Saint Padre Pio (Francesco Forgione) was born on May 25, 1887 in Pietrelcina, Italy. Even as a child, Francesco had already shown signs of extraordinary gifts of grace. At the age of five, he dedicated his life to God and prayer. From his early childhood he showed a kind of recollection of spirit and a love for the religious life. His mother described him as a quiet child who, from his earliest years, loved to go to church and to pray. He was said to have been able to see and communicate not only with his guardian angel, but also with Jesus and the Virgin Mary.
He was admitted to the Capuchin novitiate (a place for study for the priesthood) at age sixteen and was admired by his superiors and his fellow students for his exemplary behaviour and his devotion to the life of God.
On August 10, 1910, at the age of twenty-three, Padre Pio was ordained to the priesthood. His parishioners were deeply impressed by his piety and one by one they began to come to him, seeking his counsel. For many, even a few moments in his presence, proved to be a life changing experience.
The marks of the stigmata appeared on Padre Pio's body on September 20, 1918 while he was praying before a crucifix after Mass. He was thirty-one years old and became the first stigmatised priest in the history of the Church with resignation and serenity, he bore the wounds for fifty years.
In addition, God endowed Padre Pio with many extraordinary gifts, including healing, bilocation (being in two places at the same time), prophecy, miracles, the gift of conversions, the ability to read hearts, the gift of tongues (the ability to speak and understand languages that he had never studied), and the fragrance which emanated from his wounds and which frequently announced his invisible presence.
His day began at 2:30am when he would rise to begin his prayers and to make his preparation for Mass, celebrating Mass and hearing confessions, he worked 19 hours a day. He very rarely left the monastery and never took even a day's vacation from his gruelling schedule in 51 years.
He gave a new spirit to hospitals by founding one which he called "The Home for the Relief of Suffering." He saw the image of Christ in the poor, the suffering, and the sick and gave himself particularly to them. He once said, "Bring God to all those who are sick. This will help them more than any other remedy."
He entered the Kingdom of Heaven on September 23, 1968 at the age of eighty-one. His last words were, "Jesus, Maria-Jesus, Mary," which he repeated over and over until he breathed his last. He had often declared, "After my death, I will do more. My real mission will begin after my death." The prayer groups that Padre Pio established have now spread throughout the world.
In one of the largest ceremonies in the Vatican's history, Pope John Paul ΙΙ made Padre Pio a saint on June 16, 2002. Since his death there have been countless miracles.