Dear Friends of Padre Pio,
Peace and goodwill to each of you!
Where is God? And where can I meet Him? We ask this question many times as children and even as adults. One has the suspicion that there is something beyond oneself that one cannot see; we turn toward the heavens and encounter an infinity of space amidst innumerable stars. And what else is there? The Catholic catechism teaches that God is everywhere because all that exists is sustained by his loving it in every instant. That is, wherever God loves, something exists and where something exists God is there loving it. This implies that we begin searching for God with our human eyes but encounter Him with our heart.
The search for God is a transition from walking among what is material and temporal to the discovery of a reality that is spiritual and is structured and sustained by relationships of love. In more practical terms we begin the search for God by reading about Him and by meditation on what we have read. We encounter Him in meditation, communicate with Him in prayer and enjoy his presence in contemplation.
Padre Pio advocates these means as a way to find God in a letter to his spiritual daughter, Raffaelina Cerase, dated July 28, 1914:
I am horrified, my dear sister, at the damage done to souls by their failure to read holy books.
Listen to the way the holy Fathers express themselves when they exhort us to apply ourselves to this type of reading. St. Bernard, in the scale of values he established for his cloistered monks, recognizes four degrees, or means by which to reach God and perfection, namely, reading and meditation, prayer and contemplation. As proof of what he says, he quotes the divine Master’s own words: “Seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you.” He goes on to apply these words to the four means or degrees of perfection and says that by reading Sacred Scripture and other holy and pious books we are seeking God; by meditation we find Him, by prayer we knock at the door of His heart and by contemplation enter the theater of divine delights which has been opened to our mental gaze by reading, meditation and prayer.
Elsewhere the saint tells us that reading is, as it were, spiritual food applied to the palate of the soul; meditation chews it by its reasoning, while prayer savors it. Contemplation is then, the very sweetness of this spiritual food which restores the soul entirely and comforts it. Reading stops at the bark or outer covering of what is read; meditation penetrates into its core; prayer goes in search of it by its questions, while contemplation enjoys it as something already possessed.
Again, we note the progressive change from what is perceived with the senses to what is spiritual, from what is active (reading and meditation) to what is passive in contemplation. Reading the Word of God diverts our attention from the exigencies of this world and directs our perception to the things of the Reign of God. This is important because it is a transition from where we are here and now to where we want to be one day. And this “one day” begins with a decision to belong to the Reign of God, to enter into a conscious and deliberate decision to follow Him. As Padre Pio says, the reading starts scratching the surface. It is an exploration of what hope suggests. This skin or outer surface is penetrated by meditation on points of interest encountered during the reading. Further meditation puts us in contact with a learning experience or a new way of seeing things. This new perspective permits an enriched communication with God in prayer and is the impetus for our further conversion. Following this deepening of one’s relationship with God leads to a personal encounter with what and who we have been seeking from the outset. This something is in fact the Face of God. The interchange of long profound looks between the soul and its creator transforms us by the splendor, truth, goodness, and beauty of his Face. This encounter with the Divine Face will be our complete fulness and happiness for we will have found the sense of our existence, our individual origin and finality; our nothingness and our fulness in the one who created me and loved me from the beginning.
An innate hunger for meaning is also a search for God. This search is mostly blind at the beginning, but with perseverance in faith, one’s spirit receives more light and satisfaction in having come to know more clearly the road and where it leads. As one approaches the destiny the seduction intensifies. Spiritual reading is an accessible and effective to induce this seduction. This month of November lends itself to the search for God both because we celebrate the finality of things with the feast of Christ the King, and because the Advent announces the beginning of a new era of hope. A good and useful map will be the attentive reading of the Word of God.
Your brother in Christ Jesus,
Fray Guillermo Trauba, Capuchin