FROM THE LETTERS OF FATHER PIO: COVID-19 PEACE AMONG CRISIS
Written by: Br. William Trauba OFMCap
Dear Friends of Padre Pio,
Peace and goodwill to each of you!
The surprisingly rapid propagation of the virus Covid-19 has disrupted routine living on a world-wide scale as never before. How could something like this happen? This pandemic not only questions the capacity of our material resources and technical abilities, but also challenges our moral integrity and social values. Covid-19 has caused us to reevaluate the priorities in our lives. What was once normal has changed for most of us and will not return for a long time. So, what is the lesson that we are to learn from all this?
Trials can cloud or purify our discernment. They can narrow our horizons or expand them. They can harden our heart and cause us to be more insistent on our projects or make us more compassionate to the needs of others. Severe trials can also provoke a reprioritization of our long-term goals and a remorseful acceptance of the complete loss of short-term goals. Memories come to mind of when things went smoothly, and life seemed to conform almost automatically to one’s plans and desires with the means ready at hand. But things are not the same. There have been changes and there will be consequences. Our response to this trial will reveal our egotism or our compassion. This uncomfortable situation puts a new light on the course of our life.
Trials like this pandemic can accentuate the difference between two aspects of our daily lives: the temporal and material, and what is everlasting and spiritual. We become aware that we are not only flesh and bone, but also spirit. When we see how precarious this world is and how transitory is our stay in it, we are led to ponder the implications of the spiritual aspect of our nature and listen in a new way to that interior desire for life in its fullness. This pondering may result in the conviction that perhaps I was not made to stay forever in this world. In this context, we become more open to the exhortation of Jesus to seek first the Kingdom of God and the things of heaven. This point of discernment is the theme of Padre Pio in his advice to this spiritual daughter Raffaelina Cerase in his letter to her dated November 16, 1914. Padre Pio was 27 years old at the time:
In order to understand each other it should be observed that we have a twofold life. We have a natural life received from Adam through procreation and which is therefore an earthly and corruptible life filled with base passions and love of self. The other life is a supernatural one received from Jesus at baptism and therefore a spiritual, heavenly life by which we practice virtue. Baptism brings about a real transformation in us. We die to sin and are grafted onto Jesus Christ in such a way as to live by His very Life. At our baptism we receive sanctifying grace which gives us life, a completely heavenly life, making us children of God, brothers of Christ and heirs to heaven.
Now if baptism causes every Christian to die to the first life and rise up to the second, it is the duty of each Christian to seek the things of heaven and not to care about the things of this earth. The apostle St. Paul suggests this to the Colossians: If then, says this great saint, you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
Yes, the Christian is raised up in Jesus at baptism. He is lifted up to a supernatural life and acquires the splendid hope of occupying a heavenly throne in glory. What an honor! His vocation demands that he aspire continually to the home of the blessed and consider himself as a pilgrim in this land of exile. The Christian vocation, I say, requires that we do not attach our hearts to this miserable world. The good Christian who really follows his vocation directs all his attention, all his study to securing eternal possession. He must look on the things of this world below in such a way as to esteem and appreciate only those which help him to obtain eternal things and must despise all things which do not help him to obtain what is eternal.
We observe that Padre Pio focuses our attention on the goal that we are to attain as good Christians: life with our Father in heaven. The goal or end is what is attractive and justifies our investment of resources. Our goals are especially important for us or they would not exist. The favorable perception of these goals or dreams is what sustains me in my struggles and makes possible the employment of means frequently difficult and painful, actions that I would never have considered if the goal had not such importance. What is surprising is that Jesus risen from the dead presents this goal of union with our heavenly Father as a gift. In the face of this most generous invitation I ask myself, do I really want to gain the whole word at the cost of losing my soul? Or rather, can I really be content with mere material and temporal goods while knowing that God my Father loves me and offers me full life with him forever?
This pause in the routine of the world occasioned by the virus Covid-19 offers us a golden opportunity to reaffirm our most important relationship with God and to participate in eternal things, the goods of heaven. We are invited, not forced. Religion gives us helpful and necessary means or options to attain this relationship with God. Nevertheless, these ways that religion proposes often involve sacrifices and mortifications that are difficult to sustain. But we are again invited, not forced to take up our cross and follow our Lord. If we maintain our compass oriented toward Jesus, his beautiful countenance can help us bear with patience and hope the weight of these crosses along the way with a firm hope of attaining the goal which is worth every effort: that of satisfying our deepest and most inner desire to be whole and happy without limits; to participate personally and fully in the nature of God.
Your Brother in Christ,
Fray Guillermo Trauba, Capuchin