The Feast of the Stigmatic Padre Pio

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A Brief History

On this day, September 23, 1968, a man eventually canonized as a saint passed away…after having apparently endured the stigmata for several years!

Digging Deeper

Saint Pio of Pietrelcina (May 25, 1887 – September 23, 1968), a Catholic priest from Italy, was canonized as a saint by Pope John Paul II the Great in 2002, but his saintly life began over  a century earlier…

Pietrelcina, province of Benevento, the birthplace of Padre Pio

Saint Pio claimed that he began his devotion to God from the young age of just five!  His mother claimed that the young Pio could see and speak with both Jesus and the Virgin Mary.  As he grew into a man, Pio was eventually drafted into the Kingdom of Italy’s army to serve during World War I.  Nevertheless, due to poor health he was discharged, having only served 182 days.

Indeed, throughout much of his life he suffered from a variety of ailments from arthritis to bronchitis.  Yet, without any doubt, his most famous physical sufferings were reportedly supernatural in origin.  In addition to bearing the stigmata (the wounds suffered by Christ in his torture and execution; notice Pio’s hands in the photograph below), Pio also experienced physical torments brought upon him by none other than the Devil, at least according to Pio’s followers.

Padre Pio showing the stigmata

These various spiritual afflictions date back to his World War I service.  From then and on throughout the remainder of his life and even afterwards, they have been the subject of controversy with numerous commentators criticizing his claims as resting upon anecdotal evidence.

Despite the controversy, Pio remains a celebrated saint among Catholics.  Indeed, today, 23 September is recognized as the Feast of Padre Pio!

A sculpture of Padre Pio in Italy raised October 28, 2006

Question for students (and subscribers): Do you have a favorite saint in history?  If so, please let us know his or her name and why in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

To learn more about Saint Pio da Pietrelcina, you can visit his official website at and/or read one of the following books:

North, Wyatt.  The Life and Prayers of Saint Padre Pio.  CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013.

Ruffin, C. Bernard.  Padre Pio: The True Story.  Our Sunday Visitor, 1982.

The featured image of Padre Pio being helped by other friars is in the public domain in Italy because its copyright term has expired. According to Law for the Protection of Copyright and Neighbouring Rights n.633, 22 April 1941 and later revisions, images of people or of aspects, elements and facts of natural or social life, obtained with photographic process or with an analogue one, including reproductions of figurative art and film frames of film stocks (Art. 87) are protected for a period of 20 years from creation (Art. 92). This provision shall not apply to photographs of writings, documents, business papers, material objects, technical drawings and similar products (Art. 87). Italian law makes an important distinction between “works of photographic art” and “simple photographs” (Art. 2, § 7). Photographs that are “intellectual work with creative characteristics” are protected for 70 years after the author’s death (Art. 32 bis), whereas simple photographs are protected for a period of 20 years from creation.   This work is also in the public domain in the United States because it meets three requirements: 1) it was first published outside the United States (and not published in the U.S. within 30 days); 2) it was first published before 1 March 1989 without copyright notice or before 1964 without copyright renewal or before the source country established copyright relations with the United States; and 3) it was in the public domain in its home country (Italy) on the URAA date (1 January 1996).


About Author

Dr. Zar

Dr. Zar graduated with a B.A. in French and history, a Master’s in History, and a Ph.D. in History. He currently teaches history in Ohio.