FROM THE LETTERS OF PADRE PIO : CONTEMPLATING THE FACE OF GOD
Written by : Br. William Trauba Capuchin
Dear Friends of Padre Pio,
Peace and good to each of you!
Why does it seem that when a person decides to be better and to change his or her life that things seem to go worse than before, with more temptations and new weaknesses? One would think that God would help that person more than before. Where is God and his grace for the person who wants to repent?
We would suppose that the grace of God is already present for that person and it is because of this grace that he seeks a better life. But although his mind and heart long for this beneficial change, his body retains a memory of that inappropriate behavior with all the associated seductive pleasures and emotions that supported those past sins. There is a need then to educate this memory. Moreover, focusing on the good to be achieved, the person frequently rejects or represses the evil that he wants to eradicate without the necessary healing transformation of the wound. The result is that the negative emotional charge remains in the memory and the conversion is incomplete because there has been no transformation of the negative emotions that supported the bad behavior, it was only put in ‘quarantine’. The unhealed wound is likely to suddenly reappear with more force than before. The need persists to educate the memory by way of positive experiences and acts of faith.
Padre Pio understood the exaggerated worries of his spiritual daughters for their sins. In his letter to one of the Campanile sisters is found his consoling reply to her anxiety. This letter to her was written on October 18, 1917 when Padre Pio was 30 years old:
Live humbly, sweetly and in love with our Heavenly Bridegroom, and don’t worry about being unable to remember all your little failings in order to confess them. No, my daughter, you should not affect yourself for this reason, because as this often happens without your realizing it, in the same way, without your realizing it, you pick yourself up.
Isn’t it said, and we have discussed this many times if you remember, that the just man doesn’t feel or see himself falling seven times a day. And in the same way, if he falls seven times, then he also picks himself up seven times. Therefore, don’t worry about this, but frankly and humbly say what you remember, and place it in the sweet mercy of God, who places his hand under those who fall without meaning to, so that they might not hurt themselves or be injured. And He lifts them up so quickly that they don’t know they have fallen, because the divine hand picked them up when they fell; nor do they know that they have risen because they were lifted up so quickly, that they didn’t even have time to think about it.
It seems this person had only minor sins and so Padre Pio counsels her to have trust in the mercy of God with a simple and sincere heart. His suggestion presupposes her fundamental humility, sincerity and fidelity to her ‘celestial Spouse. This goodness of heart heals her errant behavior interiorly and automatically because there is no hypocrisy in her heart where the negative behavior and emotion may hide. In her simplicity and sincerity, the memory has been secretly educated by her faith and love for God.
Although our sins may be greater than hers, we are assured by Saint Paul that the mercy of God is always available and is more abundant than our sins, but our receptivity to this grace is conditioned by the decisions that we make. It is surprising how much God loves us, and this surprise is very healing on the unconscious level and helps us make decisions in God’s favor. At times, this surprise comes about by an inner vision of the beauty of the face of God. In this glance toward our soul he purifies our heart and heals our wounds. This vision helps us to choose the greater good which is obvious upon seeing the beauty of God. This surprise educates our memory because it is an impact of unconditional love and wisdom in our personhood, the very opposite of the evil that had been hidden there within us.
Apart from the strategies mentioned above, if one is not able to maintain the interior glance toward the face of Christ because of the darkness caused by guilt or emotional wounds, acts of faith will do. These acts of faith can be brief repetitions such as, ‘Jesus, I trust in you,’ and ‘My God and my all’, and ‘A humble and contrite heart, O Lord, you will not spurn’. One can also offer little mortifications and sacrificial offerings of love to God which serve to purify the soul and dispose it to see the face of God. Remember that Jesus heals us through our wounds. His wisdom in this area suggests not to cover over or forget our woundedness, but to permit that these wounds be instruments of transformation in our union with Christ. This transformation is progressive and is by way of Jesus’s love, compassion, and nearness to us precisely in the context of our hurts and worse moments.
In summary, we observe that Padre Pio counselled his spiritual daughter to maintain her spiritual glance toward God and not toward her sins. May we too strive to see the face of God, and with this attitude of humility, sincerity and hope, in short time his peace will infiltrate into our soul and the light of his face will illuminate the road that we are to follow, which is always Christ Jesus. May God who is always kind and present and who never deceives nor abandons us continue to bless each one of you that you may ‘Taste and see how good is the Lord!’.
Your brother in Christ Jesus,
Fray Guillermo Trauba, capuchin