Padre Pio's last days on earth
An excerpt from Padre Pio's biography
On Friday, September 20, 1968, Padre Pio celebrated Mass as he usually did at 5:00 A.M. He was extremely weak and was helped to the altar in a wheelchair. He celebrated the Mass while seated, with the permission of his spiritual son, Pope Paul VI.
An unusual thing began to come about. Prayer groups and thousands of his Spiritual Children began to arrive in San Giovanni Rotondo on Monte Gargano in southern Italy. There had been no arrangement made by the Capuchins, no organized gathering had been planned, yet his "children" as he affectionately called them gathered as if for some special occasion.
Despite his weakness he heard confessions until his superior ordered him to rest.
On Saturday, he was so weak he had to spend the day in bed. The crowds gathered in Our Lady of Grace Church to pray for Padre Pio's recovery. God had healed him before; surely He would heal him again.
On Sunday, the 22nd, he did celebrate his 5:00 A.M. morning Mass for all his prayer groups. Again he was wheeled into the church and celebrated Mass while seated. His voice was weak. It was apparent that he had little strength. In fact, at the end of the Mass he almost collapsed. He was helped from the altar by his brother Friars, and as he was wheeled into the sacristy he was heard to whisper, "Oh my children!" Few of his chil- dren realized that he had just celebrated his last Mass.
On that day, the crypt which had been made for Padre Pio was blessed by the bishop. Some years earlier, in 1959 at the opening of the new church, Padre Pio had said, "When the crypt is blessed God will call Padre Pio home." At that time, no one remembered his prophecy; they all felt he would be healed.
At noon, he came to the little window in his cell. His friars supported him as he waved his hand weakly and blessed the anxious crowd outside.
About 1:00 A.M. the following morning Padre Pio rang the little bell beside him. He was seated in an arm chair dressed in his Franciscan habit. His superior sent immediately for the doctor in Padre Pio's hospital Casa Sollievo Della Sofferenza. Padre Pio went to confession. His Capuchin brothers administered the last rites. He renewed his Franciscan vows. His rosary was in his hands as it always was. He fingered the beads. He was unable to say the Hail Mary, but he repeated over and over again the names Jesus and Maria. About 2:30, he opened his eyes very wide and said: "I see two mothers." (His earthly mother and his Heavenly Mother.) As he exhaled his last breath, he whispered "Jesus ... Maria."
Padre Pio died in 1968 at the age of 81.
The cover page of a famous Italian Newspaper in 1956, when the Hospital "Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza" (Suffering's relief House) was opened.