Padre Pio – The young priest

Padre Pio was ordained a priest on 10 August, 1910.    He returned to Pietrelcina and on 14 August he celebrated his first solemn high mass there.    He wrote down this thought : ” Oh Jesus, my breath, my life,  today trembling I raise you in a mystery of love.   May I be with you for the world, the way, the truth and the life and for you may I be a holy priest and a perfect victim “.    His early priestly life was interrupted by his poor health.    His superiors, hoping that a change of air would help him sent him to live at home for a while.

It was there later in 1910 that he received the invisible stigmata.    One day his mother saw him shaking his hands and asked him ” What’s the matter Francesco ?   Are you playing the guitar ? “    ” No mamma “  he replied  ” it’s just that they sting so badly ”.

With the outbreak of World War I even Padre Pio had to present himself for military service.    He was assigned to the medical corps in Naples but he was soon back at home again having been discharged because of his ill health.   Later he returned but was again discharged on medical leave.   At the end of his six months leave when he had not returned he was declared a deserter and a warrant was issued for the arrest of Private Francesco Forgione, his real name.    Despite extensive searches by the local sergeants no trace could  be found of the missing  man.     Eventually purely by chance they met his sister, Felicia.    ” Do you know of anyone called Francesco Forgione ?”  he enquired.     ” Of course I do” she replied  ” he is my brother ”.    The Army had finally found their deserter.   When Padre Pio was informed he immediately took the train and returned at once.    The officer addressed him sternly   ” Private Forgione do you know that you have been declared a deserter ?”       ” No Captain I am not a deserter “.    He produced a document that said he had six months of sick leave and that he should then await further orders.    ” I have obeyed ” he continued.    ” I have waited and the orders only reached me yesterday.    I left immediately “.    The Captain was nonplussed and could only mutter ” All right.   You may go “   The case was closed on the account of an incompetent document. As a young priest Padre Pio was very devout.

On one occasion he wrote to his spiritual director   ” I saw someone thrust a sharp flaming sword into my heart.    He pulled it out only to plunge it in again with all his might a short time later.    These repeated blows filled me with a great love of God “.     Again he wrote  ” I was in the church making my thanksgiving after mass when I felt my heart being wounded by a dart of flame so vivid I thought I would die “.     This phenomenon known as transverberation of the heart preceded the stigmata which Padre Pio would receive one month later.    ” Last month I was in the choir after celebrating mass when I saw a mysterious being with his hands, feet and side dripping blood.    What I felt is indescribable when the being disappeared.   I then became aware that my own hands, my feet and my side were dripping with blood “.

As well as the physical pain that these wounds caused they were also a source of extreme embarrassment to him.    Despite efforts to keep all of this secret, word soon got out and spread quickly throughout the surrounding region. The Capuchin Provincial Superior invited Doctor Luigi Romanelli to examine the wounds from a scientific point of view.   Two months later Professor Bignami repeated the investigations for almost a week.    A third visit was made later that year by Dr. Giorgio Festa who wrote this in his report   “In the palms of both hands I discovered a circular lesion that was covered by a brown scab”.      And again  ” In order to observe the lesions to his feet I helped him to remove his socks.    They were drenched with blood”.

While the opinions of various scientists and doctors differed, the general public had no such doubts.    Thousands began to flock to San Giovanni Rotondo to see the stigmatised priest for themselves and all of those thousands asked him for special graces and favours.     Padre Pio heard all of those prayers just as he will hear our prayers and who better is there to present our requests to Almighty God.

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