FROM THE LETTERS OF FATHER PÍO: GOD IN TIMES OF STRUGGLE
Written by: Father William Trauba OFMCap
Dear Friends of Padre Pio,
Peace to each of you!
We are already coming to the end of the second month of the new year! But where are we going? If we run without knowing where we want to get to, we will wander about like vagabonds in this world. Isn’t our life worth more than to be wasted like that? So then, I ask myself, what is the meaning of my life? What or who directs my life? Is God an authority that guides me? If my goal isn’t eternal life, which only God can give me, I am wasting my time because eventually death will consume me completely. So then, where am I going with all my struggles, preoccupations and plans?
Padre Pio constantly maintained God as his inner light and oriented himself according to the insatiable thirst for God that devoured his heart. Padre Pio shares these sentiments with his spiritual daughters, Antonietta Vona and companions, in his letter to them dated January 2, 1918. Padre Pio was then 31 years old:
My good daughters, I strongly recommend those poor hearts of yours to your care. Take care to render them more pleasing to our Master day by day and see to it that this coming year is more fertile in good works than the one just gone by, given that at the same pace with which the years pass by and eternity approaches, we must redouble our courage and raise our spirits to God, serving him with greater diligence in everything that our vocation or Christian profession obliges of us. Only this can render us pleasing to God: It can free us from the big world that is not of God, and from all our other enemies. This alone, therefore, can bring us to the port of eternal salvation.
Let us face the present trials to which divine Providence subjects us but let us not lose heart or become discouraged. Let us fight valiantly and we will obtain the prize of strong souls. Remember, my daughters, the words the divine Master one day said to the apostles and which he says to you today: “Let not your heart be troubled”. Yes, my daughters, let not your hearts be troubled in the hour of trial, because Jesus promised his real assistance to those who follow him. … May Jesus make your hearts more and more his own.
Why don’t we follow these exhortations of Padre Pio with more docility? One reason may be that in not considering the authority of God we have lost our direction in life. Why is this negligence so common today? Perhaps it is because we have more options and abilities today than in any time in our history and all this gives us a false sense of power and freedom in such a way that we are led to think that we don’t need God nor any religion; that we don’t need any authority to tell us what to do or how to live. We may think that we are being progressively liberated by science and technology from our dependence on the customs and traditions of past generations. The modern person may easily presume that it is the poor and uneducated who need religion in order to have stability and direction in their lives, but we now have the means to define our own future by the power of our own hands. But where are we going or being led?
This sad profile of the modern person, if true, is a tragedy in the making. The popular belief that the advances of science and technology would enable us to supplant the authority of God is pure illusion and dangerous for healthy human development as well as for the common good of society in general. The advances of science and technology are not evil, but rather all too good! They offer us options and a freedom to realize our desires that often surpass our capacity to foresee hidden consequences and to responsibly employ adequate means in their development for the benefit of all. Some crazy person seems to always pass the limits of prudence or ethical responsibility, and his o her error, unfortunately, often sets a precedence for others.
Let’s examine some results of the modern mentality. In the first place, the effects of this euphoria due to the advances of modern science and technology are engendering a new set of values for today’s society that revolve around immediate pleasures without consideration for long-term consequences, and in the short term that person often prefers goals merely material and temporal. Secondly, God, religion and traditional values are relativized to the tempo of current culture in such a way that those traditional values are seen as artifacts of an age already obsolete. Thirdly, this person tends to be very egocentric. His or her imperial “I” becomes its own authority and reason for being. This results in an intolerance of pain, a lack of comprehension for the opinion of others, and little sympathy for those who suffer.
Where are we going or being led? At times, pride seems to cloud the light of our essence as human beings. One is ashamed and taken aback to think that only death may be the last brake preventing human perversity from creating its personal and collective hell here on earth.
Nevertheless, God despite being repeatedly stepped upon and misinterpreted, is patient and merciful. He continues to love us and conserves the hope that we will learn to believe in him, that we may appreciate that without him we can do nothing and that in him all our desires and longings will be satisfied. God hopes that we learn to be truly his hons and daughters and become willing to participate in this infinity goodness for all eternity. Following the counsels of Padre Pio let us try to place God as our authority once again and follow the testimony of Jesus to embark on a holy struggle to receive our inheritance to be happy and fully alive in his sacred heart.
Your brother in Christ,
Fray Guillermo Trauba, Capuchin