Sunday, August 16, 2009


I find it a bit confusing when perusing the Catholic internet and finding that "piety" has become a dirty word. I have sometimes seen writings of Catholic authors praised for being free of piety. It seems that people have forgotten that piety is a gift of the Holy Spirit. According to Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D.:
By means of the gift of piety, the Holy Spirit gives a new touch to our spiritual life, a touch of delicacy and sweetness which perfects and simplifies our relations with God and our neighbor....Under its influence our prayer will become more affectionate, more filial, and we shall attend with greater facility to all that concerns the divine worship. Let us ask for this gift, especially when we seem to be very dry and cold, so that in times of trial and interior suffering by its help we shall go to God as a child to its Father. Furthermore, our diligent, constant application to prayer, notwithstanding the lack of sensible devotion, is one of the best dispositions for bringing upon us the life-giving breath of the gift of piety. ~ Divine Intimacy, pp.910-911
So genuine piety is a precious gift, something to cultivate and pray to God for. I think what many people may react against is not piety but the "pietism." Pietism is, according to
  1. Stress on the emotional and personal aspects of religion.
  2. Affected or exaggerated piety.
Perhaps some people would classify any work of devotion or traditional piety as being "pietistic." But there is another side to it as well. With the upheavals in the church in the past forty years, many people have replaced solid doctrine and spirituality with emotional experiences. It is easy for feelings to take the place of authentic faith, faith which is often unfelt, especially in stressful times. Feelings do play a part in the spiritual life and the journey of prayer, as long as it is kept in mind that feelings "do not have brains," as a priest once told me. If given free rein, feelings can lead down the primrose path to moral laxity and spiritual disaster.

Piety, however, can counteract pietism, but it requires some participation on the part of the free will. To quote Fr. Gabriel once more:
The gift of piety perfects justice in our relations with others by helping us smooth over differences and overcome feelings of reserve and coldness which, in spite of ourselves, may remain in our conduct, particularly to those who are disagreeable and unfriendly. The gift of piety inspires a sense of the divine paternity, not only in respect to ourselves, but in respect for others....

If we wish to respond to the inspirations of the gift of piety, we must make every effort to be kind and gentle, and to form the habit of seeing in everyone, even in those who may be opposed to us, a child of God and our brother. ~Divine Intimacy, p. 911


Enbrethiliel said...


Anyone reading Catholic 'blogs back in 2003 and 2004 will remember how great it was to be "POD"--"pious and overly devotional"--and how many 'bloggers seemed to want to be as POD as possible. How things have changed since then . . . Very recently, I read a critical post about 'blogs that "reek of POD." I haven't made a full survey or anything, but I think the tide really has turned . . . if only against the word.

Yet I agree that it's not real piety which turns 'blog readers off, but that over-emotional "pietism."

elena maria vidal said...

I know exactly what you mean, E. I have been watching the entire process for a number of years now. It is helpful for everyone (including myself) to remember that genuine piety is a gift of the Holy Spirit, not a disease... or sign of bad writing

My Chocolate Heart said...

Love this post... Holy Spirit, infuse me with greater piety!

Bring back piety!

Thanks for this.

Father Gregory said...

Excellent post! We need to stress this more in the daily lives of Catholics.

Mary N. said...

Thank you. I learn a lot from your blog. You have a strong and unique Catholic "voice".

elena maria vidal said...

Thank you all!

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