What Erodes Piety – Part 1 of 2

Father Guibert writes: “Amongst all the fruits of the interior activity of the soul, there is none that is better than piety, none that brings more gladness, none that provides a more substantial food; but, at the same time, there is none so prone to deteriorate and change its sweetness afterwards into poison. It is, then, proper to know the kind of deterioration to which it is subject, and to guard it from the dangers that threaten it.”

“The first danger incurred by persons in religion is the reduction of their piety to forms or exterior practices. However worthy of respect the practices may be, they do not constitute piety itself; for piety is a life that reveals itself within. The exterior acts are the necessary stimulus and the visible expression of it, and when they have set it in motion, they have fulfilled the part they have to play.”

“Jesus put His disciples on their guard against this fault when He said: ‘When you are praying, speak not much, . . . for your Father knoweth what is needful for you, before you ask Him’ (Mt 6:7-8). These admirable words well reveal to us what prayer is. We do, indeed, require a form for our lips . . . to arouse our own feeling, and to put our hearts in a state of active supplication.”

“They leave the true path of piety who multiply to excess vocal prayers and pick up every known form of devotion and make a duty of reciting it daily, without taking care to keep alive the spirit of prayer in the soul: they risk wearing out the mind, if they do not incur a distaste for religion. They also leave it who consider themselves pious because they make innumerable pilgrimages and belong to innumerable confraternities, or because they wear a number of religious emblems. There is certainly no harm in these visible signs in themselves, which may be valuable as a stimulus, but in the persuasion that piety consists entirely in doing such things. . . . What God requires, in addition to the bodily presence and the motion of the lips, is presence of spirit and activity of soul.”

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

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