The humble Italian friar remains one of the most popular saints in the Catholic Church.
Christians around the world have been fascinated by St. Padre Pio, a remarkable Italian friar who lived in the 20th century. Even though he spent most of his life in a Franciscan monastery, his influence can still be felt today.
Here is a brief list of the most viewed articles on Aleteia about St. Padre Pio that help explain his life, miracles and legacy. You can click on each title to learn more information.
The life of Padre Pio
On May 25, 1887 Maria Giuseppa de Nunzio gave birth to a baby boy at home in her bedroom on Vico Storto Valle, 27. It was 5:00 in the afternoon. His parents, Maria and Grazio, entrusted the protection of their newborn son to St. Francis and named him after the saint from Assisi, Francesco.
Padre Pio’s birth home is open to the public. Visitors are often struck by its simplicity. It is not a single unit; rather, it is composed of several rooms overlooking the same street, Vico Storto Valle.
Visitors can observe the kitchen, with original fireplace and furnishings. There are the utensils of the time, including some terracotta containers, pots and an oil lamp. Behind the kitchen is a bedroom where the children slept, but which was turned into a dining room. There is also the parents’ bedroom, where Padre Pio was born. On the bedroom floor is a trap door that led to the barn housing Orazio’s donkey.
Padre Pio was born to a poor peasant family in the rural town of Pietrelcina, Italy. They had little money and his parents could not read or write. However, Pio’s parents had high hopes their son could one day follow his calling to be a priest.
As a young boy Pio had related to his parents a desire to become a religious and they asked a local Capuchin community of friars if they would accept him. At the time Pio only had about three years of public school education and the friars said he needed more in order to be admitted.
Convinced his son was destined to become a priest, Padre Pio’s father, Grazio, made it his priority to earn the money Pio needed for a decent education. Instead of searching for local work, Grazio went to the “Land of Opportunity,” the United States of America.
When thinking about the famous St. Padre Pio, the word “nerd,” doesn’t usually get used. However, that is exactly how is he was described by someone who knew him as a child.
This was revealed by those who knew him, particularly families who would interact with him on a daily basis. For example, as a child Padre Pio would play with children from neighboring farms. His childhood playmates remembered him fondly, but also thought of him as a regular boy.
Luigi Orlando recalled: “When he was with us, he never prayed. There was nothing particularly outstanding about him. With us he was a boy just like any other, [though] well-mannered and reserved.” Ubaldo Vecchariano characterized him as somewhat of a “nerd” — “submissive and reserved,” an “unsalted piece of macaroni.”
St. Pio of Pietrelcina (more commonly known as “Padre” Pio) was a humble Italian priest God chose to work through to accomplish extraordinary miracles in the lives of countless people who came to him for spiritual help. Through God’s power he was able to read people’s souls, bilocate, and levitate off the ground, and he received the holy wounds of Christ (stigmata) on his body. Padre Pio did not ask for any of this, but was a simple vessel whom God used for his divine purposes.
Here are several photographs of the humble mystic that are rarely seen, and which reveal one of the most extraordinary saints of the 20th century.
It was close to 2 a.m. In Padre Pio’s cell were his primary physician, Dr. Sala, the Father Superior of the convent, and some friars. Padre Pio was seated in an armchair; his breathing was labored and he was very pale.
While Dr. Scarale took the tube out of the friar’s nose and held the oxygen mask to his face, Pio Miscio silently watched that dramatic scene.
“I was near the radiator; I was fully attentive to those moments, but I didn’t do anything.” Before he lost consciousness, Padre Pio repeated, “Jesus, Mary, Jesus, Mary,” without hearing what the doctor said. His gaze was lost in empty space. When he lost consciousness, “Doctor Scarale tried to resuscitate him several times, but to no effect.”
The miracles of Padre Pio
Padre Pio is one of the few saints who has suffered the wounds of Christ’s Passion in his body, the stigmata. In addition to the wounds of the nails and the spear, St. Pio was also given the laceration that Our Lord endured on his shoulder, a wound caused by carrying the cross, which we know about because Jesus revealed it to St. Bernard.
The wound that Padre Pio had was discovered by one of his friends and spiritual sons, Brother Modestino of Pietralcina.
This friar was from Pio’s native land and helped him with domestic services. The future saint told him one day that changing his undershirt was one of the most painful things he had to endure.
In the midst of World War II, Italy was invaded by Nazi Germany and Allied forces made many attempts to liberate the country. According to various accounts, intelligence reported a cache of German munitions near San Giovanni Rotondo, the town in which stood the monastery of St. Padre Pio.
However, at the beginning of the war Padre Pio reassured the people that no bomb would touch their small city. True to his word, Padre Pio reportedly went out of his way to make this happen.
According to author Frank Rega in his book Padre Pio and America, “none of the Allied planes sent to bomb the San Giovanni Rotondo area were able to complete their missions successfully. There were often mysterious malfunctions, causing the bombs to drop harmlessly in the fields, or mechanical failures that caused the planes to veer off course.”
Most remarkable of all were the stories of a “flying monk.”
Actor turned singer Robert Davi has teamed with the Saint Pio Foundation to produce a song to raise funds for the charity. The song and its accompanying music video were recorded as a message of peace and hope in a time when the world pandemic has disrupted so many lives, with all proceeds from the song pledged to the Pio Foundation.
The tune, “Meraviglioso,” which means “Wonderful,” was first recorded by singer/songwriter Domenico Modugno in 1968. The Pio Foundation explained in a press release:
[“Meraviglioso”] tells the story of a man in deep despair, about to end his life by throwing himself off a bridge. He gets stopped by an angel with human appearance, who convinces the man not to commit suicide, but just look around instead, to see all the beauty that the world has to offer. Pain and sorrow are part of that, too. The song is therefore a perfect hymn to life and faith.
Little Lazarus underwent nine months of surgery and treatment. “After the last session of chemotherapy,” his mother says, “I made a promise to Padre Pio, asking his eternal protection for Lazarus, saying I’d donate a beautiful image of him” to The Way’s novitiate. She made the promise in January of 2017, and the image of the saint was put in place on the saint’s feast day, September 23, that same year.
And Lazarus is cancer-free. He lives with his parents and two older brothers, João (John) and Augusto, in Paraná in southern Brazil. The three boys are altar servers, and love riding horses.
The legacy of Padre Pio
In the biography Padre Pio: The True Story, published by Our Sunday Visitor, the mystic saint’s response to this worldwide pandemic is recorded, with the powerful words of advice he gave to one of his spiritual daughters.
By September, everyone in San Giovanni Rotondo seemed to be ill, the schools were closed, and what little commerce there was in town was brought to a halt. In the next couple months, two hundred people from a population of ten thousand would perish.Padre Pio’s spiritual daughters came to him terrified, begging him to save them. “Never fear,” he assured Nina Campanile. “Put yourself under the protection of the Virgin, do not sin, and the sickness will not overcome you.” Although some of the “daughters” fell ill, none of them died.
Assured that the Lord had taken my hand so I will not drown, I often read this prayer, sometimes three times through!
Stay with me, Lord, for it is necessary to have you present so that I do not forget you. You know how easily I abandon you. Stay with me, Lord, because I am weak, and I need your strength, so that I may not fall so often. Stay with me, Lord, for you are my life, and without you, I am without fervor. Stay with me, Lord, for you are my light, and without you, I am in darkness. Stay with me, Lord, to show me your will. Stay with me, Lord, so that I hear your voice and follow you. Stay with me, Lord, for I desire to love you very much, and always be in your company. Stay with me, Lord, if you wish me to be faithful to you. Stay with me, Lord, for as poor as my soul is, I want it to be a place of consolation for you, a nest of love. Amen. ~St. Pio of Pietrelcina, Prayer After Communion
In the long tradition of the Church, various names have been given to these short prayers — our little hellos — that we speak to Our Lord throughout the day. They are called aspirations, or ejaculatory prayers (from the Latin for bursting forth), or as well, “arrow” prayers.
This last title was used by Padre Pio when he described these short, spontaneous prayers. He said they are like “arrows that wound God’s heart.”
What’s more, the beloved Italian saint said that arrow prayers have a special power in bringing down God’s grace upon us.
Every day, Padre Pio was asked by numerous people, whether in person or by letter, to pray for a specific intention and many times this intention was miraculously answered by God.
Here is the prayer that Padre Pio would pray each time he wanted to intercede for someone. It is actually a prayer composed by St. Margaret Mary Alacoque and is commonly called the “Efficacious Novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.” She was a saint and a mystic who lived in the 17th century, and received multiple visions of Jesus during her lifetime.
While Padre Pio is widely known for his mystical life, one of the projects he was most invested in was building a hospital. He built Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza (Home for Relief of Suffering) in 1956 for a variety of reasons.
One of the main reasons was to address the connection between the physical and spiritual.
Padre Pio had a great appreciation for suffering and saw it as an instrument to drawing close to God. However, he also realized that many people need physical relief from that suffering in order to help them recognize God’s love in their lives.