FROM THE LETTERS OF PADRE PIO : CHRISTMASS IN TIME OF PANDEMY
Written by: Br.William Trauba Capuchin
Dear Friends of Padre Pio,
Merry Christmas to each of you!
Without a doubt, Christmas this year will be like none other. The umbral of death vested as the Covid-19 virus threatens to suffocate our wellbeing and replace it with fear, insecurity, and anger. Christmas shopping, the exchange of gifts, and especially family reunions run the risk of being absent or very restricted due to the risk of becoming infected with this virus which discriminates against no one. Maybe for this reason more persons will be living in darkness, insecurity, and depression this year than in years past. Nevertheless, Christ is the Light of the world and comes to meet us amid this darkness and dread.
Padre Pio saw that not all suffering is bad if one considers its purpose. God permits pain and trails to purify the soul and dispose it for union with Him. Mortification, penitence, and reconciliation were exhortations of John the Baptist in the time of Jesus. Now, it appears that this exhortation is being proclaimed in another form by the Covid 19 virus for those who have ears to hear and eyes to see.
The purification of the soul through suffering was recognized and esteemed by Padre Pio in his spiritual sons and daughters. In his letter to his religious brother, friend, and spiritual director, Father Augustine de San Marco in Lamis, Padre Pio expresses, in a way surprising to us, his appreciation of these ‘chosen souls’ in their process of purification. The letter was written December 19, 1913 when Padre Pio was 26 years old:
For the approaching holy Christmas feast-days I send you with full heart and with more than filial affection my most sincere greetings, praying the little Infant Jesus for your spiritual and temporal happiness.
May the little Child about to be born accept my poor and feeble prayers which I shall send up to him with more lively faith in the next few days, for you, for our superiors, for the whole world!…
May He allow a little heavenly dew to come down into the hearts of those afflicted souls! For the moment I have nothing to suggest to them but can only say that their lot is enviable. Seeing them so afflicted is a source of joy to me and I feel a holy envy for them, the envy of emulation. They are in such a state at present, dear Father, especially one of them, that they are incapable of feeling comforted by any kind words that can be offered to them.
God has plunged their intellect into darkness, their will is set in aridity, the memory in a void, the heart in sorrow and depression, in extreme desolation. All this is very much to be envied, for it all combines to dispose and prepare their hearts to receive the true imprint of the Spirit, which is none other than loving union.
God is with them and to convince them of this it ought to be sufficient for them to observe that they have the will at all times to devote themselves entirely to God and to perform works in his service and for his honor and glory.
Not everyone benefits through being tried by suffering nor do all seek refuge in God during trials. For them, suffering leads to weakness and despair. Those that do benefit from painful trials are recognized by their zeal for God despite the great suffering they experience. So then, the important thing to remember for any person who is being tried is to abandon oneself to God and dedicate with a willing spirit all service and honor that the heart can muster. This is done by acts of faith which are sincere, conscious, and free even though devoid of any consolation. This level of faith is difficult because the pandemic has yanked us out of our comfort zone and has taken away our securities. We have become like children throwing tantrums and railing against God for his apparent cruelty. We demand that He return to us the candy and toys that we were accustomed to enjoy. Nevertheless, our Father always permits what is best for us and so we trust in his love for us and when we do, we come to see his wisdom at work. If not, our suffering without meaning leaves us adrift in the tenebrous night of confusion and uncertainty.
Faith-filled persons see and hear God present in his written word, through nature, and in the events of each day. They see God as always present and always loving. They experience a desire to repent of their sins and to heal interior wounds and to renew their hope in a future with Him. They have opted for the Reign of God and have renounced the Reign of this world. They have come to see the ineffable in the creature, the eternal in the temporal, and the spiritual dimension in material things. Their way of perceiving the world is unitive and they see God as love loving in and around them. These fortunate persons hear the groans of the Holy Spirit within them and use the trails of their lives as opportunities to love others and purify their souls for their definitive union with the beauty, truth and goodness that is God. Thus, they see the birth of Jesus as a light which illumines the portal through which our Father calls us to pass. For them, the Incarnation is a key that gives meaning to everything.
Brothers and sisters, in the midst the profound darkness this year, let us recognize the merciful hand of God intervening in our lives. This hand disrupts our routines and comforts, not because they are evil in themselves, but because the time has come to listen to the groaning from the depths of our spirit for life and truth around us and within us. We are reminded of the accounting that we are to give for our use of things and opportunities given to us. Only Christ Incarnate can lead to the fulness of life which is the basis for happiness. To heed this ‘call to attention’ is a personal decision. God is giving us and opportunity to reorder our priorities and to rethink our decisions in favor of the Reign of God. In this way this Christmas although more painful this year, can transform us towards a fuller life more than all the Christmases of the past.
Your servant in Christ Jesus,
Fray Guillermo Trauba, Capuchin