Padre Pio was born Francesco Forgione on May 25, 1887, in Pietrelcina, southern Italy. He was named after St. Francis of Assisi. His father was a farmer, and from an early age the boy worked in the fields. Drawn to the priesthood, he became a Capuchin novice at age 16 in Morcone and took the habit in 1902 or 1903, becoming known as Padre Pio. Despite bad health that required him to convalesce in his hometown—he had tuberculosis—he was ordained on August 10, 1910. Due to his poor health, he was ordered to remain in Pietrelcina and spend short visits in the monastery. From 1915 to 1916 he was called into the army, but was eventually sent home because of his health. He went to the monastery of San Giovanni Rotondo, where he stayed for the rest of his life. On September 7, 1910, Padre Pio experienced bloodless, half-inch wounds appearing in the middle of his hands. They remained after several days and then disappeared after prayer. The wounds appeared intermittently for the next eight years. On August 5, 1918, he experienced a transverberation, or mystical wounding, during a vision. He was hearing the confession of a boy when suddenly an angel appeared in his intellectual (interior) vision holding a long, sharp-pointed steel blade that spewed fire. The angel hurled the blade into his soul with all its might. So intense was the pain that Padre Pio thought he was dying. He felt as though his internal organs had ruptured. He remained in agony until morning. From then on he felt he had been mortally wounded in the depths of his soul, and the wound remained open and caused him continual agony. His experience was similar to the transverberation of St. Teresa of Avila, who perceived an angel pierce her heart with a flaming arrow. On September 20, 1918, Padre Pio was kneeling in front of a large crucifix in the church when he received the stigmata. He was the first priest in the history of the Church to receive the five wounds of Christ. Doctors examined him but could find no natural causes. His tuberculosis disappeared at this time. Padre Pio had the stigmata throughout his life. The wounds bled constantly and the blood was sweetly perfumed with the scent of roses and violets. He was unable to close his hands because of the wounds, and was required to wear gloves at all times except during Mass. He wore special shoes to cover the wounds on his feet. Padre Pio’s stigmata lasted the longest on record. Other stigmatists experienced their wounds on certain days, or for certain durations. He accurately predicted that upon his death the wounds would completely heal. The stigmata ignited Padre Pio’s popularity and people flocked to see him. In 1923 the Church silenced him. He was forbidden to write letters and to preach, but could say Mass and hear confessions. The silencing failed to dampen public ardor, and appointments for confessions had to be made far in advance. On January 9, 1940, he established the Home for the Relief of Suffering, which finally was dedicated on May 5, 1956. With donations he created a hospital open to anyone who appealed for assistance and love in the name of Christ. Padre Pio died on January 23, 1968. He was considered a saint long before he died. Thousands came to pay their respects, and more than 100,000 people attended his burial on September 26. Tradition holds that he gave off a sweet fragrance as he was placed in his tomb. Padre Pio had the gift of many miraculous abilities and acts, which attracted to him many devotees. His prophecies were accurate. He was known to bilocate on numerous occasions. The first time occurred on January 18, 1905, when he was a divinity student at San’ Elia a Piansisi. Around 11 P.M. he was in the choir, when suddenly he found himself in a distant wealthy home where the father was dying while a child was being born. The Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to him and said she was entrusting the child to him. He was not to worry about how he would care for her, but he would meet her at St. Peter’s in Rome. During this experience, the wife of the dying man looked up and saw Padre Pio, dressed in his Capuchin habit. He turned and left the room, and was nowhere to be found. The woman went into labor and gave birth to a daughter shortly before her husband died. Seventeen years later, Padre Pio heard the daughter’s confession at St. Peter’s, and then simply disappeared from the confessional. She then found him at San Giovanni Rotondo, and became a devoted disciple of his. Many of his bilocations were to perform miraculous healing, in response to the numerous prayers made to him for his intercession. He apparently bilocated all over the world. He often experienced supernatural fevers that could not be explained except as the product of the divine fire of love. The fevers always broke naturally and he suffered no ill effects from them. Padre Pio had a constant and close relationship with his guardian angel. He believed that God used the angel to make it possible for him to understand foreign languages he had not learned, and to have clairvoyant knowledge of secrets within the heart (especially useful to him during confessions). Padre Pio would tell people, whenever they were in need of his prayer, to address his guardian angel through their guardian angels. Once a busload of pilgrims, en route to San Giovanni Rotondo, got caught at night in a violent lightning storm in the Apennine Mountains. They followed his advice, and weathered the storm unscathed. When they arrived the next day, and before they could tell their story, Pio announced that he had been awakened by his guardian angel during the night, and had prayed for them.