FROM THE LETTERS OF PADRE PÍO: DOCILITY TO THE WILL OF GOD
Written By: Br. William Trauba , Capuchin
Dear Friends of Padre Pio,
Peace and goodwill to each of you!
What is a contemplative person? We would probably think first of monks in a monastery or some person sitting or kneeling devoutly and motionless for hours on end in some chapel or solitary place. Perhaps one might think of Saint John of the Cross, Saint Teresa of Avila or, of course, Padre Pio. We do not often realize that we are all called to be contemplatives, to contemplate the face of God without obstacles in between and without conditions; to experience union with God is our inheritance as his sons and daughters. This simplicity and union with God are the essence of being contemplative.
Nevertheless, in practice, being simple is overly complicated. Distractions, fears, attachments, and prejudices steal our interior gaze of the face of God in favor of exterior whims and preoccupations. The sad result is that we forget about God and act as if he were nonexistent.
Herminia Gargani, a spiritual daughter of Padre Pio, was a schoolteacher. Her students were difficult to control and often caused her to lose patience. In her desperation she sought the advice of Padre Pio who responded to her request and counselled her how to maintain her interior gazes fixed in Jesus amidst her duties as a teacher. In effect, Padre Pio instructed her how to adopt a contemplative attitude regarding her students amidst her interior battles. His advice to her is conserved in his letter to her dated June 11, 1918:
Oh, my daughter, do not be tender with yourself: Tender mothers ruin their children. Do not complain and cry easily. Do not be surprised at this importunity and violence, which you notice with great suffering. No, my daughter, do not be surprised. God permits it in order to render you humble with a true humility, abject and vile in you eyes, in which you must seek nothing except God; diverting the spirit from the creature to the Creator and with continual affection for most holy humility and simplicity of heart.
Treat your neighbor well and don’t get angry. When necessary, say these words of the divine Master: “I love my neighbors, oh Eternal Father, because you love them”, and you gave them to me as brothers, and you want me to love them as you do. In a particular way love those children, your disciples, to whom the very hand of divine providence accompanied you and united you with a heavenly binding. And do not be surprised at those little attacks of impatience, because there is no guilt in this except when preceded by reflex will, that is being aware of it without doing your best to calm yourself. Bear with those poor children, caress them also, keep them in your very own heart, my dearest daughter, as I keep you in mine, having and extremely great and most particular desire for your spiritual perfection, God himself having obliged me to do this.
Herminia had a tough life and as a result at times was anxious and impatient with others. At one time she wanted to marry but the parents of her boyfriend did not give him permission to do so. He despaired and committed suicide by ingesting poison. Hermina was able to procure his confession before he died. Years later, Herminia wanted to enter religious life despite strong opposition from her parents. Nevertheless, she entered the convent but that caused such a furor on the part of her parents that after consulting Padre Pio she left the convent and returned home following the advice of Padre Pio to avoid a scandal. She continued her career as a schoolteacher with much determination and success. She died suddenly of a heart attack in 1962 at the age of 79.
Let us look at the many counsels of Padre Pio to her. First, Padre Pio advises her to be humble. After this most important first step, he exhorts her to have a realistic appreciation of her misery and limits in order to dispose her to abandon herself to God rather than to despair. Next, he urges her to change her perception from the creature to the Creator with continual desires for humility and simplicity of heart. He urges her to cultivate goodwill toward others, to control her anger by employing ejaculatory prayers to interiorize a love for difficult persons and to see them and her sisters and brothers, and to consider in all this as the means that God has given her in order to attain holiness, that is, to recognize and accept her vocation. Moreover, Padre Pio exhorts her not to be surprised by her emotions and educated her conscience in avoiding unhealthy guilt by adverting that a negative emotion is not imputed as a sin if it is not desired or consented. Finally, to give her more confidence to accept and internalize all that he has said, Padre Pio expresses his affection and loyalty toward her indicating that he is acting on the part of God.
A person begins to experience contemplation when one is attentive to what IS in the here and now, in the present moment. The perception and admiration of truth, goodness and beauty in every creature is at times so intense that there are no words to express it. One feels overcome, as if in a different world, on mount Tabor with Jesus… yet at the same time there is a deep interior peace and joy because God is present. One wishes that the moment would never end, but it usually does. With patience, docility and attentiveness, God instructs the soul on how to look upon his face without distractions. This is when our mutual gaze with God transforms us to participate in his divinity.
Your brother in Christ,
Fray Guillermo Trauba, Capuchin