Padre Pio was born Francesco Forgione on May 25, 1887, in Pietrelcina, Italy, into a simple family. At the age of 15 he entered the Capuchin Franciscan Friars, and was ordained a priest in 1910. In September, 1916 he was assigned to the Friary in San Giovanni Rotondo in central Italy where he lived for the rest of his life.
After celebrating morning Mass on September 20, 1918, during his prayers of thanksgiving before the Crucifix, Padre Pio received the "Stigmata". His hands, feet and side were pierced with the nail marks and the lance wound of Crucified Christ. Doctors estimated that for the next 50 years he lost a cup of blood every day. His five wounds were deep, bleeding and painful, but completely free of inflammation and swelling. News of his holiness spread rapidly. Millions of people attended his Masses. He received letters from believers all over the world who asked for his saintly counsel in their time of distress and misfortune. Countlesswere attracted to his confessional, where he celebrated the Sacrament of Reconciliation for as many as 16 hours a day. People waited as much as two weeks to have him hear their confession, for they perceived in Padre Pio the true heart and soul of the Gospels, expressed in a simple and uncomplicated manner.
His whole life was marked by long hours of prayer, continual sacrifice, and strict austerity. He had a very deep union with God, a burning love for the Holy Eucharist, and a fervent devotion to Our Blessed Mother. Worn out by half a century of intense suffering and constant apostolic activity in San Giovanni Rotondo, Padre Pio was called to his heavenly reward on September 23, 1968. He was canonized a Saint by Pope John Paul II on June 16, 2002. Today his tomb is the most visited shrine in Europe, surpassing even Fatima and Lourdes - a place of extraordinary holiness for those in search of inspiration.