Much has been written about that great man of the Church known as Padre Pio, let us examine some of the more extraordinary experiences that touched the life of Padre Pio, those who were close to him and for the world.
Francesco Forgione was born in the year 1887 to poor parents, Grazio and Maria who were farmers in the region of Pietrelcina, though a poor family the Forgione family were rich in love of God and the Church. From early youth the young Francisco had a horror and aversion towards sin to the extent that he would often refuse to play with his contemporaries as they often swore and behaved badly. So the young boy lived a life of deep prayer even in one so young, he felt the call to live as holy as possible in order to please God and God alone! He would often practice penances even to having a rock as his pillow and going without meals, in order to make reparation for his sins and the sins of others. Francisco at the young age of 16 entered the Order of the Capuchin Friars and in January 1903 he took the habit and the name Brother Pio. In 1907 Brother Pio took his final Vows, and was known as Padre Pio.
Though God would touch Padre Pio's life in extraordinary ways, within himself Padre Pio was known for his uncompromising nature, his compassion to all he met and his determination to remain faithful to the Teachings of the Church and his Order, and all in a spirit of humility. Even though he embraced and lived in a spirit of humility and meekness this did not mean that the devil left him alone in fact the opposite was the case, for the devil truly fears a humble and meek spirit that is devoted to God.
Even from a young age the devil would assault this most noble boy with horrible and terrifying dreams, but the young boy held fast to his Faith and trusted in God's Mercy and relied on Him for strength. Upon becoming a Priest the devil increased his attacks upon this holy soul, but now the devil became direct and took to physically attacking this holy Priest with his diabolical assaults upon his person. Padre Pio bore all the pain in a spirit of humbleness and intense prayer as he drew closer to his source of strength, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Through the intensity of his prayer life Padre Pio felt the comforting presence of the Blessed Mother and his Guardian Angel, which strengthened him as his spirit was illumined as to the intensity of the spiritual battle he would face with the enemy of God, Satan himself!
Padre Pio was shown a vision from his youth what this spiritual battle would entail, as he recounted later, "he saw himself in the middle of a large hall between two groups of people, one group had beautiful faces, the other hideous ones. Just then a huge monster came from the end of the hall toward him, but Jesus appeared, in order to give Francesco strength. Before the monster could reach Francesco it was struck by lightening and disappeared. The Lord said to him, "That is the fiend against whom you will have to fight." This vision would prove to be fortuitous, as many pilgrims sought this holy Priest in the Sacrament of Penance, and led Padre Pio into a deeper prayer life, for this holy Priest did not fear Satan but he did fear offending God, a fear shared by many Mystics within the Catholic Church.
Throughout his life Padre Pio had always practiced severe mortifications and austerities in order to overcome the temptation of the body and live for Christ alone. As Padre Pio exclaimed, " I am happier than ever when I am suffering, and if I would listen to the promptings of my heart, I would ask Jesus to give me all the sufferings of men." Though Padre Pio trusted God with absoluteness, he distrusted himself and at times doubts would impose themselves upon him as he confided to a friend, "How difficult, Father, is the way of Christian perfection for a soul so ill-disposed as mine. My badness makes me fearful at every step I take." As in the case of Padre Pio and many other Mystics at times our Lord will allow a soul to undergo extreme aridity of soul in order to strengthen that which is weakest in their nature, but God never abandons a soul even if that soul has lost all 'feelings' of God.
God knows man's frailty and so illuminates the soul with the Spirit and comforts the afflicted soul with His own Presence and also the comforting presence of our Lady, which strengthens the soul to continue to fight the good fight. Padre Pio was also Graced with the Gift of bi-location, and also carried within him the odor of sanctity, where people could smell the scent of roses wherever Padre Pio happened to be. Another Gift given to Padre Pio was the Stigmata where a soul is marked with the sufferings of the Crucified Christ, upon their person, when this first occurred Padre Pio described these wounds as such to his Superior, "red patches, about the size of a cent, and accompanied by acute pain....the pain was much more acute in the left hand and it still persists. I also feel some pain in he soles of my feet." This Gift of the Stigmata would bring both joy and suffering to this holy Priest as he became the focus of much unwanted attention, this truly mortified this humble Priest, as he and his Superiors coped with the ever growing crowds of people who came to be near Padre Pio. Around this time Padre Pio also described another extraordinary occurrence to his Superior, "While I was hearing the confessions of our boys on the evening of 5th, I was suddenly filled with extreme terror at the sight of a celestial being whom I saw with my mind's eye. He held a kind of weapon in his hand, similar to a steel sword with a sharp, flaming point. At the very instant I saw all this, I saw the person hurl the weapon into my soul with all his might. It was all done in a split second. I was hardly able to cry out and felt as if I were dying. I cannot ell you how much I suffered during this period of anguish. Even my insides were torn and ruptured by that weapon, everything lashed by fire and steel. From that day on, I was wounded to death. In the depths of my soul, I feel an open wound with causes me to suffer continual agony." Only few Saints have been honoured to share the wounds of Christ, one of whom was St. Francis of Assisi.
Once people heard about this miraculous occurrence and the other Gifts given to Padre Pio they flocked to him in thousands, whereupon Padre Pio would often be in the Confessional for up to and over 18 hours a day. This remarkable Priest also had the Gift of reading souls, so those people who came to him through the Sacrament of Penance would often be reminded by him of their forgotten sins. These are the testimonies of several people who experienced Padre Pio's extraordinary Gifts. In one case a man felt he had sinned by gluttony and so he went to see Padre Pio as he explains in his own words, "Once I ate too many figs and I felt guilty about it. I thought I had committed a sin of gluttony. Since I would have confession with Padre Pio the next day I thought I would confess it then. The following day as I was walking slowly on the road to the convent, I made an examination of conscience. The sin of gluttony did not come to mind. Padre Pio heard my confession but before concluding and before the absolution I said to him, "I think I am guilty of yet another sin but I can’t remember it." "Don’t worry," he answered me smiling: "for two figs." This is another testimony by a man who went to Padre Pio in the Confessional, "I had decided to give up smoking and to offer this small sacrifice to Padre Pio. Since then, every evening, with the intact packet of cigarettes in my hand, I stayed in front of his image telling him, ‘Father...it is one...’ The second day, ‘Padre, it is two…’ Three months later, I went to San Giovanni Rotondo to see Padre Pio after doing the same thing every evening. ‘Padre,’ I told him as soon as I saw him, ‘I haven't been smoking for 81 days, 81 packets...’ Padre Pio said, ‘I know everything you know, you made me count the packets every evening." Though Padre Pio was a compassionate and kind Priest still he had no time for hypocrites as is seen by these two cases who also went to him for Confession, "A man of some distinction within his own community had the reputation of being a good Catholic, admired and esteemed by all who knew him. Actually he was living in sin. He had neglected his wife, and was now compensating for his loneliness by a relationship with another woman. On one occasion he went to confession to Padre Pio. In order to justify himself, he started talking about a "spiritual crisis." But he had not counted on facing an "extraordinary" confessor. Padre Pio stood up at once and shouted, "What spiritual crisis? You are a litterbug! And God is angry with you. Go away!" As is seen here Padre Pio had no time for those who were trying to use and abuse the Sacrament of Penance for their own purposes. Once again we have another case of a woman caught in serious sin when she went to Padre Pio, "A woman had come from England to see Padre Pio and for him to hear her confession. She went to his confessional but Padre Pio closed the window saying: "I am not available to you." The woman stayed for a few weeks and during this time, daily returned to his confessional and daily was turned away. Finally, Padre Pio consented to hear her confession. She asked the Padre why he made her wait so long to be heard. Padre Pio answered: "And You?" "How long have you made Our Lord wait?" You should wonder how Jesus could welcome you after you committed so many sacrileges. You have delayed your judgment for years, besides sinning against your husband and your mother you have received Holy Communion in mortal sin. The woman was stunned and reformed. She cried when she received absolution. She returned to England a few days later, very happy." It is here that we learn a valuable lesson in the seriousness of sin and to not take the Sacrament of Penance without complete remorse and sorrow for one's sins!
There were also many miraculous events which happened near or around Padre Pio, once during the years of the war food had got so low that many of his fellow Priests were in terrible need of bread. As the townsfolk were also suffering the Priests gave much of their food rations away till one day they were left with hardly no supplies for themselves, so they prayed that the Lord would provide them with some sustenance whereupon the Priests were amazed to see Padre Pio's arms full of bread. When his fellow Priests questioned as to how Padre Pio came upon such a treasure he replied that a pilgrim had knocked on the door and given the bread to him. Another miraculous event occurred when a mother and father who were at Mass came home to find that their young daughter had been accidentally burned in a hot tub of water. The parents immediately sent for a doctor who told them to take their daughter immediately to hospital as she could die at any moment. The parents were terrified and in deep anguish over their beloved child, when suddenly they heard their daughter cry out to them as she said, "Mommy, I don’t have a wound anymore!" "Who has taken your wound?" I asked her out of curiosity. She answered: "Father Pio has come. He took my wounds by putting his whole hand on my burn."
Even the Holy Souls in Purgatory would seek out the help of this holy Priest. One such case was when a soul from Purgatory appeared before Padre Pio, he then told Padre Pio that he had died in a fire and that God had granted him permission that he was able to visit Padre Pio and to request a Mass be offered for the repose of his soul. The next morning Padre Pio offered up the Mass and the soul was able to enter Paradise to spend eternity in Heaven. Another case was when a woman who had just lost her mother appealed to Padre Pio, whereupon after offering a Mass for the repose of her mothers soul, she too entered Eternal Glory into the Kingdom of Heaven.
These are only a few of the miraculous events which happened around Saint Padre Pio a most holy Son of the Church.
I would encourage all to read more about this most illustrious Saint, Padre Pio of Pietrelcina.