always recite the Rosary and recite it as often as possible."
— St. Padre Pio
My Encounters with St. Pio of Pietrelcina
On September 23, 1968, the 43rd day of my birth, Padre Pio was born into heaven. Our paths have crossed several times since then. The first time our paths crossed, as I recall, was in the early days of my spiritual revival in early 1992. It was at St. Dominic Catholic Church, Yaba, Lagos, my home parish in Nigeria where I had gone to the bookshop to find books on doctrinal teachings of the church on Mary and the saints so I could explain this catholic devotion to my Pentecostal friends. And behold on one of the book stands was the picture of this bearded man staring at me; it did not matter where I stood in the bookshop, it kept staring at me. When I could not resist any longer, I decided to take a closer look at it and that was the moment Padre Pio invited me to become his spiritual son-I did not at that time know there was a prayer group founded by him and of thousands of spiritual sons and daughters he birthed by it. This was the moment seed of my vocation to religious life and priesthood was planted.
The next major encounter with Padre Pio was late 1992 when I visited my benefactors. This family who lived across the road from my family house helped me spiritually and financially to get ready for my application to the Dominican formation house. The first thing I saw on entering their parlor was the imposing picture of Padre Pio with his famous “inviting look.” I felt called to the priesthood, to a crucified life with Christ when I saw this picture of Padre Pio on this particular day. I knew there was no turning back at this point, Padre Pio was definitively backing my desire to embrace the vocation to religious life and priesthood!
At my solemn profession of religious vows, I announced my name as Bernard Mary Pio and many of my brothers till this day still refer to me as Benny Pio! My connection to Padre Pio grew throughout my priestly formation years and I always sought his help and tried to imitate his love for the crucified Christ My ordination day was set for August 8, 2000 and by some divine “machination” midway into a novena to Padre Pio, the date was moved to September 23, 2000! It did not occur to me at the time that it was the day Padre Pio died, it was only in retrospect, after his canonization in 2002 that it occurred to me that it was not accidental that my ordination day in 2000 was moved from August to September 23, the feast day of St. Pio of Pietrelcina!
I am a proud spiritual son and a strong devotee of this holy man. I have experienced many graces through his intercession and pray others experience the same. His life is a reflection of Christ crucified. For 50 years he bore the stigmata of Christ Jesus on his body as a testimony to his closeness to Jesus crucified. His love for the Eucharist and the Blessed Mother is exemplary. He followed Christ faithfully and Christ lived in him. Padre Pio taught us how to love and pray to our Guardian Angel and to pray the rosary, a devotion we are called especially to in the month of October. St. Pio loves all his spiritual children, praying they make it to heaven: ”I belong entirely to everyone. Everyone can say: ‘Padre Pio is mine’…. Lord, I am staying at the gates of Paradise; I will go in when I have seen the last of my children enter.” Padre Pio, pray for us.