We conclude this series on the gifts of the Holy Spirit with a reflection on the seventh gift of Spirit – the gift of piety or reverence.
Very few of us would like to be described as pious. Being pious these days has a negative connotation for it smacks of being a ‘holy Joe’ or a ‘holy Mary’. In fact, we live in a time when to be non-religious is almost a virtue. We hear it all the time from people who quickly state that they are not religious. It’s almost a badge of honour.
The Spirit’s gift of piety has nothing to do with creating an impression or going out of our way to convince people that we are religious. It is a gift from God Himself – the gift of holiness which connects us to the divine life and sets us right in relation to God. The gift of piety enables us recognise that we are creatures that God has made and that as creatures we depend on God for everything, even our very existence. The gift of piety leads us to worship and right praise, moving us away from idols and false gods to worship of the true and living God. Piety enables us to respect God and the things of God. It enables us to love God and to love everything and everyone He has made. Piety leads us to pray and makes us grow in love with prayer as an experience of communion with the Lord. It keeps our relationship with God fresh, alive and active and a bond that we always treasure as our highest good and the strength of our soul[bs1] .
Piety expresses itself in the devotional life of the Church which Pope Francis describes as ‘a true expression of the missionary activity of the Church. It is an ongoing and developing process of which the Holy Spirit is the principle agent’ (The Joy of the Gospel, 122). Here Pope Francis is valuing the role of popular piety in the handing on of the faith from generation to generation. In the words of St Paul VI, ‘popular piety manifests a thirst for God which only the poor and the simple can know’ (Evangellii Nuntiandi). We need think of occasions in the Church’s year like patron day, the devotion to Our Lady in the month of May, novenas of St Anthony and the Sacred Heart, etc.
In conclusion, piety brings us back time and time again to the affectionate dimension to our faith – that it is an affair of the heart, a love story between God and the people he loves, including you and me. The Holy Spirit’s gift of piety makes us recognize the truth of what St Therese hoped, that there be love at the heart of the Church’. May we treasure this gift of the Spirit, ask for it and allow it to draw us into the living flame of God’s love.