The book Words of Light: Inspiration From the Letters of Padre Pio was released at the end of February of this year. This book is edited by Father Raniero Cantalamessa who is also a Franciscan Capuchin lke St. Pio and of course Fr. Cantalamessa continues to be the preacher to the papal household.
Previous editions of this book have been released in Italian and the recent edition is by Paraclete Press. After the very good introduction by Fr. Cantalamessa we get a very brief biography off Padre Pio and his life. The thrust of the book though are his letters and we end up getting a biography of St. Pio's interior life. I had previously heard that during his lifetime at one point he was receiving more letters than anybody else living at that time and it is quite obvious that he wrote quite a large number of letters to people giving spiritual advice.
What Fr. Cantalamessa has done with this book is to select portions of St. Pio's letters and to divide them up by topic into various chapters. By doing this we get a very good idea of the type of advice he gave and about his deep prayer life. The dark night of the soul is quite evident in his letters to his spiritual director and to other priests and when you combine this with the spiritual and physical attacks by Demons you can see just how stark his sufferings were. Like the Curé of Ars, St. John Vianney. who also poured himself out in the confessional and suffered similar attacks we see a life of pure faith. That even as he cries out in suffering he is crying out to the person of Christ, Mary, and the saints.
Many of the segments of letters written in some of the earlier chapters lets you feel to some extent the torments that he suffered. There are many tensions in what he describes. Like St. Paul there is the driving desire to be in Heaven while at the same time to be totally obedient in using his time on earth to save souls. For him Fiat is a continuous living of his live. The love of Christ and love of neighbor is so evident in St. Pio as it is with all saints, but you get to look into his though process on this to a greater extent than we can with most saints. Much of what he has written in his letters reminds me also of the struggles that Blessed Mother Teresa also wen through and I find it rather interesting that so much was made of her dark night of the soul in the press and nothing as far as I am aware of was mentioned about this in regards to St. Pio.
Though there is so much more to this saint than the behind the scenes torment and total faith despite deprivations. I found the letters that referenced Mary to be quite beautiful, for example this one snippet. "May she who entered the world without stain, obtain for us from her Son the grace to leave the world without fault." The chapter on letters in reference to his spiritual direction show the wonderful effects of his deep prayer life and the encouragement he would give others.
So often when we hear of St. Pio it is focused on things like his stigmata and the supernatural events surrounding his life such as bilocation. It is quite moving to see the supernatural movements of grace in his spiritual life that directly lead to him helping so many towards repentance and growing in grace. Fr. Cantalamessa selection of segments of letters helps you to get a much better of St. Pio the person. I certainly recommend this book to anybody interested in Padre Pio.