Servant of God’s life and Divine Will writings are a source of inspiration for the faithful
By Bill Brewer
In much of the world, Luisa Piccarreta is a saint in waiting whose prolific writings were divinely inspired and merit careful study.
To much of East Tennessee, the Servant of God is waiting to be discovered as her cause for sainthood makes its way through Vatican scrutiny.
As the Benedictines of Divine Will and the Benedictine Daughters of Divine Will introduce their “family”-based charisms of Catholic faith to the Diocese of Knoxville, Luisa Piccarreta will be accompanying them in spirit and will undoubtedly inspire even more of the faithful than she has already.
Born in Corato, Italy, on April 23, 1865, Luisa, the “Little Daughter of the Divine Will,” was visited by suffering through much of her life. She had only a first-grade education, and as a teen she joined the Third Order of St. Dominic.
She began receiving revelations at age 12 and was called by God to become a victim soul, according to biographical information. By the time she reached age 24, she was bedridden with a condition doctors were unable to diagnose.
She is described as a Catholic mystic and author whose spirituality centered on the union with the Will of God.
In his book The Gift of Living in the Divine Will in the Writings of Luisa Piccarreta: An Inquiry into the Early Ecumenical Councils, and into Patristic, Scholastic, and Contemporary Theology, Father Joseph Iannuzzi writes that “at a very tender age, God spoke to her about a gift He wishes to bestow upon the world that will set it free and inaugurate an Era of World Peace.”
“God refers to this gift as ‘Living the Divine Will,’ for it is through an act of God’s Will that the earth will be made pure, and mankind will become holy,” Father Iannuzzi states.
“God revealed Himself to Luisa so that through her we may come to know the loving gift He has prepared for us,” the priest and author continued.
During her late teens, Luisa showed a mysterious and increasingly frequent state of suffering, with loss of consciousness and the subsequent experience of “petrifying,” during which she also had visions of Jesus choosing her as victim. The phenomena happened more frequently, which forced her to stay in bed.
It was discovered that a priestly blessing immediately freed her from the state of malaise, and a priest continued to do this whenever Luisa needed. Luisa eventually confided to a priest what happened when she lost consciousness, of her visions, and how she would be with Jesus when her soul left her body during unconsciousness.
She remained in bed, never leaving Corato, and lived solely on the Holy Eucharist and the Divine Will for the rest of her life, some 60 years.
It was during these years as a victim soul that a priest urged Luisa to write of her experiences with Jesus, which she did in the form of a spiritual diary, and from Feb. 28, 1899, to Dec. 28, 1938, she wrote about 10,000 pages that covered 36 volumes.
Luisa died on March 4, 1947, from pneumonia. She was 81.
According to the Benedictine Daughters of Divine Will, the religious community is dedicated to living a life of prayer and work according to the Rule of St. Benedict, with eucharistic adoration and the Divine Will writings of Luisa Piccarreta serving as the core of the order.
“Luisa didn’t eat, sleep, or drink for 64 years. She lived on the Eucharist. Even though she had just a first-grade education, she was like the secretary for Our Lord. He would give her these beautiful writings. He would teach her, and she would just write. They really are beautiful writings, very beautiful knowledge that transforms your life as it teaches you the love and mercy of God, how much He loves us, and He just wants us to return that love back to Him,” said Mother Gabrielle Marie Breaux, mother superior and foundress of the Benedictine Daughters of Divine Will.
“It focuses on all of that. The New Testament focuses on the humanity of Christ. This focuses on the divinity of Christ. We try to live the writings. Each Sister takes two hours of adoration a day to promote adoration,” Mother Gabrielle Marie added.
For the Benedictines of Divine Will, Luisa Piccarreta is just as important to the priests.
“The Benedictine life is a lot of adoration. We’re very eucharistic. We have this very strong devotion to Servant of God Luisa Piccarreta. The life of Nazareth is what we see as the model of the type of life we want to live,” said Father Elijah John Joseph of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who leads the Benedictines of Divine Will.
Luisa’s influence will continue to guide the Benedictines, even as they relocate their motherhouses from Italy near where Luisa lived to East Tennessee. Bishop Richard F. Stika has announced that the Benedictines of Divine Will and the Benedictine Daughters of Divine Will are becoming the newest religious communities to call the Diocese of Knoxville home.
Luisa’s life and devotion to Jesus and His Divine Will are at the heart of the Benedictines’ ministry.
“She had an incredibly miraculous, mystical life. She was incredibly devout as a young person. As a child, she was already so advanced in the spiritual life,” Father Elijah said. “When she was 18 years old, Jesus basically put her in bed, where she lived 60 years confined to her bed. The doctors never could explain it. In fact, every morning in order for her to wake up, she had to have a priest come and give her a blessing. Jesus explained that He wanted her always to be dependent upon His priests and upon His Church. Incredible suffering.”
And Luisa’s interpretation of Divine Will and its relationship to Divine Mercy is unmistakable to Mother Gabrielle Marie.
“She had mystical experiences as a child,” Mother Gabrielle Marie said. “The thing is, Luisa was born on the Sunday after Easter, which is now Divine Mercy Sunday. She also made her first Communion and confirmation on Divine Mercy Sunday. She would go into this experience where her soul would leave her body. She would get like comatose. The Vatican gave permission for Mass to be said in her bedroom every day. The priest would come and call her out of this state. Only the priest could do it. He would say, ‘Holy God, mighty God, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and the whole world. He would say that three times, which is the Divine Mercy prayer on the Chaplet. That didn’t exist then as the Divine Mercy prayer. How the Divine Mercy and the Divine Will are so close to each other.”
“It’s interesting because Bishop Stika has such a tremendous devotion to the Divine Mercy, so we feel very connected to him,” Father Elijah noted.
Mother Gabrielle Marie pointed out that the Vatican has published a book, The Sun of My Will, a biography of Luisa.
“There are many people in the world who are working on this cause,” Father Elijah said about the possible canonization of Luisa Piccarreta.
Another miraculous attribute of Luisa was her invisible stigmata, which was sometimes seen by the person looking after her, according to Mother Gabrielle Marie, who noted that Padre Pio would send people to Luisa.
“She suffered terribly. She was a victim soul,” Mother Gabrielle Marie said. A victim soul is an individual who has been chosen by God to undergo physical and sometimes spiritual suffering beyond that of normal human experience.
She was declared a Servant of God in 1994, and her cause for sainthood continues.
Mother Gabrielle Marie said the Vatican has recognized and approved Luisa’s Divine Will writings and is trying to establish good translations of the writings.
“We feel we have a good English translation. It’s not complicated. It’s deep. So, because of that there are some things the Church wants to qualify, to understand, and to help people understand it and make it clear what Our Lord is really teaching us through these writings,” she said.
Among those who have studied Luisa Piccarreta’s Divine Will writings and are keenly interested in advancing them to the Catholic faithful is Paul Simoneau, vice chancellor of the Diocese of Knoxville and director of the diocesan Office of Justice and Peace.
Mr. Simoneau has been closely reading the Divine Will writings for decades and is excited that the Benedictines of Divine Will and the Benedictine Daughters of Divine Will will be bringing Luisa’s divinely inspired words and life story with them as they relocate from Italy to the Diocese of Knoxville.
“Since 1993, when I was first introduced to the mystical life and writings of the Servant of God Luisa Piccarreta, I have longed for the day when a religious community, anchored in the Church and faithful to her infallible teachings like that of the Benedictines, would become a beacon of light for the ‘kingdom of the Divine Will,’ which Jesus taught us to pray for—’Thy kingdom come, Thy Will be done on earth as it is in heaven,’” Mr. Simoneau said.
Mr. Simoneau’s interest in Luisa goes beyond a casual introduction into her spiritual life.
“Having had the great blessing and very small part of proofing the most accurate English translations of Luisa’s writings and operating her website in nine languages over past years, I rejoice to see the light of this great gift that will have a mountaintop place within our diocese and country to brightly shine,” Mr. Simoneau noted.
For Mother Gabrielle Marie and Father Elijah, there is little doubt about Luisa’s saintliness.
“There are thousands and thousands of pages of mystical writings. The cause of Luisa, it’s very clear she was a saint. Her virtues, her faith, her love are exceptional. The bishops of the diocese where she is from say that openly. There is no question she is a saint, but the cause is moving forward in union with the writings. They usually don’t do that. Usually they separate the two, but because these writings are very significant, the Church, with its prudence and wisdom, is taking its time to understand what happened to this remarkable soul, who died, according to the Church’s time frame, not that long ago,” Father Elijah said.
Mother Gabrielle Marie was inspired by Luisa’s Divine Will writings when she was introduced to them in 1998.
“I just fell in love with it right away. This is what I had been looking for, but I didn’t know this was possible,” she said. “In all the years I was growing up, I used to ask God to take my will away and to give me His Will, which He doesn’t do because your human will is a gift. But His Will and your will are meant to become one. That’s what the Divine Will is all about: your will and His Will becoming one,” she said. “So, I feel because I prayed that as a child, Our Lord presented me with these volumes.”
The Vatican placed the original volumes of Luisa’s Divine Will writings in its archives for safekeeping and study, and Mother Gabrielle Marie said Pope Benedict allowed several people to make copies for the bishop of Corato in the 1990s.
Father Elijah said, like with St. Faustina, the Church went through a period of questioning when it wasn’t certain that what had occurred with Luisa was God’s providence.
“But then it became very clear in the 1990s,” Father Elijah said. “It’s now in many places in America.”
“It’s growing fast. Groups everywhere are interested in it. It’s getting to be known more and more,” Mother Gabrielle Marie concluded.