by Father Matthew Mauriello –
Among the many blessings that came out of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima is the beautiful connection to St. Pio of Pietrelcina. He became the Spiritual Father of the World Apostolate of Fatima at the request of Msgr. Harold V. Colgan (1894-1972), who founded the organization in 1947 as the Blue Army of Our Lady of Fatima.
St. Pio was born as Francesco Forgione in the Provence of Benevento in southern Italy on May 25, 1887, the son of humble farmers, Grazio Forgione and Maria Giuseppina DiNunzio. He entered the Capuchin Order of the Franciscans in 1903 at the age of 16 and professed solemn vows on Jan. 27, 1907. In the tradition of “putting on the new man” (Eph 4:24; Col 3:10), his name was changed to Pius, or Pio, in the Italian language. Upon the completion of his studies, he was ordained to the Holy Priesthood on Aug. 10, 1910, and in Sept. 1916, was assigned to the Capuchin Monastery of San Giovanni Rotondo.
St. Pio was uniquely conformed to Our Savior Jesus Christ, when he received on Sept. 20, 1918, the visible stigmata, the painful marks in the same location that Christ received in the crucifixion. In the providential timing of the Lord, the timetable of St. Pio’s life and sufferings coincided with the events of the Fatima apparitions. From his childhood, he was devoted to Mary and had a tender love for her, calling her “my little Lady” or Madonnina in Italian. He prayed the Rosary many times daily and encouraged others to do the same. He said, “Is there a prayer more beautiful or more pleasing than the one she taught us herself? More beautiful than the Rosary? Always say the Rosary.” Some of the Capuchin brothers where he lived recounted that St. Pio would tell them, “I need my weapon.” When they inquired what this weapon was, he responded, “Of course, my Rosary!”
The message of Our Lady at Fatima of prayer, penance and sacrifice made a great impact upon St. Pio early in his life. With his conformity to Christ through the stigmata, like St. Paul, he could say, “I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:10).
He taught that sacrificial suffering gives glory to Almighty God and helps in the salvation of one’s neighbor. This corresponds with the Fatima message, since when the Guardian Angel of Portugal appeared to the three Fatima children in 1916, he asked that “prayers and sacrifices be offered to God.”
The Blessed Mother also asked the children to “Pray and make sacrifices for sinners. Many souls go to hell because they have no one to make sacrifices and to pray for them.”
Miracle cure through Our Lady of Fatima
St. Pio received a miraculous healing through the intercession of Our Lady of Fatima. In April 1959, he was seriously ill with pleurisy, bronchial pneumonia and as well had a cancerous tumor that required chemotherapy. He was bedridden for nine months and there were rumors that he was “deathly ill.” The Fatima Pilgrim Virgin statue arrived by helicopter at San Giovanni Rotondo on August 5 and, although he was very weak and needed to be helped there and back, he had the opportunity to venerate the statue in the sacristy the next afternoon. When the helicopter departed, it circled the monastery three times and St. Pio cried out, “Madonnina, since you have come to Italy, I have been laid low with sickness! Now that you are leaving, are you going to leave me this way?” The helicopter headed back to the monastery and the pilot later recounted that he “felt compelled” to do so. St. Pio cried out to Mary for help and felt a mysterious force surge throughout his body and declared, “I am healed!” This cure was so real and complete that he resumed his full schedule of duties shortly thereafter.
It is said that he spent 16 hours in the confessional each day. There, he helped people to receive the Lord’s mercy and resolve to make permanent changes to their lives.
After his healing, St. Pio sent a message and crucifix to the then bishop of Fatima, Bishop John Venancio. The bishop, in return, had a statue of Our Lady of Fatima made and sent to him and it was kept in the sacristy over the vesting table. It was greeted by St. Pio prior to every Mass and it was there that he would devoutly offer his prayers in thanksgiving every day after offering Holy Mass.
He remained serving at the Capuchin Monastery at San Giovanni Rotondo until his death on Sept. 23, 1968. When he died the words, “Jesus” and “Mary” were on his lips and over 100,000 people attended his funeral. He was beatified by St. John Paul II on May 2, 1999, and the same pope canonized him on June 19, 2002. During the Regina Coeli message after the Beatification Mass, St. John Paul II quoted him using these words, “Love Our Lady and help others to love her. Always recite the Rosary.”
May St. Pio, the spiritual father of the World Apostolate of Fatima, intercede for the members who aspire to follow his example of prayer, penance and sacrifice, united to Jesus and Mary.
Become a spiritual child of St. Padre Pio by joining Our Lady’s Blue Army. Members of the apostolate spiritually adopt the requests of Our Lady of Fatima for daily prayer and sacrifice, and devotion to her Immaculate Heart.
Father Matthew Mauriello is a priest of the diocese of Camden, Conn. He is an author, speaker and regular columnist for Soul Magazine. He wrote this article for the 100th Anniversary issue: 100 Years of Grace.