Dear Friends of Padre Pio,
Peace and goodwill to each of you!
When we want to do everything well and with perfection, we assume that God will help us. Yes, God does help us realize our good desires, but almost always not in the way that we had hoped or planned. We expect to receive his blessing without losing what we have already gained, but this isn’t always the case. One has to lose in order to gain. Or rather, the space within us that God is to inhabit must be free from any and all hindrance. God, being infinite doesn’t fit where there are restrictions or conditions on our part. Simply put, God does not fit in a divided heart. Our heart or spirit is already occupied with a multitude of good things: family, health, friends, a good and well-paying job, our talents, etc. The challenge is to employ these things as means to God rather than obstacles to his presence in us. Conversion is this process of putting God first and eliminating what is opposed to his presence and transforming what remains to holy and efficacious ways toward union with him.
In the course of our spiritual development our soul has to experience a transformation that is often painful and confusing. It involves a change from viewing what is known to what is unknown, from our way of walking to walking in the mystery of God, from being in control of our life to abandoning ourselves to God. God asks everything of us, but not all at once. God is not cruel and gives us time and opportunities to give over to him all that we are and have, in service to his merciful and life-giving love. This painful process of transformation is so deep that it can lead us to despair if we do not know what marvelous changes are taking place within us. A good spiritual director can guide one during the darkness of this transformation so that the meaningfulness of our fidelity to God is not lost. This is the situation of one of the spiritual daughters of Padre Pio, Jeronima Longo. Padre Pio enlightens her darkness and orients her on her way to God in his letter to her written April 15, 1918. Padre Pio comments:
I have neither adequate words or feelings with which to thank the Lord’s goodness who so lovingly takes care of you and protects you. I see very clearly, my good daughter, that he has chosen you to be close to him, even though you have no merit in this. By now you can be sure that he wants to take complete possession of your heart, and he wants it to be pierced with suffering and love, like his. Your infirmity, contractions of the heart, caresses, holy flames, temptations, aridity and desolation all come from this ineffable live. And when the evil one wants to persuade you that you are a victim of his assaults, or of divine abandonment, don’t believe him because he is suggesting something that is not true; he wants to trick you.
It is not true that you sin; it is not true that you disgust the Lord and therefore, it is not true that the Lord has not forgiven you your faults, your deviations in the past.
Divine grace is with you, and you are very dear to the Lord. Those shadows, fears, and convictions to the contrary, are diabolical tricks which you must reject in the name of holy obedience.
The commentary continues: It isn’t easy to see as Padre Pio sees. One must have a pure heart to see God and discern his workings. The person who suffers this purification should strive to be humble and strong at the same time and follow the direction of his or her spiritual director, being oneself blind to this process of interior purification. But little by little, the fruits will prove the efficacy of such austere and asperous trials.
During these moments of darkness and suffering one should not make important decisions. Rather, it is better to share with Jesus all that one feels and exercise as much patience as possible. As long as there is resistance to his work, the suffering and darkness will continue. The natural tendency is to think, as in the case of Jerónima, that one is suffering the consequences of one’s own sinfulness or that God is chastising one for infidelities which are never lacking. But a wise discernment will note that the heart is not seeking anything other than pleasing God and that in the midst of these tribulations it continues to beg God’s mercy and it doesn’t seek consolations other than God. The soul says all is for God or nothing else will have meaning!
Activities that occupy the body can help ease the anxiety during this period. The body helps us be centered in the present and this is important since encounters with God always occur in the present moment. Bodily activity also aids clear thinking and helps imperious thoughts cede to the intimate desires of the heart for God which now knows how to affirm good intentions in the absence of corresponding sentiments. The soul begins to live in faith.
As this dark night gradually give way to the dawn, the soul begins to sense a deep peace, hope, and gratitude. In the decisions the soul makes, it senses a deep and abiding peace in God’s presence. Then, with a heart filled with gratitude, it becomes aware that it is no longer asking what God can do for it but rather asking what it can do for him!
Your brother in Christ Jesus,
Fray Guillermo Trauba, Capuchin