Padre Pio: 13 Facts About the Saint to Know and Share

Padre Pio is mostly known for his deep wisdom about prayer and peace; his stigmata; miraculous reports of his bilocation; being physically attacked by the devil; and mastering the spiritual life.

Worshippers gather to pray in front of the exhumed body of mystic-saint Padre Pio in the Catholic Church of San Lorenzo fuori le Mura (St. Lawrence Outside the Walls) in Rome on Feb. 4, 2016.
Worshippers gather to pray in front of the exhumed body of mystic-saint Padre Pio in the Catholic Church of San Lorenzo fuori le Mura (St. Lawrence Outside the Walls) in Rome on Feb. 4, 2016. (photo: Filippo Monteforte / AFP/Getty)

With a new movie in theaters, starring Shia LaBeouf, many people are looking into the life and legacy of the Catholic priest and saint known as Padre Pio.

LaBeouf himself has been so inspired after learning about Padre Pio and working so closely with Capuchin friars that he himself is currently in OCIA/RCIA, with the intention of being confirmed Catholic within the year. 

One of the most popular Catholic saints of the 20th century, St. Pio of Pietrelcina, commonly known as Padre Pio, was a Capuchin Franciscan friar, priest and mystic.

Padre Pio is mostly known for his deep wisdom about prayer and peace; his stigmata; miraculous reports of his bilocation; being physically attacked by the devil; and mastering the spiritual life. Some of his sage advice includes: 

A thousand years of enjoying human glory is not worth even an hour spent sweetly communing with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

Since early reviews of the movie debate whether or not the story is an accurate depiction of this saint, here are 13 facts about the life and faith of the holy Capuchin friar. 

1. Padre Pio was only 5 years old when he expressed a strong desire to serve God. 

Born May 25, 1887, in Petrelcina, Italy, as Francesco Forgione, he served as an altar boy at his local parish. At the early age of 5, he consecrated himself to Jesus. By the age of 10, his family looked to see how he could become a Capuchin friar.

2. Padre Pio was only 15 when he entered the Capuchin Friars Minor as a novice. 

Being a young teenager, Francesco was given the name Pio or Pius when he entered as a novice. He professed his solemn vows three years later. No stranger to suffering amid frail health throughout much of his studies, he was ordained a priest in 1910. He ascended the Gargano mountains to the rural friary outside of San Giovanni Rotondo in 1916. He remained there for 50 years, until his death on Sept. 23, 1968.

3. St. Pio received the visible wounds of Christ known as stigmata, just like St. Francis of Assisi. 

On Sept. 20, 1918, Padre Pio received the stigmata while praying in a church. The wounds remained visible on his body for the rest of his life. The wounds were on his hands, feet and side, corresponding to the wounds suffered by Jesus during his crucifixion. 

4. The blood from his stigmata smelled of floral perfume. 

Referred to as the “odor of sanctity,” the blood that came from Padre Pio’s wounds is said to have smelled like perfume or as having a floral aroma. The trait has also been exhibited by other saints who manifested stigmata markings.

5. Padre Pio heard confessions 12 to 15 hours a day.

While listening to confessions, the saint would smell flowers as sins were confessed. Some penitents waited two weeks just to visit him in the confessionial. Padre Pio could also read the hearts of penitents, reminding them of sins that were forgotten or omitted. The saint once said: 

“Confession is the soul’s bath. You must go at least once a week. I do not want souls to stay away from confession more than a week. Even a clean and unoccupied room gathers dust; return after a week, and you will see that it needs dusting again!”

6. Padre Pio suffered attacks from the devil on a consistent basis. 

From a young age, Padre Pio was blessed with heavenly visions, but he also experienced spiritual warfare, including attacks of the devil.

In a book written by Father Gabriele Amorth on Padre Pio, the famous exorcist of Rome said, “the great and constant struggle in the life of the saint was against the enemies of God and souls, those demons who sought to capture his soul.”

Father Amorth said: “The devil appeared to him under many different forms: as a big black cat, wild and threatening, or as a repulsive animal, in the clear intention to frighten him; under the appearance of naked and provocative young girls who danced obscene dances, obviously to test the chastity of the young priest. However, the worst was when the Devil took on the appearance of his spiritual director, or posed as Jesus, the Virgin Mary or St. Francis.”

7. He had the gift of bilocation, that, being in two places at once.

Multiple eyewitness accounts attest to the ability of Padre Pio to be in multiple places at once. Fellow friars remember seeing him in prayer outside when they knew he was still in his room. Some accounts come from others who claim to have seen him on different continents all over the world. 

As to how Padre Pio experienced such feats, the closest he ever came to an explanation of bilocation was to say that it occurred “by an extension of his personality.”

8. A sighting of a “flying friar” kept war planes from bombing Padre Pio’s town during World War II. 

Among the most remarkable of the documented cases of bilocation was Padre Pio’s appearance in the air over San Giovanni Rotondo during World War II. While southern Italy remained in Nazi hands, American bombers were given the job of attacking the city of San Giovanni Rotondo. However, when they appeared over the city and prepared to unload their munitions, a brown-robed friar appeared before their aircraft. All attempts to release the bombs failed. In this way, Padre Pio kept his promise to the citizens that their town would be spared. Later on, when an American airbase was established at Foggia a few miles away, one of the pilots of this incident visited the friary and found, to his surprise, the friar he had seen in the air that day over San Giovanni.

9. Before dying at the age of 81, all his wounds healed without scars, just as he had foretold they would 50 years prior.

A doctor examining the saint's body who was present when he was dying observed that the wounds of the stigmata were completely healed, without any trace or scar. Padre Pio's body was placed in a coffin in the church of the monastery to allow pilgrims to visit and pray. 

10. Pilgrims can visit the rooms in which Padre Pio lived. 

All the cells where Padre Pio lived in Italy have been outfitted with vintage furnishings to make them look exactly like they were in the early 20th century. Each site also boasts a small museum with relics and artifacts from his life.

11. Many miracles have been attributed to Padre Pio. 

Several miracles have been attributed to the saint’s intercession, including the story of Gemma di Giorgio, a little girl who visited Padre Pio. Born blind without pupils in either eye, she miraculously regained her sight after visiting him. One truly miraculous factor about her healing was that, although she could see, she still lacked pupils. Another miracle was chronicled on EWTN.

 12. He established a hospital.

Living a life of suffering, made difficult by physical pain and sickness, Padre Pio was able to build a hospital with the help of generous sponsors. Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza, which means “Home for the Relief of the Suffering,” was inaugurated on May 5, 1956. The hospital sits atop a hill overlooking San Giovanni Rotondo. Starting with only about 250 beds and just enough equipment, the hospital is now known for its state-of-the-art facilities and services.


13. Even before his death in Sept. 23, 1968, Padre Pio reportedly spent his last moments in prayer. 

Beatified in 1999, St. Padre Pio was canonized on June 16, 2002, by the late Pope and now St. John Paul II. He is known among Catholics as St. Pio of Pietrelcina. More than 500,000 attended his canonization by Pope John Paul the Great.

Video shows him celebrating Mass the day before his death:

Padre Pio, pray for us!