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St. Pius of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio) (September 23)

Francesco, named in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, was born to Giuseppa and Grazio Forgione, peasant farmers in the small Italian village of Pietrelcina on May 25, 1887. From his childhood, it was evident that he was a special child of God. He was very devout even as a child, and at an early age felt drawn to the priesthood. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1910 after seven years of study and became known as Padre Pio.

On September 29, 1918, while kneeling in front of a large crucifix, he received the visible marks of the crucifixion, making him the first stigmatized priest in the history of the Church. The doctor who examined Padre Pio could not find any natural cause for the wounds. Upon his death in 1968, the wounds were no longer visible. In fact, there was no scarring and the skin was completely renewed. He had predicted 50 years prior that upon his death the wounds would heal.

The blood from the stigmata had a fragrance described by many as similar to that of perfume or flowers, and the gift of bilocation was attributed to him. Padre Pio had the ability to read the hearts of the penitents who flocked to him for confession which he heard for ten or twelve hours per day. Padre Pio used the confessional to bring both sinners and devout souls closer to God; he would know just the right word of cousel or encouragement that was needed.

Padre Pio died on September 23, 1968 at the age of eighty-one. His funeral was attended by about 100,000 people. On June 16, 2002, over 500,000 pilgrims gathered in Rome to witness Pope John Paul II proclaim Padre Pio as Saint Pio of Pietrelcina.