FROM THE LETTERS OF PADRE PIO: LENT A TIME TO TURN OUR EYES ON GOD AGAIN
Written by Brother William Trauba Capuchin
Dear Friends of Padre Pio,
Peace and goodwill to each of you!
The anniversary of Christmas and the manifestation of Christ in the Epiphany have passed but within us is a desire and duty out of charity to give testimony to the revelation of these great truths that we have recently celebrated. This is precisely the purpose of the coming season of Lent: to purify our heart to be able to see and give witness to the great and mysterious revelation of God in his son Jesus. Lent refers to the forty days that Jesus passed in the desert preparing himself to give his testimony to the Reign of God in the initiation of his public ministry. Therefore, Lent is a time to evaluate the meaning of my life up to now and to renew my priorities and values and to decide again how I want to direct my life to a good end accompanied by a natural flowing witness proceeding from a faithful son or daughter of God.
Life is full of troubles. God as our Father teaches and trains us through many of these trials. Would that there be less, but the important thing is to give meaning to the fight during these hard moments in the hope of attaining the victory that Jesus promised to his faithful ones. Remaining faithful to our values for Christ during our sufferings requires our best effort. Yet it is not the success of our efforts that is the goal since no-one can justify himself, but rather the sustained effort in hope for the mercy of God which, in the end, is our salvation. This sustained hope and patience is easier when our goals are clear, attainable, and attractive. The ultimate goal in our lives is to love, and since love engenders life and life is a necessary requisite for happiness, our goal is to love and to receive love. We experience the attraction to this goal in our desire to be happy, but we cannot be happy or achieve happiness alone.
Lent is a time to go within ourselves and to “clean house” and to mend and heal our differences with others. Love is expressed in being faithful, so we enter the fight resolved to remain faithful come what may. Padre Pio in his letter to his spiritual daughter, Raffaelina Cerase, exhorts her to develop an attitude of faithfulness, of vigilance and determination to conserve her closeness to God during times of trial. His counsels are included in his letter to her written November 26, 1914:
Be steadfast and firm in your faith and be on the alert, for in this way you will avoid all the evil snares of the enemy. This is precisely the warning given us by the prince of the apostles, St. Peter: “Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith.” Then for our greater encouragement he adds: “knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the world.”
Yes, beloved daughter of Jesus, renew your faith in the truths of Christian doctrine, especially at times of conflict. And renew in a most particular way your faith in the promises of eternal life which our most sweet Jesus makes to those who fight energetically and courageously. You should be encouraged and comforted by the knowledge that we are not alone in our sufferings, for all the followers of the Nazarene scattered throughout the world suffer in the same manner and are all exposed like ourselves to the trials and tribulations of life.
Being always vigilant and faithful is not easy. It is often tiresome. It requires ascesis. During Lent one thinks primarily of corporal penances like fasting or late-night vigils in prayer. These means may serve to make the will more agile, but we also need to know how and where to direct our will. We need to illumine our intellect. In addition to fasting and corporal mortifications a mental ascesis is necessary. This may consist of readings from Scripture, the lives of the saints, or other spiritual books, audios, or videos that animate us to live in the Reign of God. If these measures are taking root in our lives, we see a third complement to the Lenten diet appearing: works of charity and mercy spontaneously emanating sentiments of hope and thanksgiving along with happiness in the soul. These positive experiences and expressions are necessary to educate our memory and so instill the values we gained in meditation.
Conversion is not just based on repentance acquired through meditation and the questioning of our customary values, but also implies an inner appropriation of new standards of reference. This change of course is facilitated by a profoundly inner experience that has more meaning that had our previous trajectory of life values. Optimally this is an encounter with the person of Jesus or “Kerygma”. Meeting our Lord at the personal level within us greatly clarifies the meaning of the “Reign of God” and how it is our future home as his sons and daughters. This new way of living begins each morning with our decision to walk with Jesus during the various tasks and events of each day.
The trials of this pandemic can be a stimulus that provokes me to reorder the priorities of my life. I can, of course, worry and spend time and money trying to get things back to normal as they were before, to things and activities that while satisfying in part, in the end, are so transitory and whose value depreciates with time and terminates with my death. This year in the context of the COVID-19, I wake up to the fact that my life is in risk of being shortened more than I had anticipated. This splash of cold water on the face can help me value people and activities that are most present in my life as it is now. This fear can inspire me to value my family more, to serve others with more generosity and to seek God with more necessity; to see him as present in all creation both as “Love loving” and as a companion in suffering; and what his most important, to see him as my Father loving me from the center of his heart to the center of my heart.
Your brother in Christ,
Fray Guillermo Trauba, Capuchin