Padre Pio Letter 29 Back Home Up Next

Volume II - Letters
Correspondence with Raffaelina Cerase, Noblewoman (1914-1915)

Edited by Melchiorre of Pobladura and Allessandro of Ripabottoni.
English Version edited by Father Gerardo Di Flumeri, O.F.M. Cap.
Editions: "Padre Pio da Pietrelcina", 1987
Our Lady of Grace Friary
71013 SAN GIOVANNI ROTONDO (FG), Italy

[ This letter is an exceptional explanation of Christian perfection. Padre Pio explains the twofold action of the Holy Ghost -- internal and external. The first virtue is Charity with Joy and Peace as it's wonderful fruit. The role of trials and the need for patience. Kindliness, Forbearance, Meekness and faithfulness; Modesty, Continence and Chastity. ]

Letter 29 - Pietrelcina, 23 October 1914.

Feast day greetings and prayers. The spirit of wisdom. three principal considerations. Christian perfection. internal and external elements. How we must act: mortification and self- denial. Postscript.

J.M.J.D.F.C.

Beloved daughter of Jesus,

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit (1) be always with you and with your family. Jesus wants me to write to you for your feastday and I therefore willingly do so. Imagine what my feelings are as I send you my greetings for this day. You are no stranger to my sentiments with regard to your spiritual and corporal well-being and thus we understand each other. May our most sweet Jesus redouble His heavenly blessings upon you and invariably give you the strength to overcome all the snares of our common enemy. I donít wish you worldly happiness and prosperity, both because such things are by no means suited to a soul espoused to the Crucified and because you have no desire for them.

Take care not to heed the Evil One if he suggests anything to you with regard to my concern for you. Donít listen to him, for you know he is a liar. Listen to Jesus alone who comes to you in His own name, and that is enough.

Unworthy as I am, although I pray continually for your growth in the spiritual life, I promise you that on your feast- day I will send up my feeble pleas to Godís throne with greater confidence and filial abandonment, imploring Him and doing gentle violence to His divine Heart so that He may grant me the grace of increasing heavenly wisdom in your soul, so that you may have a clearer knowledge of the divine mysteries and of Godís immensity.

Yes, ask for this grace yourself and ask the heavenly Father to grant it also to me. Do this through the intercession of the saint whose name you bear and through your good Guardian Angel as well. This is the finest grace that can be asked by and on behalf of those who aspire to the spiritual life, namely, an increase of heavenly light. This is a light which cannot be acquired either by prolonged study or through human teaching, but which is directly infused by God. When the righteous soul obtains this light, it comes to know and love its God and eternal things in its meditations with extreme clarity and relish. Although it is nothing but a light of faith, it is still sufficient to produce such spiritual consolation that the earth, in the first place, disappears from view, while all that this world can offer is seen to be worthless.

We must ask the Spirit, the Comforter, to enlighten us with regard to three great truths in particular. Firstly, to make us increasingly aware of the excellence of our Christian vocation. The fact of having been chosen, having been elected among innumerable others and knowing that without any merit on our part, this choice, this election was decided by God from all eternity, before the foundation of the world (2), for the sole reason that we might be His in time and in eternity, is such a great and at the same time such an enchanting mystery that the soul, even though it understands so little of all this, cannot but melt away with love.

Secondly, let us pray that He may enlighten us more and more as to the immensity of the eternal inheritance which has been reserved for us by the goodness of the heavenly Father. May our discernment of this mystery turn our hearts away from earthly goods and make us eager to arrive at our heavenly home.

Finally, let us pray to the Father of all light to enable us to penetrate more and more deeply into the mystery of our justification, how wretched sinners like ourselves have been led to salvation. Our justification is such an enormous miracle that Sacred Scripture compares it to the Resurrection of our divine Master (3). Yes, my dear, our conversion from ungodliness is such that it can well be said that God revealed His power more fully in our justification than in drawing heaven and earth from nothing, since there is a greater contrast between the sinner? and grace than there is between non-existence and being. Non-existence is less far from God than is the sinner. In point of fact, since non-existence is the lack of being, it has no power to resist Godís will, while the sinner as a being, and a free being, is capable of resisting all Godís wishes. Besides, in creation there is question of the natural order, while the justification of the ungodly belongs to the supernatural and divine order.

Oh! If all men could only understand the extreme wretchedness and dishonour from which Godís omnipotent hand has rescued us. Oh! If we could only perceive for a single instant that which still amazes the heavenly spirits themselves, namely, the state to which Godís grace has raised us, to be nothing less than His own children, destined to reign with His Son for all eternity!

When it is granted to a human being to fathom this, that person cannot live anything but a heavenly life. 0 wretched condition of human nature! How often would the heavenly Father not be willing to reveal His secrets to us were He not compelled to do otherwise, since by our own malice we have rendered ourselves incapable of receiving these secrets. May the Lord be pleased to put an end to such squalor and wretchedness. May Satanís kingdom come to an end once and for all and may justice triumph everywhere.

In our meditations let us frequently dwell on the truths which I have set forth so far, for in this way we shall be strengthened in virtue and our thinking will Je rendered more sublime.

Certain that it will give you pleasure, I want to speak to you about something very useful, namely, Christian perfection. I already feel my strength failing me and it would be well to end this letter here, but since Jesus wants me to speak to you a little on the subject I have mentioned, I am making every possible effort to satisfy Him.

(a) The person who desires to be perfect needs to undertake a twofold action: internal action and external action. Let us speak a little, in the first place, about the former, while we can deal with the latter afterwards.

The first virtue required by the person who is striving for perfection is charity. In all natural things, the first movement, the first inclination or impulse is to tend towards the centre, in obedience to a physical law. The same thing happens in the supernatural sphere: the first movement of our hearts is a movement towards God, which is nothing more than loving our own true good. With good reason Sacred Scripture speaks of charity as the bond of perfect harmony. (4)

Charity has as its close relatives joy and peace. Joy is born of happiness at possessing what we love. Now, from the moment at which the soul knows God, it is naturally led to love Him. If the soul follows this natural impulse which is caused by the Holy Spirit, it is already loving the Supreme Good. This fortunate soul already possesses the beautiful virtue of love. By loving God the soul is certain of possessing Him. When a person loves money, honours and good health, unfortunately, he does not always possess what he loves, whereas he who loves God possesses Him at once.

This idea is not the product of my own mind but is to be found in Holy Scripture where we read: He who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him (5). What does this scriptural passage mean to tell us? Does it not, perhaps, mean that the soul devoted to God out of love belongs entirely to God, while God gives Himself entirely to that soul?

Joy, then, is an offspring of love, but if this joy is to be true and perfect it must be accompanied inseparably by the peace which pervades us when the good we possess is supreme and certain. Now, is not God the Supreme Good which the soul loves and which it possesses as the result of loving Him?

This Good, as well as being supreme, must also be certain. Our divine Master assures us that no one will take your joy from (6). What testimony could be more certain than this? Pondering on all this one cannot fail to experience great gladness. This is what leads people to face the most painful trials with a cheerful heart.

It must be noted, however, that as long as we are wayfarers on this earth we can never be perfect, and hence we can never enjoy perfect peace. Trials and contradictions are so many and the conflicts by which the soul is harassed so numerous as to cause it agony at times, to the point at which life itself becomes unbearable. All this arises because the soul sees itself in danger of utter ruin.

Now, to stand up to such harsh trials the soul needs patience, a virtue which enables us to bear all adversity without giving in. Those who are striving for perfection must attribute great importance to this virtue unless they want their efforts to be completely wasted, for it is this virtue which maintains order in oneís interior life.

From what has been said up to this point it is clear that love, joy and peace are virtues which perfect the soul with regard to what it possesses, while patience perfects it with regard to what it endures.

(b) This is what is required for interior perfection. As regards exterior perfection, certain virtues are required, some of which concern the manner in which the one seeking perfection must behave towards those around him, while others concern the control of his own senses.

As regards the virtues to be practised in dealing with others, the first is kindliness. By this virtue the pious soul, by showing agreeable, courteous and polite manners with no trace of uncouthness, draws others to imitate him in the devout life.

But all this is still very little. We must come down to actual practice and here at once we have kindliness, a virtue which leads us to be helpful to others. Here it is well to point out two very important things to those who are striving for perfection. First of all, they must be aware of it if the other person is not responding to the help that is being offered him. Secondly, they must realize it when the other person not only fails to derive benefit from their help but, what is worse, responds at times with offences and insults. The undiscerning are often deceived here. May God forbid that we should fall into such snares prepared for us by the enemy in order to ruin us and deprive us of the reward due to our efforts.

We must therefore arm ourselves against the first snare by the noble virtue of forbearance. This is a virtue which leads one never to desist from one s efforts to help others, even when they are deriving no benefit from this help. We must protect ourselves against the second snare by cultivating meekness, which makes us stifle our anger even when we see our efforts repaid with ingratitude, insults and offences.

But all these fine virtues are not yet sufficient if we do not add to them the virtue of faithfulness, by which the devout soul gains the confidence of others and all become aware that his behaviour is straightforward and free from duplicity.

There are, moreover, three virtues which perfect the devout person with regard to control of his own senses. These are: modesty, continence and chastity. By the virtue of modesty the devout person governs all his exterior acts. With good reason, then, does St. Paul recommend this virtue to all and declare how necessary it is (7) and as if this were not enough he considers that this virtue should be obvious to all. By continence the soul exercises restraint over all the senses: sight, touch, taste, smell and hearing. By chastity, a virtue which ennobles our nature and makes it similar to that of the Angels, we suppress our sensuality and detach it from forbidden pleasures.

This is the magnificent picture of Christian perfection. Happy the one who possesses all these fine virtues, all of them fruits of the Holy Spirit who dwells within him. Such a soul has nothing to fear and will shine in the world as the sun in the heavens.

Let us now consider what we must do to ensure that the Holy Spirit may dwell in our souls. It can all be summed up in mortification of the flesh with its vices and concupiscences, and in guarding against a selfish spirit.

As regards mortification of the flesh St. Paul warns us that those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (8). From this holy apostleís teaching it is apparent that anyone who wants to be a true Christian, that is to say, who lives according to the true spirit of Jesus Christ must mortify his flesh for no other reason than devotion to Jesus, who for love of us mortified his entire body on the cross. The mortification must be constant and steady, not intermittent, and it must last for oneís whole life. Moreover, the perfect Christian must not be satisfied with a kind of mortification which merely appears to be severe. He must make sure that it hurts.

This is how mortification of the body is to be practised, for not without reason does the apostle tall it crucifixion. However, someone may take a stand against this and ask why the flesh is to be treated so severely. Foolish, one, for if you considered your words attentively, you would realize that all the evils which hurt your soul can be traced to failure to practise due mortification of the flesh, either through ignorance or lack of the will to do so. If you want to be cured, if you want to remedy your trouble at the very roots, you must master your flesh and crucify it, for it is the source of all evil.

The apostle adds that crucifixion of the flesh is to be combined with crucifixion of the vices and concupiscences. Now our vices are all our sinful habits, while the concupiscences are our passions. We must mortify and crucify them continually if they are not to lead to sins of the flesh. A man who limits himself to bodily mortification is like the fool who builds without laying any foundation.

I also said that if we are to allow the Holy Spirit freedom to act in our souls, we must mount guard over the spirit of self which, if we are not careful, seeps in even when we have mortified the flesh.

I began with the apostle and I intend to continue with him to the end. Whenever I read his Letters, which I prefer to all other holy writings, words cannot express how much I relish them. Well, then, he tells us in this respect: If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit (9),as if he wished to say for our edification: Do we want to live a spiritual life, moved and guided by the Spirit of the Lord? Let us take care, then, to mortify our selfish spirit which puffs us up, makes us impulsive and leads to aridity of soul. In a word, we must be careful to subdue vainglory, irascibility and envy, three evil spirits to which most men are slaves. These three spirits are extremely opposed to the Spirit of the Lord.

I hope with Godís help to show you in a further letter the vileness of these three spirits: vainglory, irascibility and envy. For the moment this will suffice, for I have no more strength. For the past few days I have been more ill than usual. May Godís will be done. Meanwhile, let us end with the words of 4he holy apostle: Let us have no self-conceit, no provoking of one another, no envy of one another (10).

I send greetings to all in the Lordís embrace, wishing you His choicest blessings.

Believe me, as ever,

Your poor servant,

Fra Pio, Capuchin. 

P.S. Whenever you find anything in my letters which you do not sufficiently understand, please ask me for an explanation. I am saying this once and for all. I donít want to work in vain and fail to obtain the result intended by Jesus.

Why did you not answer the letter I sent you on the 10th of this month? I believe Padre Agostino gave you to understand my intentions in asking you to reply on a picture postcard. I hope you wonít refuse me the charity for which I begged in my last letter.

I have now been assured, and you can guess by whom, that a letter addressed to me has just left your hands. I have been told that this letter will cause me great pain. Dear God! What can have happened? It seems to me that I have been waiting a thousand years for this letter (11)

Be consoled in the meantime and consider that although I am in ignorance of the misfortune that has befallen you, I want to tell you that it is Jesus who has been pleased to bestow this gift on you.

FOOTNOTES:

(1) Cf. 2 Cor 13:14.

(2) Jn 17:24; Eph 1:4.

(3) Rom 4:25.

(4) Cf. Col 3:14.

(5) 1 Jn 4:16.

(6) Jn 16:22.

(7) Cf. Phil 4:5.

(8) Gal 5:24.

(9) Gal 5:25.

(10) Ibid. 5:26.

(11) He is undoubtedly referring to Raffaelinaís letter dated 21 October which has not yet reached him.

 

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