The Worth of Piety

Here and in the next several posts, we shall hear from Father Jean Guibert (1857-1914) on the subject of piety. Father Guibert was a member of the Society of St. Sulpice, and he served as superior of the seminary of the Catholic Institute of Paris. His books On Piety and On the Exercises of Piety each bear an imprimatur from the Archdiocese of Westminster, dated 1911.

The preface to the first book says of the author: “His aim is to encourage esteem for piety, not only among those who are given to pious practices, but also among those who treat it with disdain, as something paltry, or speak evil of it, as if the practice of it were degrading. It is with this end in view that he makes a study of its nature, explains its effects, and lays down rules for the use of it.”

“There is nothing nobler than piety, since it awakens and applies the activity of the soul to the highest, purest, and most fruitful of lives, the very life of God. Nothing is more advantageous than piety, since, by the close contact which it establishes with God, and by the constant effort which it obliges a man to make with regard to himself, it purifies the feelings, enlightens the mind, strengthens the will, gladdens the heart, and stirs up an apostolic fire in the soul.”

“But piety only preserves its worth and yields all its fruits when it is led by the spirit of wisdom. It would cease to be itself, it would disfigure the soul and become repellent, if it degenerated into a superstitious and sterile formalism. Piety has to repel the attacks of which it is the object by uplifting character and by enriching with a wealth of virtues those who live by it. Whenever—as should be the case—pious people show most common sense, most dignity of demeanour, most sympathy, most disinterestedness and most self-sacrifice, piety and religion itself will need no more apologists; the lives of those who pray will be its most unanswerable defence.”

Lastly, Father Guibert expresses the hope that his discussion of piety will “give many souls a taste for God,” and that “from this they will find spontaneously arise a taste for the good.”

Quotations from Jean Guibert, On Piety (London: R. & T. Washbourne, Ltd., 1911).

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Sayings of Catholic saints and sages: spiritual food for meditation and reflection.
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