At the General Audience dedicated to the gifts of the Holy Spirit the Pope explains the meaning of piety
2014-06-04 L’Osservatore Romano
It isn’t just compassion or pietism, but awareness of the Lord’s love, which “warms the heart and moves us quite naturally to prayer and to celebration”. This is how Pope Francis – continuing his catecheses dedicated to the gifts of the Holy Spirit – explained the meaning of piety to the faithful gathered in St Peter’s Square for the General Audience on Wednesday 4 June. The following is a translation from the Italian.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good Morning.
Today we would like to dwell on a gift of the Holy Spirit that often becomes misconstrued or considered in a superficial way, but rather touches the very heart of our Christian life and identity: it is the gift of piety.
It should be clarified immediately that this gift is not to be identified with having compassion for someone, feeling pity on one’s neighbour; rather, it 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.
1. 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 relation 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 hearts 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 humble of heart.
2. If the gift of piety makes us grow in relationship 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: pious/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 the lonely and those 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.
Dear friends, in the Letter to the Romans the Apostle Paul states: “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Rm 8:14-15). 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 testimonies of God and of his love, by worshipping the Lord in truth and in service to neighbour 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.