J.M.J. The lives of the Saints are filled with examples of how holy men and women, boys and girls gave up every attachment and sought ardently to follow only the Almighty's sagacious will. Their maxims continue to serve as a beacon today for those who sincerely strive to become more alive in Jesus.
Saint Pio of Pietrelcina (d. 1968), otherwise known as "Padre Pio," was the Stigmata-bearing Italian Franciscan Capuchin friar saluted for his heroic surrender to the divine plan. He has inspired untold millions the world over to take stock of their relationships with the Lord. This will allow them--with God's grace--to purge what does not belong and ask for His strength to build upon the riches that He has already given.
A young, devout Catholic wife and mother of six gave me a copy of "Padre Pio's 10 Guidelines to a Perfect Spiritual Life." These apt principles appeared in Leaves magazine. Such advice offered by one of the twentieth century's most revered priests and religious is a useful "examen" for all, regardless of age, education, wealth or race.
1. Put your trust in Christ as your personal Savior. It is not enough to "go through the motions" (for example, attendance at Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, abstaining from meat on Fridays during Lent, etc.). One must be truly converted to the Lord and live deeply the reality expressed by Saint Francis of Assisi: "Deus meus et omnia" ("My God and my All").
2. Know that you have no righteousness of your own. As Catholic theologians teach, the grace of God is "gratuitous." We do nothing to earn the love of Christ, although we are constantly to avail ourselves of it through prayer, sacrifice, the Sacraments, acts of charity, devotion to Our Blessed Mother, etc.
3. Remember that really good works are inspired only by Christ. When Pope John Paul II was told by a journalist that Mikhail Gorbachev credited the stunning collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe to him, the Holy Father meekly quoted Sacred Scripture: "We are useless servants; we do as the Master directs us." Lack of humility often ruins even the best of good works.
4. Recognize that Satan is a real individual, bent on destroying you, but do not fear him. Pope Pius XII once stated that we err whenever we give either too little or too much attention to the influence of the Prince of Darkness. The wiles of the evil one are unquestionably present, but those who remain close to Jesus need not be afraid.
5. Always pray to God and say in every circumstance, "Thy will be done." Life is filled with joys and struggles. A key to spiritual growth, spiritual writers attest, is the vital recognition that God never allows more than one can shoulder--provided that one implores the necessary grace.
6. Love the cross. There is no getting around the inevitable: anyone really desiring to be like Christ must accept suffering. As Venerable Fulton J. Sheen once said, Christ without the cross is a terrible caricature.
7. Offer every action up to God. Saint Teresa of Avila, the valiant reformer of the Carmelites, taught that even picking up a scrap of paper for love of God is pleasing to him. The smallest good works, prayers and mortifications must never be underestimated.
8. Never worry. It has been said that at the end of many persons' lives, a real regret exists for all the times that confidence was lacking. Do we really believe that God is our loving Father?
9. Aspire to the heavenly prize. Why are some believers spiritually "edifying" for others? Because their intense desire for God and for Everlasting Life is so obvious. Those who want to go to Heaven above anything else exhibit a contagious joy and trust in the Lord's faithfulness.
10. Rejoice in the Lord. Authentic happiness comes from the Almighty. With so many undeserved blessings from His gentle hands, how can we be anything but content?
Padre Pio's counsels ring true, no matter the era or place. Sanctity is possible for everyone! With the help of the Redeemer, we can and will be holy. Unending life with the Godhead is our promised reward when we seek to love and imitate the Crucified and Risen Jesus.
Virgin most renowned, pray for us.
Saint Joseph, pray for us.
Saint Peter Damian, pray for us.
(This slightly-edited article originally appeared in the May 1, 1994 issue of Catholic Twin Circle on page eighteen.)