FROM THE LETTERS OF PADRE PIO: PRAYER FROM DAY TO DAY
Written by: Brother William Trauba Capuchin.
Dear Friends of Padre Pio,
Peace and goodwill to each of you!
May is one the nicest months of the year. Springtime rebounds with new life and this proclamation of Life living resonates with the new life the resurrected Christ introduces into our world. Our faith leads us to the astounding revelation that the resurrected life of Christ is our inheritance also as sons and daughters of the same Father as Jesus. We appreciate more than ever the hope that this truth births in us and how it pulls us into the eternal dance of all creation and gives to each a personal note to harmonize in one canticle with all creatures in praises of jubilee to our God. All this in the fertile springtime season.
Furthermore, beyond buds of new life and natural beauty abounding in this month, May is usually crowded with social activities and celebrations. All this incurs frequent distractions which seduce our interior attention away from the resurrected Christ towards the material and temporal beauty of his creatures. These activities although good and necessary to an extent, prevent us from living more profoundly the reality of the Reign of God introduced into history by the resurrection of Jesus. This is why Padre Pio counseled his spiritual daughter, Raffaelina Cerase, on the necessity of maintaining her inner vision centered on Christ. His exhortations are included in his letter to her dated December 17, 1914:
Never let your mind become so absorbed in your work or in other matters as to make you lose the presence of God. For this purpose, I ask you to renew very often the right intention you had at the outset. Now and then you should say some short prayers which are like so many darts which wound the heart of God and constrain him, if I may use such an expression which is no exaggeration in your case, to grant you his graces and his help in everything you do.
Do not sit down to a meal without having prayed first and asked the divine assistance, so that the food you are about to eat reluctantly for the sustenance of the body may not be harmful to your soul. Hence, as you sit down to table, call to mind some pious thought. Picture to yourself the divine Master in your midst with his holy apostles just as he was during the Last Supper before he instituted the Sacrament of the Altar.
To put it briefly, let us make an effort to ensure that the supper by which we satisfy the body may be a preparation for the altogether divine supper of the most holy Eucharist. Let all this be done without excessive spiritual fatigue.
We note two points that summarize Padre Pio’s advice to Raffaelina. The first and most important is to maintain God present to one’s soul before, during, and after whatever we may do. Given that Jesus himself said that we can do nothing without him, this exhortation assures us of a fruitful and abundant outcome of our efforts and projects. Our life is full of distractions, but each time we lose sight of God, or rather forget to take him into account in our decisions, we lose the opportunity to sanctify this activity. Sanctifying an action is letting Christ counsel and direct us in the elaboration of what we do. In this way our actions and decisions become means instead of obstacles to our union with God.
Padre Pio’s second exhortation is hidden in his expression to Raffaelina: “so that the food you are about to eat reluctantly for the sustenance of the body may not be harmful to your soul.” His attitude of reluctantly eating the necessary sustenance of the body is surprising to us who usually relish the food we choose to eat. This contrary attitude of Padre Pio adverts us that he reserved his hunger for spiritual food rather than for that of the body. His choice of tastes reveals his impetus to unite himself to God more than to comfortably sustain his physical wellbeing. Psychologically one can say that Padre Pio was sublimating his “eros” type love in his passionate desire for this heavenly food, to unite himself to Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. Moreover, Padre Pio cautions that the food we eat, although necessary for the body, dare not impede the good the soul. Implied is that one should leave the table a little hungry, this hunger being for the food of the spirit still left in yearning. So many times, after a tasty and succulent meal the satisfaction is so pronounced that its importance dominates our decisions. We want this satisfaction to continue indefinitely. Here the pleasure tends to become an end in itself and not a means to conserve a healthy life. We are in jeopardy of being a glutton. At this point it is so easy for feel no hunger at all for the spiritual food of the soul. We just want to enjoy life, rest, have another piece of pie, or take a nap, etc. We let our pleasures take dominion over us and risk becoming a slave to them.
So then, during this month of May let us review our focus of attention opting to take God more explicitly into account in our decisions and activities. Moreover, during the feasts of this month with its accompanying gastronomical delights we can verify that the food for the body is insipid in comparison for the food for the soul if we profoundly value eternal life over our temporal life. Food for the body is necessary to sustain our temporal and material condition whereas the second engenders our spiritual life with our Lord which is forever enduring. So, which food do you prefer? Your preference will make the other food insipid! Nevertheless, humility advises acceptance of both foods in their respective roles. May both be duly complementary for our complete good and life with God.
Your brother in Christ Jesus, Fray Gullermo Trauba, Capuchin