FROM THE LETTERS OF PADRE PIO: GROWING UP IN THE SPIRITUAL LIFE
Written by: Br. William Trauba Capuchin
Dear Friends of Padre Pio,
Peace and goodwill to each of you!
All of us are born with an instinct to live and to be happy. These instincts are innate and are consequences of being created good by a God who loves me personally. These instincts help us organize our life to realize our fondest dreams. Nevertheless, the ignorance and insecurity of our ego wounded by looking away from God, the source of all life and happiness, distort this organization oftentimes into two extremes: either the tendency to be perfect or the tendency towards anger and despair upon experiencing one’s powerlessness to make happen what one proposes. These extremes result form a pride in which the ego presumes total control. If I believe this false sense of total control, God (and other authorities as well) have a muted voice in my life and I run the risk will following the whim of my desires of the moment, which usually are sensual pleasures. One can easily become dependent upon these false substitutes for happiness and become an avid participant in the world’s disorder. This is what happens when I let my interior gaze depart from the love of God towards me.
Padre Pio saw these tendencies as weaknesses devolving from our imagination and strategies of the devil that combine to deviate us from our fecund and transforming relationship of love with God. Padre Pio discusses this theme with his spiritual daughter, Raffaelina Cerase, in his letter to her dated August 15, 1914:
I insist once again that you are not to listen by any means to what your imagination and the devil suggest to you. Your own fancy and the devil would like to have you believe that you ae continually offending God and that you always or nearly always resist the divine call. The ever-present grace of the heavenly Father keeps you quite far from falling into similar infidelities. Be quite sure of this. I assure you that such thoughts come from nowhere else than your own imagination and the devil. Be careful not too attach any importance to them; their only purpose is to cool your feelings of affection towards your heavenly Spouse, to make Christian perfection appear irksome by representing it as difficult and impossible for you. Worse still, they aim more directly at drying up and causing to wither every sentiment of devotion in your heart.
Once again one marvels at the perspicuity and wisdom of Padre Pio in his discernment and counsel regarding the spiritual needs of Raffaelina. Padre Pio appeals to the relationship of love between the Father and Raffaelina as the light that reveals the errors of the imagination and the astuteness of the devil. He says that if she maintains this relationship of love and fidelity with God, she will not let herself be led neither by the illusory need for perfection proposed by her imagination nor by the tendency to despair emanating from the devil. Moreover, Padre Pio exhorts her to convince herself of this as if this conviction were fundamental to her soul in maintaining itself from falling into one of these two extremes. Once convinced of the danger, the next step is for her to give little importance to these temptations and focus her interior attention on the relationship of love and faithfulness of the Father toward her. From this perspective of being loved unconditionally, she will gain a confidence in her relationship with God that will give her humility, good judgment, and valor to order her life appropriately to deepen her union with Him.
Padre Pio also exhorts her not to ignore neither her affection for the Father nor her attention to the inspirations that the Father sends her. Padre Pio understands that progress in our spiritual growth is based on the light that our intellect receives from God and is fortified by our affection for Him. If we doubt the efficacy of these two fundamental lines of spiritual nutrition, the impetus for our spiritual growth will be truncated.
Good discernment is always recommended to validate an inspiration or feeling. The criterion for this good discernment is precisely an attentive docility and appreciation in one’s relationship to God as our Father who loves us. The context of this relationship makes Jesus present and animates us through the Holy Spirit. The frequent purification and affirmation of our foundational relationship with the Father interiorizes his love for us so that it may be a guiding light in all situations. Eventually one comes to see the events of each day not as chance happenings but rather as food that our Father sets before us to assimilate and digest, to help us grow strong in acting and merciful in loving. All that happens to us has sense and value. Wisdom helps us expand our consciousness to appreciate how everything is purposefully interrelated in this way.
So then, in our daily life let us affirm again and again God’s unconditional love for us as his sons and daughters. With a grateful heart and firm conviction to attend to the Spirit’s inspirations, we gently put aside the doubts regarding my worthiness or capacity to do the impossible. God does not ask us to do the impossible nor does He ask us to be perfect. Rather, He asks us to be faithful to Him in a relationship of love purified through fidelity in trials and to try to please Him with a humble and contrite heart.
Your Brother in Christ,
Fray Guillermo Trauba, Capuchin