welcomed the vision, accepting the agonizing pain of the Stigmata. Since he was a shy and retiring man, Padre Pio was reluctant to draw attention to himself and his divine gift. Eventually, his Stigmata healed.
In the following year, Padre Pio became very unwell. During this illness, the first of his recorded “ecstacies” in which he had visions of Our Lady and Jesus took place. It was even said that he could communicate with Angels!
Padre Pio was briefly drafted into the Italian army during World War I, after which he returned to his parish.
In 1918 the Stigmata returned and was witnessed by Padre Pio's parishioners, who claimed that the blood flowing from the wounds smelled of perfume. As his fame grew, his stigmata and his holiness won him the love of many Catholics, who saw him as a symbol of hope during dark times. Many Catholics came to the Capuchin Community to visit him in order to receive spiritual advice, as well as his blessing.
Despite his evident goodness and piety, Padre Pio was accused of faking his Stigmata. The Catholic Church supported Padre Pio during this time. Interestingly enough, the medical doctors who examined his wounds stated that they did not have a physical cause.
There are countless miracles attributed to Padre Pio. In 1925, a young mother brought to him the body of her infant son in a suitcase. When Padre Pio opened the case, the infant was alive and in perfect health. In 1953, a young blind woman approached Padre Pio. He gave her the simple advice to “have faith and pray a lot.” She was suddenly able to see his face; it was reported afterward that her sight had been fully restored.
Padre Pio died in 1968. His death was felt as a personal loss by many around the world. Pope John Paul II canonized Padre Pio in 2002, to the great joy of Catholics globally.