Truth be told, I have never been curious enough to explore the Gift of Piety as the word itself has been off-putting to me, sounding pretentious or pompous. But after learning the meaning of Piety as the quality of reverence, this gift of the Holy Spirit has taken on a whole new context for me. As I contemplate this gift, I see how it is woven through recent times in my life when God was drawing me closer to Him through silence, and feeling sacred presence in adoration, the eucharist and on pilgrimage surrounded by holy saints. It produces such feelings of joy and reverence in my heart.
With Piety or Reverence, we have a deep sense of respect for God and the church. It is in this posture that I recognize my total reliance on God and come before Him with humility, trust, and love. Piety is the gift, at the Holy Spirit’s instigation, where we pay worship and duty to God as our Father. It is also the perfection of the virtue of religion. While we tend to think of religion today as the external elements of our faith, it really means the willingness to worship and to serve God. Piety takes that willingness beyond a sense of duty, so that we desire to worship God and to serve Him out of love, similar to the way that we desire to honor our parents and do what they wish. True piety instills in us a desire always to do that which is pleasing to God.
In the Summa Theologica, St. Thomas Aquinas says that piety, along with fear of the Lord and fortitude, direct the will toward God. He asserts the gift of reverence corresponds to the virtue of justice. Do you see the correlation here? When we lose respect for God and His merciful justice, we end up where we are today, divided while fighting for worthy justice but without a unifying framework. We are well intentioned people serving a multitude of masters.
Pope St. Gregory teaches us that, “Through fear of the Lord, we rise to piety.” The basic definition of piety is “to give filial worship to God precisely as our Father and to relate with all people as children of the same Father.” As a person shows reverence for God as a loving Father, we learn to respect others as children of God precisely because that is what we all are. Through our baptism, we have each been reborn as a child of God. We enter a graced relationship with God, like the relationship between the Father and the Son.
All who are led by the spirit of God are sons of God. You did not receive a spirit of slavery leading you back into fear, but a spirit of adoption through which we cry out, ‘Abba!Focus on His truth, Romans 8:14-17
What are some of the benefits of learning, understanding, and living in the Gift of Piety?
- It gives us a filial respect for God as a loving Father.
- We have a generous and childlike love, so that we want to please God, even if it means making sacrifices.
- It motivates a loving obedience toward the teachings and commandments, respecting them as expressions of God’s love for us. As such, we approach prayer or worship at Mass not as a task or burden but as an act of joyful love; we adhere to the commandments and teachings of the Church — as difficult as it may be at the time, given “popular” opinion — because we know they express God’s truth and therefore show the way to eternal life. Immediately, we can see why fear of the Lord and piety are so closely linked.
- Piety also makes us love and have affection for “God’s friends” — the Blessed Mother Mary, the saints and the angels; or “God’s representatives” who exercise His authority — the Holy Father, the bishops, and parents; or “God’s treasures” — the Bible, the church, or blessed religious objects. Concerning piety toward God’s treasures, we might kiss the Bible and the crucifix, to bow our head at the name of Jesus, to be quiet and respectful in God’s house, and to avoid walking on blessed graves — all acts of piety.
- Piety perfects the virtue of justice, enabling us to fulfill our obligations to God and neighbor, and to do so willingly and joyfully. With piety, we are not only motivated by the requirements of strict justice but also by the loving relationship we share with our neighbor. Simply, we want to do what is right in the eyes of God.
- We should have a respectful obedience to lawful superiors, as well as a humble respect for peers and subordinates. For example, Saint Teresa of Kolkata always taught her sisters to treat those they cared for as though they were caring for Jesus Himself, and to do so with a joyful heart and with a smile.
How do we cultivate such an awesome gift?
- Praying the Our Father with reverence and devotion, taking time to meditate on the different petitions.
- Understanding the meanings behind the words in the Our Father using the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s explanation (CCC, 2759- 2865). In this prayer, we find a summary of the whole Gospel.
- Centering prayer on a daily basis consents to God’s presence and action within us and as I surrender to God, I breathe in His Spirit and breathe out His Spirit into the world.
- Sanctifying our work and daily lives. Whatever we do can be made into an offering to the Lord, whether out of pure devotion, or for the poor souls in purgatory, or the reparation for our own sins.
- Offering up sufferings or areas of annoyance when we are tempted to complain. We can say, “Lord, this is for the poor souls.”
- Allowing piety to help us endure the most distasteful of tasks. Where there is love, there is no labor.
In summary, Pope Francis says, “Piety is synonymous of authentic religious spirit, filial confidence in God, of the capacity to pray to Him with love and simplicity which is proper of persons who are humble of heart. The gift of piety makes us grow in our relation and communion with God and leads us to live as His children; at the same time, it helps us to pour this love also on others and to recognize them as brothers.”
The Gift of Piety helps me learn and grow in love helping me complete and perfect the virtues on my daily journey in holiness. As I respect and accept God as my loving Father, I want nothing more than to please Him and bless His holy name with a joyful and reverent love.
Smitten with the Spirit’s Gift of Piety,