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Niamh Fodla writes, Fra. Giovanni Giocondo was a monk in the 1400s and early 1500s, who wrote this letter to a lady friend who was having a hard time — it was dated Christmas Eve, 1513.
 

 

Letter from Fra Giovanni
 

I am your friend
and my love for you goes deep.
There is nothing I can give you
which you have not got,
but there is much, very much
that while I cannot give it,
you can take.
 

No heaven can come to us
unless our hearts find rest in today.
Take heaven!
No peace lies in the future
which is not hidden
in this present little instant.
Take peace!
 

The gloom of the world
is but a shadow.
Behind it,
yet within our reach
is joy.
There is radiance and glory
in the darkness
could we but see –
and to see we have only to look.
I beseech you to look!
 

Life is so generous a giver,
but we, judging its gifts
by the covering,
cast them away as ugly,
or heavy or hard.
Remove the covering
and you will find beneath it
a living splendor,
woven of love,
by wisdom, with power.
 

Welcome it, grasp it,
touch the angel’s hand
that brings it to you.
Everything we call a trial,
a sorrow, or a duty, believe me,
that angel’s hand
is there,
the gift is there, and the wonder
of an overshadowing presence.
Our joys, too, be not
content with them as joys.
They, too, conceal diviner gifts.
 

Life is so full
of meaning and purpose,
so full of beauty
– beneath its covering –
that you will find earth
but cloaks your heaven.
 

Courage, then, to claim it,
that is all.
But courage you have,
and the knowledge that
we are all pilgrims together,
wending through
unknown country, home.
 

And so, at this time,
I greet you.
Not quite as the world
sends greetings,
but with profound esteem
and with the prayer
that for you
now and forever,
the day breaks,
and the shadows flee away.