FROM THE LETTERS OF PADRE PIO: TO LIVE HERE AND NOW
Written by: Brother William Trauba Capuchin.
Dear Friends of Padre Pio,
Peace and goodwill to each of you!
Although it seems strange, at times we do not really know where we are, nor how we are, nor where we are going. We confuse our reality with our thoughts colored by fears, prejudices, and personal attachments. We want things to be thus, and we program ourselves to live in a false reality. It is not healthy to live in two worlds and the same time. This separation from our “trueness” in the here and now causes anxiety and increases the danger of accidents and lowers the defenses of our immune system. One stumbles on various levels and is frequently forgetful and incongruent in thoughts and actions.
Padre Pio calls the Ventrella sisters to attention and exhorts them to live in the present and not to confuse what they could do for what they actually do. Padre Pio’s advice can help us calm anxieties and understand where best to focus our efforts. His comments are found in his letter to the Ventrella sisters dated December 7, 1916:
This knowledge of possible unworthiness, which consists in our being aware of what we would and could commit when left without the assistance of grace, and which we have just spoken about, must not be confused with real unworthiness.
The former renders the creature acceptable in the presence of the most High, and the latter renders the soul detestable, because it is a reflection of the iniquity present in the soul; in the conscience.
In the shadows in which, more often than not, you find yourselves, you confuse the one with the other, and by knowing what you could be, you fear you are already what is only possible.
Being unaware of whether you are worthy of love or hate before God, is a cause of suffering, but it is by no means a chastisement, because nobody fears being unworthy when he [or she] truly is or wants to be such. This uncertainty is permitted to all the living by God, in order to avoid their being presumptuous, and in order that they move cautiously as regards their eternal salvation.
The words of Padre Pio can help us find our place before God. This placement is like a fine tuning which enables us to hear more clearly how God speaks to us and understand how to apply what he says to our real situation. Before the infinite majesty of and goodness of God all of us are unworthy, but the point is not to justify ourselves before him but rather to know how to open ourselves to his mercy. To imagine committing a sin or the possibility of committing a particular sin is not the same as sinning because there has been no consent to a disordered act. In fact, we should think ourselves capable of committing whatever sin because it is the truth if not for the grace and mercy of God.
Our preoccupations, fears, and attachments distract us from God and distort our relationship with him. Thus, we risk living in an unreal world and burden ourselves with problems that are not ours to carry. When we lose sight of Jesus our glance is most likely toward ourselves, and we usually dispose ourselves to accommodate our egocentric desires. When we are distracted from the face of God, we are one step away for sinning. By being distracted, we tend to be led by inner fears, prejudices, and attachments and to consent to actions, perhaps not bad in themselves, but without reference to God. Choosing these means without taking God into account separates us from him. This separation when conscious, constitutes a disordered act which we call sin. It is disordered because it does not lead us to God.
The comments of Padre Pio awaken us to the importance of living in the here and now, and although unworthy, to assume our due responsibility. The uncertainty of our worthiness before God is really an uncertainty as to our willingness and ability to open ourselves to receive his mercy which is always present and offered to us. In faith and with a sincere heart let us be bold in asking repeatedly for this mercy and not let ourselves be distracted from his face gazing upon us with an inner, heart-felt compassion. Imbued with his mercy, let us continue to walk the paths of life together and progressively unite ourselves to one another and to him who is our fullness, life, and happiness.
Your servant in Christ Jesus,
Fray Guillermo Trauba, Capuchin