Padre Pio was born May 25, 1887 in
Pietrelcina, Italy, a small country town located in southern Italy. His parents were
Grazio Mario Forgione (1860-1946) and Maria Guiseppa de Nunzio Forgione (1859-1929). He
was baptized the next day, in the nearby Castle Church, with the name of his brother,
Francesco, who died in early infancy. Other children in the family were an older brother,
Michele; three younger sisters: Felicita, Pellegrina and Grazia; and two children who died
Religion was the center of life for
both Pietrelcina and the Forgione family. The town had many celebrations throughout the
year in honor of different saints and the bell in the Castle Church was used not for
ringing the hour, but for daily devotional time. Friends have described the Forgione
family as “the God-is-everything-people” because they attended Daily Mass,
prayed the Rosary nightly and fasted three days a week from meat in honor of Our Lady of
Mt. Carmel. Although Padre Pio’s grandparents and parents could not read and write,
they memorized Sacred Scripture and told the children Bible stories. It was in this lovely
family setting that the seeds of Faith were nurtured within Padre Pio.
From his early childhood, it was
evident that Padre Pio had a deep piety. When he was five years old, he solemnly
consecrated himself to Jesus. He liked to sing hymns, play church and preferred to be by
himself where he could read and pray. As an adult, Padre Pio commented that in his younger
years he had conversed with Jesus, the Madonna, his guardian angel, and had suffered
attacks by the devil.
Padre Pio’s parents first
learned of his desire to become a priest in 1897. A young Capuchin friar was canvassing
the countryside seeking donations. Padre Pio was drawn to this spiritual man and told his
parents, “I want to be a friar… with a beard.” His parents traveled to
Morcone, a community thirteen miles north of Pietrelcina, to investigate if the friars
would be interested in having their son. The Capuchins were interested, but Padre Pio
would need more education than his three years of public schooling.
|In order to finance the private
tutor needed to educate Padre Pio, his father went to America to find work. During this
time, he was confirmed (September 27, 1899), studied with tutors and completed the
requirements for entrance into the Capuchin order. At age 15, he took the Habit of the
Order of Friars Minor Capuchin on January 22, 1903. On the day of his investiture, he took
the name of Pio in honor of Saint Pius V, the patron saint of Pietrelcina, and was called
Fra, for brother, until his priestly ordination.
A year later, on
January 22, 1904, Fra Pio knelt before the altar and made his First Profession of the
Evangelical Counsels of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience. Then, he traveled by oxcart to
the seventeenth-century friary of St. Francis of Assisi and began six years of study for
the priesthood and continued his development in community life toward the profession of
his solemn vows. After three years of temporary profession, Padre Pio took his final vows
Then on August 10, 1910, the
much-anticipated day finally arrived. The twenty-three year old Fra Pio was ordained a
priest by Archbishop Paolo Schinosi at the Cathedral of Benevento. Four days later, he
celebrated his first Mass at the parish church of Our Lady of the Angels.
Within a month of his ordination,
(September 7, 1910), as Padre Pio was praying in the Piana Romana, Jesus and Mary appeared
to him and gave him the wounds of Christ, the Stigmata. For Padre Pio’s doctors, the
wounds created much confusion. He asked Jesus to take away “the annoyance,”
adding, ” I do want to suffer, even to die of suffering, but all in secret.” The
wounds went away and the supernatural life of Padre Pio remained a secret…for a while.
On November 28, 1911, Padre Agostino,
who was a contemporary, friend, and confidant, was advised that Padre Pio was ill. He
rushed into Padre Pio’s room to care for him. Padre Agostino observed what he thought
was a dying man and rushed to the chapel to pray. When he finished praying, he returned to
Padre Pio’s room and found his friend alert and full of joy.
This was the beginning of Padre
Pio’s documented ecstasies – all of which were “edifying, theologically
correct and expressed a deep love for God. “
Due to Padre Pio’s on-going ill
health, he was sent home to recuperate and was separated from his religious community from
the end of 1911 – 1916. During this time, the Capuchin Constitution required a friar
who was sent home because of illness had to maintain his friar life as much as possible.
Padre Pio did this. He said Mass and taught school.
On September 4, 1916, Padre Pio was
ordered to return to his community life and was assigned to San Giovanni Rotondo, an
agricultural community, located in the Gargano Mountains. Our Lady Of Grace Capuchin
Friary was approximately a mile from town and was not easy to reach. The Capuchins had a
reputation for their holiness and simple life. When Padre Pio became a part of the
community at Our Lady of Grace, there were seven friars.
With the outbreak of the war, only
three friars stayed at Our Lady of Grace; the others were selected for military service.
At the beginning, his responsibilities included teaching at the seminary and being the
spiritual director of the students. He spent his free time reading the Bible and handling
correspondence. When another friar was called into service, Padre Pio became in charge of