his earliest years Francesco Forgione was a man of
prayer. Considered a quiet boy by the other youngsters
he would seldom play with them "because they blaspheme."
This aversion to sin would cause him to run away to pray
in the church of St. Pius V. At other times he would sit
under a tree on his father's property and "think about
God." By age five Francesco had already determined to
become a Franciscan Capuchin, in part because of the
habit and the beard, which he liked greatly, but also
moved by the grace of God to seek perfection.
climb of the ladder of holiness, however, involved more
than pious aspirations and flight from the bad example
of the world. Even very young it it
encompassed to a remarkable degree the battle against
the flesh and against the devil.
For example, the child Francis was no stranger to
mortification. Although the family had meager rations as
it was, Francesco nonetheless occasionally deprived
himself of food. And, at age nine his mother discovered
him sleeping on the floor with a rock for his pillow, a
practice which apparently had been going on for some
time. Such austerity would become a hallmark of his
entire life. He also experienced the assaults of the
devil, who appeared in horrible forms in his dreams.
Later in life these attacks would take a more direct
form, even physical assaults.
God did not leave him abandoned, providing him with
consoling visions of the Blessed Mother and his Guardian
angel. On one occasion the scope of his future warfare
with evil was made known to him. In a vision that was
granted him after receiving Communion one day, 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." Indeed, any biography of Padre
Pio's life shows the extent to which this prophetic
vision came true, even in its most literal sense.
1903 saw Francesco Forgione, age 15, enter religious
life or the state of perfection. While religious are not
by the fact of their state necessarily perfect, the life
of the three evangelical counsels (poverty, chastity and
obedience) is ordered to making them so. Our Lord,
counseling those who wished to be perfect, offered them
a means of complete surrender to God, the giving up of
the right to marry, to own material goods, and to do
what one chooses. It was at this time, the entrance to
the novitiate, that Francesco received the name of Fra.
Pio (Brother Pius); Fra. to indicate that he was a
religious Fratello (Italian) or
(Latin) and Pio to indicate by his change of name that a
new life was beginning. Only later, with priestly
ordination in 1910, would he assume the name by which he
will probably be forever known, Padre Pio.
the short outline above shows, Padre Pio undertook the
traditional and proven path to holiness, renouncing the
world, the flesh, and the devil, through prayer and
mortification, capped by the total surrender of the
evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience.
It can also be said that the priesthood of Padre Pio
gave even greater impetus to his conformity to Christ,
Priest and Victim, without which it is impossible to
understand Padre Pio of Pietrilcina.
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