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Piety Isn’t About Outward Image of Holiness, Says Pope

AFP Gabriel Bouys

In run-up to Pentecost, Francis talks about gifts of Holy Spirit.

At the general audience on Wednesday in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis continued his catechesis on the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, this week talking about piety.

“The gift of ‘piety,’ aroused by the Holy Spirit, is not to be confused with 'compassion' towards someone,” stated the Holy Father, “but rather it is the sign of a profound, filial belonging to God, which is then manifested in free and joyful love, to pour out on others.”

Piety is a “gift of the Holy Spirit that is all too often misunderstood or considered in a superficial way," he continued, "but it actually touches upon the heart of our identity and our Christian life."
Francis explained that this gift is not identified in having pity on others, but is rooted in the deep relationship that we have with God, a “relationship that gives meaning to our whole life, keeps us steady and in communion with Him, even in the most difficult and tormenting moments.”
This bond with the Lord is not an imposition or duty, said the Pontiff, but a “relation lived with the heart; it is our friendship with God, given to us by Jesus, a relationship that changes our lives and fills us with enthusiasm and joy.”

Therefore, he affirmed, both "gratitude and praise" arise from this particular gift of the Holy Spirit. “When the Holy Spirit makes us feel the presence of the Lord and all of His love for us, He ignites our hearts and moves us naturally to prayer and celebration.” Piety, then, is synonymous with authentic religious spirit, of filial trust in God, from that capacity to pray with all the love and simplicity of a person who is humble of heart."

Thus from this gift, Francis explained, not only the relation between ourselves and God flourishes, but it also helps us to “pour out this love upon others and to recognize them as brothers and sisters.”
He warned however that piety is not the same as pietism. “Some think that to have piety is to close one’s eyes, give the outward image of it…and to give the false impression of being holy.” 
“But this is not the gift of piety,” he said. Piety has a strict link with meekness. “The gift of piety that the Holy Spirit gives us renders us meek, tranquil, patient, in peace with God: at the service of others in meekness.”
The Holy Father finished by praying that all might receive the gift of piety. “We ask the Lord that the gift of his Spirit be able to defeat our fear, our incertitude, our restless and impatient Spirit, and form us into joyful witnesses of God and His love, adoring the Lord in truth and in service to others, with meekness and also with a smile, which the Holy Spirit always gives us in joy.”

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