FROM THE LETTERS OF FATHER PÍO: LISTENING GOD IN THE MODERN WORLD
Written by: Father William Trauba OFMCap.
Dear Friends of Padre Pio,
Peace and goodwill to each of you!
Modern life is increasingly diverse, complex and fast-paced. Technology permits us to do more things more quickly the ever before, incurring an increasing risk that technological advances outpace our human capacity to assimilate their consequences and jeopardize responsible use of their possibilities. Among other consequences engendered by this situation, the average person in modern society tends to live with more stress and anxiety which negatively affects not only his or her physical health but also one’s emotional, mental and even spiritual wellbeing. More and more people seek an escape from this complex whirlwind of ideas and events.
Padre Pio, although he died scarcely fifty years ago, recognized even back then the increasing importance of the virtue of simplicity to maintain a balanced and healthy spiritual life. He recognized that being simple and forthright before God engendered other advantages in one’s daily life as well. In his letter to his friend and spiritual brother, Padre Augustin de San Marco in Lamis, Padre Pio comments on the importance and benefits of this virtue. The letter was written on July 10, 1915 when Padre Pio was only 28 years old:
Jesus likes to give himself to simple souls; we must make an effort to acquire this beautiful virtue of simplicity and to hold it in great esteem. Jesus said: Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. But before he taught us this by his words, he had already put it into practice. He became a child and gave us the example of that simplicity he was to teach us later also by his words. Let us empty our hearts and keep far from is all human prudence. We must try to keep our thoughts pure, our ideas upright and honest and our intentions holy.
We should also endeavor to have a will that seeks nothing but God and his glory. If we make every effort to advance in this beautiful virtue, he who teaches it will enrich us continually with new light and new heavenly favors.
Padre Pio saw the virtue of simplicity as a compass needle that orients a person to his center amid the complexity of noises, options, whims and necessities of everyday living. For Padre Pio this north or center is always God, visibly present and accessible through faith in Jesus. Padre Pio directs our attention to our Lord who practiced this virtue of simplicity not only by word but also by the way he lived. But more importantly, he contrasts this simplicity with the controlling impulse of human prudence. Although so natural a tendency, this autorreferencialidad frequently serves to make one’s life more complicated and difficult. This tenacious desire to control everything is based on fear and is one of the sad results of a soul separated from God whose authority is seen as an unjust imposition on one’s will. This person’s guiding star is his own wants or needs or those dictated to him by his culture or by his chosen values. This willful and self-centered attitude risks isolating that person even more and leading him or her to the inevitable frustration and desperation of living in a temporal word circumscribed by death. His inherent desire to live and to be happy without limits is confronted by this imperious enemy of life. This person’s persistent subjectivism engenders a divergence and diversity that adversely stresses interpersonal communication and cooperation. This person hasn’t come to realize that God is a loving God who is merciful to those who seek mercy and whose authority helps one create connections amid diversity which lead to an interior personal integration and convergence toward beauty, life and happiness. Finally, Padre Pio counsels us to have a pure heart with upright intentions. These upright intentions motivate long-term gains over short-term pleasures. The recompense for this spiritual discipline is a new openness to receive further spiritual insights and heavenly graces.
We don’t change until we make a decision, and every decision we make changes us in some way. Attractive ideas and good desires dispose us but without a decision there are no actions or experiences that our memory needs to sustain any change. The virtue of simplicity then requires our decision based on values which will guide us in taking effective steps toward reaching that goal. For Padre Pio the supreme value or goal is always God. Cultivating accompanying virtues enables one to ensure vital connections outside one’s self. This implies the need for humility to permit a trusting submission to God’s authority and to access resources to make these beneficial connections with one’s surroundings and to learn how to love and be loved; to learn the meaning of a redeemed complementarity with others. Virtues like simplicity, humility and wisdom together serve to form a plan of human growth and spiritual advancement that enable us to arrive, by grace, to the desired port of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Nevertheless, the plan is always easier than its execution. In addition to the virtues mentioned above one needs to add hope and courage in order to persevere in overcoming difficulties that the complexity of life presents us each day at times catching us unprepared. This courage comes from an impassioned love for the cross of Christ and has as its source the Holy Spirit. This impassioned love is directed in favor of the Reign of God, which is the growth of the life of Christ in each individual. When we are convinced of the priority of the Reign of God, our life will become simpler in a very healthy way and God will gratuitously give us all what we need for our salvation, which is the fullness of life. Furthermore, we will be giving a testimony of hope and thanksgiving in this complicated and desperate world as prophets of the new Reign which Jesus continues to build the hearts of simple people.
Your brother in Christ,
Fray Guillermo Trauba, Capuchin