frequently asked questions
Q1. Who is Luisa Piccarreta?
Fr. Joseph Iannuzzi answers as follows:
<<Luisa Piccarreta was born on April 23, 1865 in the small town of Corato, Italy of poor and hardworking parents. Luisa’s spiritual journey began while on a farm where she spend many years of her childhood. When she was nine, Luisa received first Holy Communion and Confirmation, and from that moment learned to remain for hours in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. She only received a first grade education, and at the age of eleven she enrolled in the Association of the Daughters of Mary. At the age of eighteen she became a third-order Dominican, taking the name of Sr. Maddalena after St. Mary Magdelene. At the age of sixteen, she was asked by the Lord to become a “victim soul.” This occurred when, from the balcony of her house in Corato, she experienced a vision of Jesus suffering under the weight of the Cross, who, raising his eyes to her, said: “Soul, help me!” From that moment she accepted the state of victim to suffer for Jesus and for the salvation of souls. Gradually she came to experience a most peculiar condition: Every morning she found herself rigid and immobile in bed, with no one able to either raise her arms or move her head or legs. Only the blessing of a priest enabled her to return to her usual tasks of lace making and needlepoint.
On February 2, 1899, Luisa was asked in obedience to her spiritual director Fr. Gennaro di Gennaro to write down the revelations she received from Jesus. These revelations, which she would continue to write until 1938, are popularly referred to as her “diary.” Her revelations comprise 36 volumes and contain her intimate and mystical experiences, with dictations from Jesus and Mary on how to “Live in the Divine Will” and hasten its universal reign on earth.
Luisa possessed numerous mystical gifts such as ecstasy, apparitions, vision, the stigmata and bilocation. She was confined to bed with hardly any food or drink except the Eucharist for about 60 years. She occasionally ate and retained other food in very small amounts. Although she was confined to bed, she never suffered any physical illness except for the pneumonia that took her life in 1947.
In 1926 she wrote her autobiography in obedience to her extraordinary spiritual director and confessor St. Hannibal di Francia. St. Hannibal edited her writings, of which the first 19 volumes were properly examined and approved by the local ecclesiastical authorities. He published various writings of Luisa, including the book L’Orologio della Passione (The Hours of the Passion), which was reprinted for times in Italian.
The Cause of Beatification of the Servant of God Luisa Piccarreta was opened by Rome in 1994 and is still under way. At present, the first 19 of Luisa’s 36 volumes bear the local Church authority’s imprimatur and nihil obstat. Luisa’s Bishop Joseph Leo and her spiritual director and censor librorum St. Hannibal di Francia, found nothing in her works contrary to the Catholic Faith. However, this does not ensure immunity from error on the part of those who may present or interpret her works in ways that contradict Catholic teaching. For this reason the Church requests that until the completion and approval of the critical edition of Luisa’s collected works, Catholics should exercise caution when reading the translation of her writings (Pro-manuscripts) that have been available to the public in recent years.>>
- See Rev. Joseph Iannuzzi, The Splendor of Creation: The Triumph of the Divine Will on Earth and the Era of Peace in the Writings of the Church Fathers, Doctors and Mystics, second ed. (Pittsburgh, PA: St. Andrew’s Productions, 2016), n13, 258-59.
Q2. What is new and distinct about this "new and divine holiness"?
According to Fr. Iannuzzi, what is new and distinct about this new mode of holiness is that the creature who lives in the Divine Will is gifted with God's own "eternal mode of being and operation. What makes this indwelling is not the divine activity that begins in Baptism … What is new is man’s continuous participation in God’s eternal activity that enables him to exert a transtemporal influence upon the lives of all creatures of the past, present and future, and man’s corresponding awareness of said influence. Here man’s every thought, word and deed are not only rendered divine, they become participants in the same degree of eternal being and operation as the blessed in heaven, while exerting an eternal influence over every act of every creature. By the power of God, man fully partakes in God’s eternal realities, penetrating more deeply than ever before into his eternal activity".
- See Rev. Joseph L. Iannuzzi, The Gift of Living in the Divine Will in the Writings of Luisa Piccarreta: An Inquiry into the Early Ecumenical Councils, and Patristic, Scholastic and Contemporary Theology (St. Andrew’s Productions: Pittsburgh, PA, 2013), 17. Italics in original.
The work cited above is the published version of Rev. Iannuzzi’s doctoral dissertation “The Operations of the Divine and Human Will in the Writings of the Servant of God Luisa Piccarreta,” which received the ecclesiastical approbation of the Pontifical Gregorian University of Rome in 2012. For more information see here.
- My own brief summary of Divine Will teaching can be found here.
Q3. Is the "new and divine holiness" something over and above the holiness possessed by the Virgin Mary while she was on earth?
No. In that sense it is not a "new" holiness. According to the writings of Luisa, Adam and Eve lived in the Divine Will before they fell from grace. Jesus lived (and still lives) in the Divine Will by nature, by virtue of the hypostatic union. Mary lived (and still lives) in the Divine Will by the grace of God. Everyone in heaven lives in the Divine Will; no one can enter into heaven unless the Will of God has full reign in him. [References to be added].
Q4. Does that mean that everyone who lives in the Divine Will is already in heaven?
No. To say that everyone in heaven lives in the Divine Will is not to say that everyone who lives in the Divine Will is in heaven ("Every A is B" does not imply "Every B is A"). According to the writings of Luisa, by God's stupendous grace it is possible to live in the Divine Will while on earth, and so without seeing God face to face. [References to be added].
Q5. Besides Luisa Piccarreta, who are some other exemplars of this "new and divine holiness"?
Luisa called the new mode of union between God and man “Living in the Divine Will”. So did her confessor, St. Hannibal di Francia (1851-1927). Other recent exemplars of the new holiness used other expressions to describe it:
- Venerable Conchita de Armida (1862-1937) and the Servant of God Archbishop Luis Martinez (1881-1956) called it “Mystical Incarnation”.
- Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity (1880-1906) spoke of “The New Indwelling”.
- St. Maximilian Kolbe (1894-1941) referred to “The Assumption of Souls in Love”.
- Blessed Dina Bélanger (1897-1929) spoke of “The Divine Substitution.”
- “The Divine Will” and “Living Hosts” were the expressions used by St. Padre Pio di Petrelcina (1887-1969), St. Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938), Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997), Rev. Michael Sopoćko (1888-1976) and Marthe Robin (1902-1981).
- Vera Grita (1923-1969) referred to the new saints as “Living Tabernacles”.
See Rev. Joseph Iannuzzi, The Gift of Living in the Divine Will (as cited above), n887, p. 616.
N.B. There are a few names here that I am unfamiliar with, but I post this information for your benefit. I do intend to look into their biographies at some stage and share what I read.
Q6. What is your theological approach at Divine Will School?
My approach, in a word, is to present and explore the writings of Luisa Piccarreta in the wider context of the living tradition of the universal Church, and for the edification of the universal Church. While I am not an official member of Association Luisa Piccarreta: Little Children of the Divine Will, I follow the guidelines set out in Article 6 of their Decree and Statute.
The next point follows the first by necessity. It is crucial to present the "Gift of the Divine Will" not as something extra "added" to the Church, but as the inner "meaning" and "essence" of the same Gift that God already offers to us in and through the Church in so many ways. This Gift is the Gift of God Himself (God acting simultaneously as the Giver and as the Gift). This Gift has been definitely revealed in and as Christ, and effectively deposited in the Church through the power of the Holy Spirit. Hence the writings of Luisa do not uncover "another" Gift from God. They simply give us the knowledge—and with that, the disposition—to be able to unwrap the "layers" surrounding the heart of the same Gift that God has been promising and offering mankind from the beginning. This Gift has already been at work in the sustaining and ordering of the universe, and in all of salvation history. This Gift is the very "soul" and "sap" of the Church, and the very essence of sanctity. The inner "tendency" at work in the economy of grace has always been toward the universal reign of the Divine Will, when God will be "all in all".
From the very beginning, the Will of God has been urging toward Its perfect reign. At every moment of history, the Will of God has been stirring, directing, promising, enlightening, lovingly moving us forward. It has always been there, implicit in every divine revelation, hidden in every divine intervention, in every divine visitation, in every divine inspiration, in every sacrament, in every grace, in every sanctity, in every act of faith and hope and charity. So in that sense we are not learning about and receiving a "new" gift at all. We are simply beginning to see, and enter into, what was always there, what was always at work, what was always moving mankind forward toward the day of Its universal reign. In Scholastic language, we are now rising to the level of what is "most formal" (the primary reason and highest principle) in God's covenantal relationship with man.
However, what is first and deepest and most essential in the order of being, is from our position the last to be discovered and appreciated (a classic Scholastic axiom). From our perspective, then, the Gift of the Divine Will is "new" in that only now can we see and appreciate the primary "reason" and "principle" and "driving force" of God's gracious dealings with us all along.
The Gift of the Divine Will has already been given from the side of God in these ways: in God's intention (His eternal decree that man should possess the Gift) and then in God's immanent presence, both in the natural order and in the supernatural order, including the sacramental life of grace. But the full "transaction" of the Gift includes the full reception of the Gift on the side of man. God cannot be "all in all" until the Divine Will, the living "centre" of God, is understood and loved and appropriated for what It is.
Our eyes are being opened to the Gift hidden in all of God's gifts—the Gift that God has been wanting to give all along, the Gift that motivated and informed all of the other gifts. We are not leaving behind all of those gifts in order to live by some totally different economy of grace that would surpass the present economy (with its biblically-informed doctrine and theology, Christ-centred prayer, Christian virtues, sacraments and so on). We are simply entering more deeply into that same economy of grace in order to appropriate what God has already been offering to us. The very givenness of all of God's gifts—in the natural order and in the supernatural order—has always been the "urging" of the Divine Will—Its wanting to give of Itself, Its wanting to reign in creatures, Its wanting us to reign with God through the same Will and Power by which God Himself reigns.
[References to be added].
Much of the next point follows organically from the previous two. Luisa's writings are of primary interest for us, but they are certainly not the only works to which we will refer.
In the first place, it is necessary to refer to the Bible, and to the Catechism and other official documents of the Catholic Church. For these provide the essential context for a theologically sound interpretation of Luisa's writings. [Reference to be added].
In the second place, it would be foolish to neglect the publications of those respected teachers and theologians who have done great pioneering work in the task of explicating Luisa's writings in the light of Catholic tradition. In this regard, the work of Rev. Joseph Iannuzzi (Ph.B, STB, M. Div, STL, STD) is worthy of particular mention.
In the third place, we must follow the example of our immediate teachers and learn from the Fathers and Doctors of the Church. In this way our minds will be more deeply united with the mind of the Church, and therefore with the mind of Christ. The following nine saints stand out as particularly relevant for education and growth in the Divine Will.
- Three pillars of orthodoxy: St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Maximus the Confessor.
- Three Carmelite Doctors: St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross and St. Therese of Lisieux.
- Three extra Doctors: St. Bonaventure, St. Lawrence of Brindisi and St. Alphonsus Liguori.
In the fourth place, it must be remembered that the "new and divine holiness" was also experienced and written about by other holy men and women of the 20th Century: St. Hannibal di Francia, Venerable Conchita de Armida, Servant of God Archbishop Luis Martinez, Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, St. Maximilian Kolbe, Blessed Dina Bélanger, St. Padre Pio di Petrelcina, St. Faustina Kowalska, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and others (see Q5 above).
The advantage of casting our net wider so as to include the writings of these exemplars is that it becomes easier to distinguish between (1) what is essential to living in the Divine Will and therefore relevant for all and (2) what is peculiar to the personal style of Luisa Piccarreta and so not necessarily relevant for all. Getting this distinction right may not be easy—indeed, there are likely to be disagreements over where the line between the two categories should fall—but I feel it is a necessary distinction to make, if one is to present Divine Will teaching as a universal Gift for the universal Church.
The final point is probably only relevant for the theologically advanced. Those theologians whose calling it is to explicate Divine Will teaching at a higher level of reflection, perhaps with a certain degree of speculative creativity (but always within the bounds of orthodoxy), may appropriate (with caution) the terms and concepts of contemporary theologians. When it comes to the question of how the Divine Will possesses those who live in It, two recent theories of indwelling come to mind: the early Karl Rahner’s “quasi-formal causation” and Maurice de la Taille’s “created actuation by uncreated Act.” There are also intriguing questions pertaining to the Divine Will and Eastern thought. Is the theory of “divine energies” (Gregory Palamas) a help or a hindrance when it comes to understanding how the Divine Will inhabits creatures? Is it possible that the “Divine Sophia” of Russian Orthodox theology is simply another name for the Divine Will?