FROM THE LETTERS OF PADRE PÍO : DESPAIR IN THE FACE OF ADVERSITY
Written by: Br. William Trauba Capuchin
Dear Friends of Padre Pio,
Peace and wellbeing to each of you!
What do we do when everything seems without hope? Most people curse the situation, at least inwardly, others blame persons or circumstance or even God for their situation, and others simply cry or despair. A few people abandon themselves to God by acts of faith and plead his mercy. Note that those who become angry or despairing or blame others do so from an egocentricity, as if everything depended on them and if they could not get their way they place the blame outside of themselves to conserve that “I would have been able if only …”. That last group of persons who abandon themselves to God by acts of faith are those who trust in a God of mercy and goodness irrespective of their feelings to the contrary.
Although it may seem strange, Padre Pio, despite his intimacy with God, suffered much desolation in his spiritual life. This suffering was a purification of his soul so that he would be able to see God more closely. This ‘seeing God more closely’ was a greater reward for him than all the pain of his sufferings. This intimacy with God permitted him to give a testimony of the love and compassion on the part of God to the sick and suffering and so complete his extraordinary mission of healing and prophecy to which he had been called.
Padre Pio expresses his agony in his dark night together with the help that sustained him in a letter to his spiritual director, fray Benedetto de San Marco in Lamis, dated June 4, 1918. His commentaries perhaps will resonate with the desolation that we sometime feel and so can orient us to move forward without losing the sense of our relationship with God:
My supreme Good, where are you? I no longer know you or find you, but I must necessarily seek you, you who are the life of my dying soul. My God, my God! – I can no longer say anything else to you – why have you forsaken me? I am aware of nothing but this abandonment, I am ignorant of all else, even of life, which I am unaware of living.
My dear Father, don’t abandon me in this heartrending agony. I am on the point of being lost. I am about to be ground to powder beneath the heavy hand of a God who is justly angry with me. Remember that the Lord entrusted me to your care, to be guided, comforted, and saved. Remember that from the moment at which the Lord entrusted me to you I have considered you as the father of my soul, declaring before heaven all my filial tenderness towards you which I feel and cherish up to this moment, always attentive to your assurances and teachings with the greatest eagerness.
O my dear Father, come to my assistance! I would like to pour out my whole soul on this paper if it were possible, my whole soul which is wasting away, but you know very well that I am unable to do this, that I am painfully powerless. I merely cry out and from this you will understand the extent of my poverty and lowliness, my misery and indigence. Implore help for me from heaven: perfect conformity with the divine and holy designs although these are concealed from me; resolute, constant and unshaken docility where obedience is concerned, which is my one support in the raging storm, the only raft to which I can cling in this spiritual shipwreck.
Amidst all the darkness in the lamentations of Padre Pio a light shines forth. Padre Pio knew where to place his trust. He did not despair. He did not blame other people nor exterior circumstances. Rather the gave meaning to his sufferings and used them to unite himself to God in the darkness. He hung on to faith and practiced obedience to remain faithful to God in and through his sufferings. For Padre Pio, his sufferings united to those of Jesus crucified became an act of extreme and passionate loving.
In the end, it is faith that unites to God as indicated by Saint John of the Cross. This is so because any concept of God or sentiment about God is a bridge created and limited. Such a connection cannot join the finite with the infinite. Only faith, which is the submission, conscious and free, of our will to that of God can do this. Pure faith yes, but faith in the testimony of Jesus. This faith implies a decision to abandon oneself to God, to his mercy. The expression of this faith is charity and obedience to legitimate authority. This faith and obedience permit us to give meaning to the struggle, to be faithful to God and to our responsibilities to ourselves and Ato those of others. Obedience is an act of faith because we neither have evidence nor reason to sustain our efforts other than the word of promise of the person in whom we have put our trust. Let this person, of course, be Jesus.
So then, when our soul is in agony, let us make these acts of faith and obey God through serving the authorities which he has indicated to us. Furthermore, let us repeat the best counsel given to us by our mother Mary: “let it be done unto me according to your word.”. Amen.
Your brother in Christ,
fray Guillermo Trauba, Capuchin