FROM THE LETTERS OF PADRE PIO: BEING A FAITHFUL DAUGHTER AND SON OF GOD
Written by: Brother William Trauba Capuchin
Dear Friends of Padre Pio,
Peace and goodwill to each of you!
Saint Thomas of Aquinas said that a person cannot live long without some consolation. This great theologian and philosopher in the Church affirms what we already know and have experienced. We need consolations, affirmations, and pleasures from time to time for our emotional stability. The problem comes when we want these “candies” more than substantial food. When we are attached or dependent on those pleasures to the extent that they take us away from God, then we are at risk of being enslaved by them. The unfortunate consequence is a never-ending dissatisfaction and frustration in life.
Maintaining our emotional and spiritual equilibrium is fundamental for happiness. For sure, this isn’t easy to achieve and the proof of this abounds in the testimony of so many unhappy and suffering people in the world. We need persons who are models to teach us how to attain and maintain this inner harmony. One of these masters is Padre Pio of Pietrelcina and it is precisely on this theme that he counsels his spiritual daughter, Herminia Gargani, in his letter to her dated January 17, 1917:
Therefore, do not be upset, whatever your state. Let yourself be guided lovingly by divine Providence, whether he wants you to walk on land or in the desert, or through the waters of sensitive and spiritual consolations. Keep your bouquet in your hands, but if any other delicious odor presents itself, do not fail to smell it with thanks, because it is granted in order to avoid leaving you at length, without some spiritual comfort.
Be steadfast in whatever state Jesus is pleased to place you, so that your heart will belong entirely to Him, there being nothing better that this. Remove all the clothing of your imprisonment, by continually renouncing earthly affections and be sure that the King of heaven will give you real affection in order to draw you to his heavenly love.
I read in your heart a profound determination to desire to serve God, and this assures me that you will be faithful to devout practices, and to the constant effort to acquire virtue. But I warn you of one thing of which you are certainly not aware: when you fail in some way due to infirmity, you should not be surprised at all, but while detesting on the one hand the offence to God, on the other you must conceive a certain joyful humility at the sight and knowledge of our miseries.
These counsels of Padre Pio contain several subtle but important observations. The first and most fundamental treats of the importance of detachment from worldly concerns. This is custody of the heart and Padre Pio identifies it with the bouquet or perfume within the soul of a person that orients him or her to God and gives that person a freedom to walk through the desert or through green pastures, through the difficult and the easy without losing the way. When the basic orientation of the soul is toward God, then the other bouquets or sweet perfumes can help rather than hinder our encounter with Him.
The second counsel of Padre Pio expresses the need for humility in the face of our faults and shortcomings. He talks not only of being remorseful at having offended God, but also of having a certain humble joy at the recognition of our misery. This is the attitude of a child who has disobeyed this father and as a result has hurt himself. He is repentant and despite his error he is happy because he knows that his father will receive him with loving understanding instead of scolding him for his stupidity. I say receive him in love because what is important to that father is not the error of his son but rather that his son is now hurt by his experience of failure. To feel accepted by God despite our failures and obvious unworthiness surprises us and is a testimony of the quality of God’s love for us. He who is always faithful to the hope he sees within us as a person treats us with respect even when we are unkind to Him. We do not need to justify ourselves before God, only to be sincere and open to his love. The love of our Father is gratuitous and unconditional, and, in this way, his mercy is revealed to us in his compassion for us.
A third point is what to do when our normal ability to please God is surpassed by circumstances beyond our control like being sick. No one wants to be sick. Nevertheless, sometimes we just don’t feel right and become impatient and offensive to others. We behave in ways that we would never choose were we feeling well. In these circumstances our vulnerability is evident and if we still confide in the merciful love of God we are indeed blessed. A true son or daughter of God knows that he or she can count on the love of the Father even having sinned in moments of weakness.
So then, Padre Pio advises us to enjoy life by holding tight to what is most important, that inner bouquet of our Father’s love for us. Without taking our eyes off Him our goal, we can then taste his sweetness, smell his fragrance, and appreciate his beauty in every creature without harming our relationship with Him; and when we fail through weakness, rush to the embrace of his merciful love whatever the time or place. In his love we learn to love, and his faithfulness teaches us how to be faithful.
Your brother in Christ Jesus,
Fray Guillermo Trauba, capuchin