Piety in the darkness

This long weekend (although not a long weekend for retail employees) we are reminded of our need to be thankful to God for all of His generosity to us. Last November 29, while at an ecumenical service in Istanbul with the patriarch of Constantinople, Pope Francis said, “Each evening brings a mixed feeling of gratitude for the day which is ending and of hope-filled trust as night falls.”

This year we are much in need of hope — on the diocesan, state, national, and international levels. We face great economic challenges, an opioid epidemic (killing off many people throughout our state), terrorism in various countries, wars which continue (with our servicemen and women often forgotten), poverty, oppression and injustice spread throughout the world. 

Advent reminds us that Christ has come and He will come again — and He comes to us each and every day, directly in our prayer and indirectly in our neighbors.

Among the Holy Spirit’s gifts, the gift of piety can help us move from gratitude to greater love for God and our neighbors. This movement also will give us greater hope, as we see Jesus walking with us in this vale of sorrows and we walk with our brothers and sisters.

Pope Francis gave a talk on piety back on June 4, 2014. He explained that piety “indicates our belonging to God and our profound relationship with Him, a bond that gives meaning to our life and keeps us sound, in communion with Him, even during the most difficult and tormenting moments.” Many people reading this editorial are in such situations at the moment. 

“This relationship with the Lord is not intended as a duty or an imposition. It is a bond that comes from within. It is a relationship lived with the heart: it is our friendship with God, granted to us by Jesus, a friendship that changes our life and fills us with passion, with joy. Thus, the gift of piety stirs in us above all gratitude and praise. This is, in fact, the reason and the most authentic meaning of our worship and our adoration. When the Holy Spirit allows us to perceive the presence of the Lord and all His love for us, it warms the heart and moves us quite naturally to prayer and celebration. Piety, therefore, is synonymous with the genuine religious spirit, with filial trust in God, with that capacity to pray to Him with the love and simplicity that belongs to those who are humble of heart,” Pope Francis said. What a grace when we live this out!

The Holy Father continued, “If the gift of piety makes us grow in relation to and in communion with God and leads us to live as His children, at the same time, it helps us to pass this love on to others as well and to recognize them as our brothers and sisters. And then, yes, we will be moved by feelings of piety — not pietism! — in relation to those around us and to those whom we encounter every day. Why do I say ‘not pietism’? Because some think that to be pious is to close one’s eyes, to pose like a picture and pretend to be a saint. In Piedmont we say: to play the ‘mugna quacia’ [literally: the pious or serene nun]. This is not the gift of piety. The gift of piety means to be truly capable of rejoicing with those who rejoice, of weeping with those who weep, of being close to those who are lonely or in anguish, of correcting those in error, of consoling the afflicted, of welcoming and helping those in need. The gift of piety is closely tied to gentleness. The gift of piety which the Holy Spirit gives us makes us gentle, makes us calm, patient, at peace with God, at the service of others with gentleness.”

What the pope said ties in well with the Spiritual and corporal works of mercy, something very timely as we are about to begin the Year of Mercy on December 8. 

Pope Francis had a good prayer suggestion for us all: “Let us ask the Lord for the gift of His Spirit to conquer our fear, our uncertainty, and our restless, impatient spirit, and to make of us joyful witnesses of God and of His love, by worshipping the Lord in truth and in service to our neighbor with gentleness and with a smile, which the Holy Spirit always gives us in joy. May the Holy Spirit grant to all of us this gift of piety.” Amen! 

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