By Colleen Pressprich
Padre Pio is one of the most popular Catholic saints in the Church. His feast is celebrated on September 23 each year, and if you’re looking for an interesting, fun saint to add to your family’s liturgical calendar, look no further.
Who was Padre Pio?
Padre Pio was born Francesco Forgione on May 25, 1887. Raised in a devout Catholic family, he joined the Capuchin order at the young age of 15 and took on the name Pio in honor of Pope Pius I. He was ordained a priest in 1910, and six years later moved to the friary at San Giovanni Rotundo, where he would live for the rest of his life.
At San Giovanni he soon became well-known for the pious manner in which he said the mass, along with the miracles that seemed to happen whenever he was nearby. Among the miracles that he is said to have performed are healings, bilocation (the miracle of being in two places at once), and levitation (witnesses say he was seen floating in the air during prayers).
Padre Pio was also a skilled confessor and was said to have the gift of being able to read souls. He often knew what a person was about to confess before they said it. Men and women waited in line for hours just to have him hear their confessions.
But what Padre Pio is most famous for is being a stigmatist. In 1911 he wrote to his spiritual director for the first time, describing what was happening to him. He explained that he had red marks the size of a penny on his hands and feet and that these marks were extremely painful. This was the first indication of the wounds of Christ that Padre Pio had been chosen to bear on his own body.
The wounds became more visible in 1918 and blood began to flow from them. This would continue until Padre Pio’s Death. His stigmata was investigated by scientists, doctors, and clergy many times over the years and was never proven to be anything other than genuine. In later years he was required to keep the wounds on his hands covered, but there are photographs of him as a younger man that show the stigmata.
Padre Pio died on September 23, 1968 at the age of eighty-one. He was beatified in 1999 by Pope John Paul II and was canonized in 2002.
How to Celebrate Padre Pio:
There are lots of ways to celebrate this wonderful saint on his feast day. Here are a few of my family’s favorites:
Look at Photographs.
The brilliant part about learning about a modern saint is that there are photos of Padre Pio. There are shots of him saying mass, images of his stigmata, photos of him greeting pilgrims and chatting with service members during WW2. My young children love looking at these and are always shocked that a saint lived so near in time to them that he could have had his picture taken. It’s a wonderful reminder that God is still creating saints, even to this day.
Read accounts of his life by people who knew him.
Likewise, as my children get older, I like to pull up stories and quotes from people who knew Padre Pio. I choose ones that showcase his holiness and the way he used his gifts from God, like accounts from those who went to confession with him. But I also pick some from everyday life, that show some of his more human traits. For example, did you know that this illustrious saint had a reputation for grouchiness? It’s a good way to show my children that even saints have flaws, personality quirks, and preferences just like we do.
Learn about the stigmata.
The stigmata is one of many fascinating phenomena that are found within the Catholic faith. Sometimes kids who are reluctant to learn about catechetics and dogma, or are perhaps struggling with their faith, can be drawn back in through learning about some of the ways that Christ makes Himself present in the world today.
Eat Italian food.
This one might be my personal favorite way to celebrate Padre Pio, perhaps because Italian is my favorite type of food. Regardless, we will be eating lots of pasta in his honor this year, and I hope that you will too.
Colleen Pressprich is the author of Marian Consecration for Families with Young Children and The Women Doctors of the Church. She lives in Michigan with her husband and children. You can find more of her writing at elevatortoheaven.com.