Dear Friends of Padre Pio,
Happy New Year to each of you!
Like Christmas, the New Year presents us with ample hope and expectations. But curiously, these illusions that animate us so come from two kingdoms very different. We can imagine ourselves happy with what the world may give us during this new year. Other persons envisage themselves happy belonging more to God and his Kingdom during the new year. Perhaps most persons imagine themselves content with whatever they can get from either world without giving much thought to the incongruence implied in serving two masters. Whatever our posture, this new year will challenge our expectations. When we do not obtain what we strive for we become sad. This is a perception of loss within us. The intensity and duration of our sadness depend in part on external circumstances, but the rest depends on our ability to give positive meaning to what happens to us.
Padre Pio considers that sadness as an emotion is neither good nor bad in itself but is a factor that can separate ourselves form others and from God, or one that enables us to move onward in our spiritual development. In his letter to his spiritual daughter Raffaelina Cerase, Padre Pio offers his reflections on the effects of sadness. His comments to her are expressed in his letter to her written November 26, 1914:
Don’t allow any sadness to dwell in your soul, for sadness prevents the Holy Spirit from acting freely. If we insist on being sad, then let it be a holy sadness at the sight of the evil that is spreading more and more in society nowadays. How many poor souls are every day deserting God, our Supreme Good!
To refuse to submit one’s own judgment to that of others, especially to those who are quite expert in the field in question, is a sign that we possess very little docility and an all too obvious sign of secret pride. You know this yourself and you agree with me. Well, then, take heart and avoid falling into this fault again. Keep your eyes wide open for this wretched vice, knowing how much it displeased Jesus, for it is written the God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
Padre Pio comments on three aspects of sadness. In the first place he says that sadness impedes the action of the Holy Spirit. Sadness distracts us; our perception is fixed on what we have lost and cannot recover. This creates anxiety in us and is a sort of spiritual noise that renders us deaf to the subtle voice of God within us. We are oblivious to the fact that God is disposed to give us more than we have lost if we permit him to do so.
Secondly, Padre Pio laments the perdition in society during his time. If he had reason to be sadden because of the low moral quality of social life in his time, more so in our modern era. The measure of evil is proportionate to the size of the good perverted. Today we have abilities very superior to those of Padre Pio’s time and so the misuse of these goods causes more harm to more people than previously. The communication media, scientific and technical achievements, and advances in the human sciences have surprisingly increased our ability to understand and manipulate nature and so also their misuse and consequent harmful effects have increase proportionately since the time of Padre Pio. Sadly, it seems that the two kingdoms, that of God and the other of the World are separating more and more in our modern society. This sense of losing the battle can bring us to frustration, anger, and despair, and even to a moral indifference. But this difficult situation can also lead us toward compassion for those who suffer. The difference is that in the first scenario one becomes entrapped by his or her anger and despair follows. That person attempted to appropriate to him or herself more power than they were able to acquire. Let us pray that our society regain God-oriented ethical values and the responsible use of the freedom obtained in the recent advances of science and technology.
Finally, Padre Pio notes that sadness can also be a symptom of secret pride. When the ego appropriates too much to itself, the person presumes that everything depends upon her or himself. Consequently, when something goes wrong, the person is the only one responsible for the failure and has the feeling that all is lost. One becomes saddened and frustrated that things did not go as planned. The person can become hardheaded, hard-hearted and indifferent to the advice of others. In truth, the person appropriated to her or himself the ability that belongs only to God and forgot that without God we can do nothing.
In summary, each of us will have to confront the reality of feeling sad during this new year. Being aware of the values we employ in processing our sadness, whether from those of the world or those of the Kingdom of God, can help prevent a depression and guide us into a transformation the leads to compassion. Humility and sincerity in confronting sadness help us to form bonds of love and fidelity with others. It is through these relations that the Reign of God is constructed and in them there is a fecund loving that engenders life and erases the loss that gave rise to the sadness we felt. Moreover, these relationships of love and fidelity forged in this present life do not disappear with death but persist and are further strengthened in the mystical union that is the Body of Christ. This makes for a new hope that is invincible.
Your servant in Christ,
Fray Guillermo Trauba, capuchin