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Childhood and adolescence

     Padre Pio, known as Francesco Forgione before he became a friar, the son of Grazio Maria and Maria Giuseppa Di Nunzio, was born on 25 May 1887 in Pietrelcina (in the province of Benevento, Italy) and the following day was baptized in the Parish Church of Our Lady of the Angels. His childhood, spent quietly in a modest Christian family environment, was not marked by any noteworthy events. However, some precursory signs are not lacking which were to make known throughout the entire world that remote little town in the province of Benevento.
     Francesco was barely five years old when he began to cherish the idea of consecrating himself to God for ever, with an impulse of fervour rarely found at that age, and probably without a full awareness of what was involved in such a binding and transcendental act. At this same age the first charismatic gifts and the devil’s first violent attacks occurred: “Ecstasies and apparitions”, one of his spiritual directors testifies, “began in his fifth year, when he had the idea and desire of consecrating himself for ever to the Lord, and these things were continual. When questioned as to why he had hidden them for so long (until 1915) he frankly replied that he had not made them known because he thought such things happened to everyone[ … ]. When he was five years old, the diabolical apparitions also began”.
It was perhaps at the age of eleven that he approached the Eucharistic table for the first time, according to the custom in those days, and on 27 September 1899, with ineffable spiritual joy, he was confirmed (cf. Letter 189).
     After the third grade at primary school, his studies suffered an interruption, but were resumed later at a private grammar school as far as third grade. Towards the companions of his own age Francesco was reserved without being peevish. He preferred to withdraw from their company. In the village he was known to all for his exemplary conduct and his attendance, morning and evening at the parish church.

(All from: Padre Pio da Pietrelcina, Letters I, Biography)

Religious vocation

Something was ripening at this time in his innocent soul. When he was fifteen he received an inward warning of the implacable struggles he would have to endure with the devil and, in point of fact, he had to face up to Satan when it came to choosing the path he was to follow, a decision which was enlightened by the delicate touch of grace. Twenty years later he still recalled with keen emotion the deep interior combat through which he had passed:
“Dear God! who can describe the martyrdom I went through in my inmost being? Even the memory of that internal combat makes the blood freeze in my veins, although almost twenty years have passed since then. I heard the voice of duty telling me to obey you, O true and good God! But your enemies and mine tyrannized over me, they dislocated my bones, they mocked me and caused me to writhe in agony” .
Having overcome all the difficulties placed in his way, Francesco Forgione was clothed in the Capuchin habit on 22 January 1903 in the novitiate of Marcone and changed his baptismal name to that of Fra Pio of Pietrelcina. On 22 January of the following year he was admitted to simple religious profession and four years later – according to the canonical rules which existed at that time – he pronounced his solemn vows, “for the one and only purpose” – as he wrote himself in the official document – “of attending to the good of my soul and devoting myself entirely to God’s service”. Thus, in the Capuchin friary of Sant’Elia in Pianisi, on 27 January 1907, he signed the pact of that consecration which he had foreseen at the age of five.

Ecclesiastical studies

Immediately after his profession of simple vows Fra Pio took up the studies necessary for the priestly state: rhetoric at Sant’Elia in Pianisi, philosophy at San Marco la Catala and Sant’Elia in Pianisi theology at Serracapriola, taught by Padre Agostino of San Marco in Lamis, and later at Montefusco and Gesualdo.      Nothing new was noted in his interior life at that time but as he himself says later, divine charisms were not lacking. On 10 October 1915 he wrote to his director:
“Your first question is that you want to know when Jesus began to favour his poor creature with heavenly visions. If I am not mistaken, these must have begun not long after the novitiate.”

Holy Orders

In his second year of theology, Fra Pio received minor orders (19 December 1908) and the sub-diaconate (21 December 1908) in Benevento. He was ordained deacon in the friary church of Marcone on 18 July 1909 and received priestly ordination in the canons’ chapel in Benevento cathedral on 10 August 1910. He celebrated his first high Mass in Pietrelcina on the 14th of the same month.