At the age of 15, Francesco Forgione joined the Capuchins and took the name of Pio. He was ordained in 1910 and was drafted during World War I. After he was discovered to have tuberculosis, he was discharged. In 1917 he was assigned to the friary in San Giovanni Rotondo.
On September 20, 1918, as he was making his thanksgiving after Mass, Padre Pio had a vision of Jesus. When the vision ended, he had the stigmata in his hands, feet and side. Padre Pio rarely left the friary after he received the stigmata, but busloads of people soon began coming to see him. He would hear confessions for as much as ten hours a day; penitents had to take a number so that their confession could be heard. Many of them have said that Padre Pio knew details of their lives that they had never mentioned.
Padre Pio died on September 23, 1968, and was canonized in 2002.
There’s a great little line in the gospel reading today that says, “Take care, then, how you hear.” It almost seems like a throw-away line, but really, I believe, it’s an essential instruction from Jesus. We disciples are to take care how we hear. Not what we hear, although that’s probably part of it, but how we hear.
Do we really hear the Word of the Lord? Does the gospel get into our head and our heart and stir things up? Do the words of Jesus get our blood flowing and our imaginations racing? Does hearing the gospel make us long for a better place, a more peaceful kingdom, a just society? That’s how it worked for Padre Pio, and that’s how it’s supposed to work for all of us disciples.
Psalm 19 says, “your words, Lord, are spirit and life.” We believe that the Word proclaimed is the actual presence of Christ. We are not just hearing words about Jesus, we are hearing Jesus, we are experiencing the presence of God right here, right now, among us. If we open the door of our ears and our hearts, we might just find God doing something amazing in us and through us.
Take care, then, how you hear.