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September 23

Saint of the day:

Saint Pio of Pietrelcina

Patron Saint of Pietrelcina, Italy; civil defense volunteers; adolescents; stress relief; January blues; Italy; Malta

Saint Pio of Pietrelcina’s Story

On Sept. 23, the Catholic Church remembers the Italian Franciscan priest St. Pio of Petrelcina, better known as “Padre Pio” and known for his suffering, humility and miracles.

The man later known by these names was originally named Francesco Forgione, born to his parents Grazio and Maria in 1887. His parents had seven children, two of whom died in infancy. They taught the five surviving children to live their faith through daily Mass, family prayer of the rosary, and regular acts of penance.

Francesco had already decided at a young age to dedicate his entire life to God. At age 10, he felt inspired by the example of a young Capuchin Franciscan, and told his parents: “I want to be a friar – with a beard.” Francesco’s father spent time in America, working to finance his son’s education so he could enter the religious life.

On Jan. 22, 1903, Francesco donned the Franciscan habit for the first time. He took the new name Pio, a modernized Italian form of “Pius,” in honor of Pope St. Pius V. He made his solemn vows four years later, and received priestly ordination in the summer of 1910. Shortly after, he first received the Stigmata – Christ’s wounds, present in his own flesh.

Along with these mystical but real wounds, Padre Pio also suffered health problems that forced him to live apart from his Franciscan community for the first six years of his priesthood. By 1916 he managed to re-enter community life at the Friary of San Giovanni Rotondo, where he lived until his death. He handled many duties as a spiritual director and teacher, covering for brothers drafted into World War I.

During 1917 and 1918, Padre Pio himself briefly served in a medical unit of the Italian army. He later offered himself as a spiritual “victim” for an end to the war, accepting suffering as a form of prayer for peace. Once again, he received the wounds of Christ on his body. They would remain with him for 50 years, through a succession of global conflicts.

Against his own wishes, the friar’s reputation for holiness, and attending miracles, began to attract huge crowds. Some Church officials, however, denounced the priest and had him banned from public ministry in 1931. Pope Pius XI ended the ban two years later, and his successor Pius XII encouraged pilgrimages to Padre Pio’s friary.

Known for patient suffering, fervent prayer, and compassionate spiritual guidance, Padre Pio also lent his efforts to the establishment of a major hospital, the “Home to Relieve Suffering.”

Padre Pio died in 1968, and was declared a saint in 2002. Three years after his death, Pope Paul VI marveled at his simple and holy life in an address to the Capuchin Order.

“A worldwide following gathered around him ... because he said Mass humbly, heard confessions from dawn to dusk and was – it is not easy to say it – one who bore the wounds of our Lord,” Pope Paul explained. “He was a man of prayer and suffering.”





St Pio of Pietrelcina (d. 1968, San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy) (Relics: San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy)


San Salvatore in Lauro

(Holy Savior in Lauro)

Piazza San Salvatore in Lauro 15

Rome, Italy

*This church is west of Piazza Navona.

*Some relics of St Padre Pio are kept within a side chapel in this church. This includes both a vial of blood from his stigmata and a stole.

The church-shrine in San Giovanni Rotondo, Padre Pio's own church

the Shrine at San Giovanni Rotondo

Address: Piazzale S. Maria Grazie, San Giovanni Rotondo, (FG) 71013 Italy

GPS coordinates: 41° 42′ 29.2140” N, 15° 42′ 21.9852” E

Tel: +39 0882 4171


The Devil:


Besides his millions of devotees, is it not true that Padre Pio also had many enemies?


Don Gabriele Amorth: Padre Pio was much loved, but he also suffered the attacks of some formidable enemies. I am not speaking of his human enemies, who may have been led astray by falsehoods, prejudice or misunderstanding. Padre Pio's real enemies were the demons who besieged him. Contrary to some reports, Padre Pio always respected and esteemed his ecclesiastical superiors, and he always obeyed them, often at the cost of great suffering to himself. The great and constant struggle of Padre Pio's life was with those enemies of God and human souls, the devils who tried to capture his soul.


When did that struggle begin? Was it a physical struggle or a matter of internal visions?


Amorth: The devil is always pure spirit, but in order to reveal himself he takes on aspects which can be most provocative and harmful: fear, seduction, deception. From his childhood, Padre Pio enjoyed celestial visions, but he also experienced terrible diabolical presences. These tormented him in the most frightful forms. They occasionally scourged him with heavy chains, leaving him bruised and bleeding. Sometimes they appeared as gruesome animals. Many biographies recount Padre Pio's encounters with the demons. Did anyone else see these violent attacks? Amorth: Fortunately, Padre Pio himself described many of his encounters with devils. His accounts for his spiritual director in 1911 in the monastery of Venafro are particularly vivid. That was the first time Padre Pio revealed his rich interior life, both his ecstatic visions and his diabolical torments. Sometimes he spoke freely with the Madonna or the Lord, with no realization that other friars might be nearby or listening.


What did Padre Pio tell his spiritual director?


Amorth: The devil would appear to him as an ugly black cat, or in the shape of a truly repugnant animal. The obvious intent was to fill him with terror. Other times demons came as young girls, nude and provocative, performing obscene dances, to test the young priest's chastity. But Padre Pio sensed his greatest danger when the devil tried to deceive him by taking on the form of one of his superiors (his provincial superior or his spiritual director) or in a sacred form (the Lord, the Virgin, or St. Francis).


How did he protect himself?


Amorth: He learned a "rule of thumb," which we also find in the writings of St. Teresa of Avila, and which he taught some of his spiritual followers. He noticed a certain timidity when the Virgin or the Lord first appeared, followed by a sense of peace when the vision departed. On the other hand, a devil in sacred form provoked an immediate feeling of joy and attraction, replaced afterwards by remorse and sadness.


Did Padre Pio experience the presence of the devil in persons who approached him?


Amorth: Yes, in that he could clearly distinguish if a person's soul was possessed by Satan. He would then communicate the danger to that person alone. Crucial moments sometimes occurred in the confessional. During confession, he sometimes made a gesture as if to dispel something. Perhaps he was asking the Lord to liberate the penitent from a temptation or evil habit. St. Alfonsus, who was a master in such situations, suggested that in certain cases confessors could execute a mental mini-exorcism, before even commencing the confession. Many of Padre Pio's most difficult struggles with demons came about as he tried to rescue souls from diabolical possession, whether in the confessional or when he was praying for one of his spiritual followers.


May we consider Padre Pio an exorcist?


Amorth: Padre Pio never performed official exorcisms. He did, however, have an extraordinary discernment for souls in danger. Many persons allegedly possessed by demons were brought before Padre Pio, and his attitude changed with each different case. Let us say he could tell if the possessed was susceptible to liberation or not.


Once Padre Pio liberated a youth by simply pronouncing the words "Begone." But such sudden liberations were extremely rare. Another time Don Faustino Negrini accompanied a young person named Agnese Salamoni, who had been cursed for being the "model girl of the parish" and seized by a sudden diabolical possession. Padre Pio said a simple blessing over her, and that seemed to bear fruit. Don Faustino himself completed the liberation, after 13 years of prayer! It seems that Padre Pio sensed that her time for liberation had not yet come. •


Padre Pio's Stigmata




Pizza Margherita

Pizza Margherita with Tomatoes, Mozzarella, and Basil

This is the pizza that has made Naples famous the world over. It was first baked in 1889 in honor of the visiting Queen of Italy, Margherita, and topped with ingredients that recalled the colors of Italy's flag: red tomatoes; green basil; and white Mozzarella.

For the dough:

  • 3 and 1/4 cups bread flour, plus extra for the counter

  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast

  • 1 tablespoon fine sea salt

  • extra-virgin olive oil for greasing the bowl

For the topping:

  • 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 cup canned chopped Italian plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)

  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced (optional--in Naples they don't use garlic)

  • 3/4 pound fresh Mozzarella, grated (fresh buffalo's milk Mozzarella is traditional in Naples; slice it if using)

  • 16 basil leaves


  1. Make the dough: Mix the flour, yeast, and salt in a food processor. With the motor running, add enough warm (110°F) water (about 1 and 1/4 cups) to make a soft dough that rides the blade.

  2. Process for 45 seconds. Add a little water if the dough is dry or a little flour if it is sticky.

  3. Lightly oil a bowl, place the dough in it, shape into a ball and wrap. Let rise at room temperature until doubled, about 1 hour. (Or allow to rise in the refrigerator until doubled, about 4 hours; when you are ready to shape the dough, return it to room temperature before cutting it and shaping it.)

  4. Meanwhile, preheat the oven with a baking stone in it to 550°F.

  5. Cut the dough into 4 pieces. Shape into 4 balls on a lightly floured counter. Cover and let rest for 15 minutes (this allows the gluten to relax, making stretching easier). Using a rolling pin (or your hands for a lighter texture), roll into 10-inch circles; the edges should be slightly higher than the center.

  6. Top the pizza: Place 1 circle on a generously floured baking peel. Working quickly from this point forward so the dough does not stick to the baking peel (if it sticks you will have a lot of trouble transfering it to the baking stone) rub with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil. Spoon on 1/4 cup of the tomatoes and spread gently with the back of a spoon (pressing will make the dough stick to the peel). Season with a pinch the salt.

  7. Top with one quarter of the Mozzarella and 4 basil leaves.

  8. Stretch into an 11-inch circle with your hands, being careful not to tear the dough as you do so.

  9. Transfer the pizza directly to the baking stone and bake in the preheated oven for 5 minutes, or until the crust is crisp and the mozzarella is bubbling. Continue in the same manner with the remaining ingredients and serve each pizza as it emerges from the oven. Makes four 11-inch pizzas




Mousse di Limoncello

Light-as-Air Limoncello Mousse

Limoncello, a bracing lemon liqueur from the Amalfi Coast,
lends a summery note to some of Campania's favorite desserts.

For the Limoncello mousse:

  • 4 egg yolks

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 cup Limoncello

  • 1 cup whipping cream

To layer:

  • 1/4 cup sugar

  • 1/4 cup Limoncello

  • 8 ladyfingers

  • 1 cup fresh summer berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries)


  1. Make the Limoncello mousse: Beat the egg yolks, 1/4 cup of the sugar, and the salt in a large stainless steel bowl over a pot of simmering water. Whisk in the Limoncello. Beat vigorously for 5 minutes, or until the mixture is thick and triples in volume; it should mound slightly when dropped from the whisk. Cool to room temperature by setting the bowl over a larger bowl filled with ice, whisking constantly.

  2. In an electric mixer, beat the cream until soft peaks form; beat in the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and fold into the cooled Limoncello mixture.

  3. To layer: Combine 1 cup of water, the sugar, and the Limoncello in a small pot and bring to a boil; stir until the sugar dissolves. Pour into a shallow dish and cool to room temperature.

  4. Dip the ladyfingers in the Limoncello mixture until just soft. Break the ladyfingers in half and set aside.

  5. Spoon a little of the Limoncello mousse into each of 4 wine glasses. Top with 2 ladyfinger halves, more of the Limoncello mousse, 2 ladyfinger halves, and the remaining Limoncello mousse. Refrigerate, covered, for 1 to 24 hours. When you are ready to serve, garnish the top with the berries. Serves 4

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