Dear Friends of Padre Pio,
Peace and goodness to each of you!
Knowing the goal or sense of one’s life is half the battle of getting there. The other half consists in the means we use, and these may vary considerably. For example, to build a house one needs a plan, then other elements such as building materials, money, workers, and the necessary permissions, etc. We erroneously think that we can build the Kingdom of God in a similar fashion and design our place in it. But Jesus has indicated to us that the way to his kingdom is a personal relationship with him, and not by our accumulated “merits”. His life and teachings show us the way to belong to his kingdom by being faithful to God through the practice of the commandments of love toward God and neighbor. What is lacking is our initiative which, in summary, consists in establishing a relationship of love and faithfulness with God and with the innate human dignity of each person.
Padre Pio was aware of the soul journey of his spiritual daughter, Raffaelina Cerase. He knew that she suffered from cancer of the breast and that she had just over a year to live. In a lengthy and profound letter to her he elucidates the meaning of her sufferings and how to view then as an act of mercy from her heavenly Father. Padre Pio does not specify what was going to happen to her, but rather guides her to view her suffering as a purification of her soul in a deepening relationship of faith with God. His final counsels to her are include in the last part of the letter written January 9, 1915:
The knowledge of God’s plan for you must serve on the one hand, to arouse gratitude in the depths of your soul towards so good a Father, so that you may give continual and heartfelt thanks to your heavenly benefactor. You should unite your praise to that of Mary Most Holy and Immaculate, of the angels and all the blessed inhabitants of the heavenly Jerusalem. On the other hand, this knowledge must serve as an incentive to lay aside all fear and not come to a halt halfway on your journey, because of the sufferings and trials which must be endured if you are to reach the end of this extremely long road.
The Lord has allowed me to show you all these things chiefly to prevent you from any uncertainty as you travel this road. Run, then, without growing weary, and may the Lord direct and guide your steps so that you may not fall. Make haste, I tell you, for the road is long and time is very short. Run, let us all run so that at the end of our journey we may say with the holy apostle: “I am already on the point of being sacrificed, the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”.
We note two principal points: In the first place, Padre Pio speaks of the necessity of knowing one’s road or vocation and the gratitude that this discovery inspires. This he gives gratuitously to Raffaelina. Supposedly this discovery would take place inside of oneself with appropriate introspection. This introspection is increasingly difficult today due to the many distractions, activities, and opportunities at hand. Rarely do we value time apart in silence and solitude which are necessary to hear the voice of God within ourselves and encounter him there. A spiritual director is perhaps more necessary today than before as a resource in helping to discern the events in one’s life for the spiritual benefit of oneself as is also more necessary the aid of a psychologist for one’s human development.
Secondly, knowing one’s vocation, opens the heart to invest time and energy to attain it, and this with haste. Thankfulness for this gift of knowledge and hope provokes an intensity in the search for God. Here it is important to discern the adequate means to fulfil one’s vocation to live in the Kingdom of God. The Reign of God consists of interpersonal relationships. Its architecture is not like that of the world where the architectural drawing, building materials, workers, and permissions are constitutive elements of the construction. These factors are extrinsic to the person. The Reign of God is formed by intrinsic human acts such as decisions that are conscious and free. These decisions configure our spirit and place us in the structure of the Reign of God which is the Body of Christ. We are the building blocks of the kingdom of God, and it is how we relate to one another in faithfulness and love that forms us and places us in this kingdom. The construction of this starts here and now with each decision we make. When these decisions are made with love and fidelity toward God and neighbor, we are placing ourselves in a relationship which is constitutive of a reality that we call the Reign of God. Thus, we begin to belong to the Reign of God which is the Kingdom of Life and does not disappear at death but perdures as loving and believing perdure since they are spiritual realities and not material. The result is that we experience the first steps of living in heaven while still here on earth!
The witness of the life of Jesus, and the writings of the New Testament delineate our road to happiness and fulness of life. But walking this road is up to us since we must “sanctify “our abilities by uniting them to Christ. This is done through our decision to follow him freely. As Saint Paul knew, it is brought about by relationships formed by faith expressed in love that we enter into union with Christ. This union begins in this life and perdures after death. This union with Jesus is the culmen of our desires. It is our full and complete happiness. It is living in heaven!
Your brother in Christ Jesus,
Fray Guillermo Trauba, capuchin