Guide of SoulsSAINT PADRE PIO
Many books have been written on the life and works of Padre Pio, but Words of Light is not a book about what others think or say about him. Here, he speaks for himself. If you are interested in the complexities and challenges of contemporary faith, you will benefit from these short teachings, counsels, and recollections culled from some of Padre Pio's most personal writings.
In any consideration of the Spiritual life, direction occupies an important place. This chapter clearly illustrates this importance. Due to a number of providential circumstances, Padre Pio became, through his correspondence with those he recognised as unquestioned and authoritative directors of his own soul, the sure and illuminated guide of the very same directors; we have many indications of how he undertook this difficult, delicate and demanding task, and this allows us to see how he approached it.
A brief summary of the principal elements of this approach may be helpful: he possessed the knowledge that he was transmitting principles and practices drawn not from human knowledge or cold and abstract reason, but precisely and principally from personal experiences and from the deepest divine movements in his own soul. He was thus able to give clear and precise directions, certain and definite decisions, and the inspired application of general principles to individual, personal and concrete cases -- he was clear, sincere and frank, whether in reproof, advising or encouraging; he participated in a lively and heartfelt manner in others' anxieties, griefs, crosses and difficulties, as well as in their joys and personal progress on the path to goodness.
Moreover, among all the other qualities that emerge from his teaching and which rendered his direction particularly successful and effective, we should note his singular gifts for discovering diabolical deception, pointing out the action of grace and the reality of divine partiality, and the calming of souls shaken and troubled by doubts, uncertainties and temptations.
It would be impossible here to document all of these remarkable characteristics. We will therefore limit ourselves to illustrate the particular charism he was given of exhorting his listeners to peace of soul, to the tranquility necessary for progress on the path to goodness and to a calmness in all of life's ups and downs. We chose this subject because of the importance accorded to it by masters of the Spiritual life, and because of the insistence and variety of ways in which Padre Pio returns to it in his correspondence with his directors.
- Father Raniero Cantalamessa, Ofm Cap
291. We will never advance a single step in this virtue [gospel simplicity], unless we try to live in a holy and unchanging peace. Sweet is the yoke of Jesus, light his burden, therefore we should give the enemy no space to worm his way into our hearts in order to take this peace from us (607).
292. The enemy of our salvation knows only too well that peace of heart is a sure sign of divine help, and so he misses no opportunity to make us lose it. For this reason, we must always be on the alert in this matter. Jesus will help us (603).
293. May the glory of our heavenly Father be that which holds you always at the ready to protect yourself from the blows of the enemy. Do not give in, I beg you, my Father, to the storms of Satan, because Jesus is telling you that in this new struggle he will not permit the enemy to touch your spirit at all (485).
294. We have raised our thoughts to heaven, our true homeland, of which the earth is only a pale reflection. With divine assistance we strive to preserve, in every event, joyful or sad, that serenity and calm that become the true followers of the fair-haired Nazarene (596).
295. Let us be on the alert never to become troubled by any ominous mishaps that might befall us; such disturbance can never be separated from imperfection, as it always has its origin in selfishness and self-love. The more agitated our hearts are, the more frequent and direct are the assaults of the enemy. Our enemy takes advantage of our natural weakness, which hinders us from following the straight path of virtue (603).
296. Let us be on the look-out for even the slightest symptom of anxiety, and as soon as we notice that we have fallen into discouragement let us turn to God with a child's trust and total abandonment.
Every disturbance displeases Jesus, because such disturbances are never unaccompanied by imperfection and they always have their origin in selfishness and self-love (608).
297. Put to rest, I beg you, beloved Father, your anxieties regarding your spirit, because they seem to be a true waste of time in our dealings with eternity; and what is worse, because of these many anxieties -- which can be holy in themselves -- and our fragility and the powerful whisperings of the devil, all our good actions are always, if you will allow me the expression, soiled by some measure of lack of confidence in God's goodness (405).
298. May the flames of divine love consume in you all that does not know Jesus. May the divine Spirit strengthen you always with new courage through his grace, to confront with tranquility and peace the war which comes to us from our enemies (596).
299. The soul should grieve over one thing only: offending God, and even on this point we must be very cautious. We must of course be very sorry for our failings, but with a peaceful sorrow, always trusting in divine mercy (608).
300. And so, O Father, the bitterness of the trial is sweetened by the balm of God's goodness and mercy. Long live God! who alternates the joys and tears so wonderfully that he leads the soul by unknown ways to the attainment of perfection -- the perfection that he knows how to draw out even from that soul which seems to be evil and is reputed to be so.
Perfection is the flower that the merciful God makes blossom between the thorns of suffering, watered by the tears of the soul that suffers patiently, that conforms humbly to divine wishes and prays fervently and warmly (595).
301. If we keep our spirit tranquil and in peace in every difficult situation, we will do well this in the ways of the Lord. On the contrary, if we lose this peace, our every effort at attaining eternal life will yield little or no fruit (608).
302. Moreover, let us guard ourselves against certain types of self-reproof and self-remorse. These reproofs more often than not come from the enemy, intended to disturb the peace we have in God.
If such reproofs and remorse humble us and make us diligent in performing good actions, without taking our faith in God from us, then we can be sure they come from God. But if they confuse us and render us fearful, suspicious, lazy, slow to do good, then we can be sure they come from the devil and, as such, we should banish them by taking shelter in trust in God (608).
303. Calm yourself, O Father. Don't pay any attention to these vain and useless fears. Fill the emptiness of your heart with an ardent love for Jesus. Humble yourself always beneath the powerful hand of God, always accepting the tribulations that he sends us with serenity of spirit and humility of heart, so that when he comes to visit us he will exalt us by giving us his grace. Cast all your cares onto him, because he cares for us more than a mother cares for her baby (597).
304. Courage, then, my good Father. Live in tranquility. Jesus will assist you always. Better exile and the will of God, than the tents of Jacob [the cloister] without it (891).
305. Do not let the thought that the time of trial is still long, preoccupy you. It is better to suffer purgatory through the will of God than to delight in the cloister, which is a pale reflection of the heavenly Jerusalem. One cannot reach salvation without crossing the stormy sea, which continually threatens ruin (829).
306. I perceive in you a little agitation and care that are hampering your latest efforts to be patient. 'In patientia vestra possidebitis anima vestras'37, our divine Master tells us. Thus it is through patience that we possess our souls. And in the measure that our patience is perfect, so the possession of our souls will be complete, perfect and sure. Therefore the less our patience is mixed with cares and anxieties, the more it will be perfect (890).
307. Do not cease to make them fully understand how important it is not to grieve ourselves over the ups and downs of life, because this always leads to the heart's confidence in God diminishing, instead of expanding (419).
308. Do not let them become at all worried by this business, because worrying always lowers our spirits. Worry, depending on the degree to which it affects us, diminishes charity in the heart and confidence in God. This is no small thing, because it prevents the Spirit from acting upon the heart in an unhindered manner (434).
309. One should entrust oneself entirely to the sweetest Spouse of souls. Let them lay their heads on the Heart of this most tender Spouse, whose beloved disciples they are. Let them not fear the clamour of the unbelieving mob, because the heavenly Master will not allow a hair of their head to be harmed, as he did not allow any harm to come to his disciples in Gethsemane. Unobserved by the insolent rabble they ascend with the King to the summit of Calvary (434).
310. Your laments and fears, I repeat, neither have their beginning in God, nor is he their author. It is Satan who places such fully-formed fears in your hearts, and God has permitted this so that you may become perfect. But God wants you to be scornful and bear this trial in peace. The more you complain, the more you try to reject these trials, the longer they will last. You must resign yourself to letting things be, even when it isn't granted to you to let things be. Jesus is very happy with you; what have you to be afraid of, then? (1203).
311. [Your brief letter] distressed me because I see how much you are suffering; suffering caused by silly and ridiculous things. Scorn them, for heaven's sake, and give them not weight, if you don't want to play the enemy's game (1198).
37. LK 21:19: "By your patience you will possess your souls", Latin Vulgate version
Saint Padre Pio. "Guide of Souls." from Words of Light: Inspiration from the Letters of Padre Pio (Brewster MA.: Paraclete Press, 2008): 154-160.
Compiled and with an introduction by Father Raniero Cantalamessa. Father Raniero Cantalamessa, Ofm Cap, is preacher to the Pontifical Household.
Reprinted with permission from Paraclete Press. Order Words of Light: Inspiration from the Letters of Padre Pio here.
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Padre Pio became a Capuchin novice at the age of sixteen, received the habit in 1902, and was ordained to the priesthood in 1910 after seven years of study.
On September 20, 1918, Padre Pio was kneeling in front of a large crucifix when he received the visible marks of the crucifixion, making him the first stigmatized priest in the history of Church. The doctor who examined Padre Pio could not find any natural cause for the wounds. The wounds of the stigmata were not the only mystical phenomenon experienced by Padre Pio.
The blood from the stigmata had an odor described by many as similar to that of perfume or flowers, and the gift of bilocation was attributed to him. Padre Pio had the ability to read the hearts of the penitents who flocked to him for confession which he heard for ten or twelve hours per day. Padre Pio used the confessional to bring both sinners and devout souls closer to God; he would know just the right word of counsel or encouragement that was needed. He died on September 23, 1968 at the age of eighty-one. His funeral was attended by about 100,000 people.
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