Father Guibert observes: “There are Christians so ill-instructed as to the true character of their religion as to look to it for nothing beyond benefits of a material nature. If prayer does not bring rain upon their fields when it is needed, or if it does not prevent strokes of misfortune; if prayer does not get for the labourer out of work the employment he desires, or if it does not procure for every family in distress the bread for which it hungers; if prayer does not cure all the illnesses of those who are dear to us and secure us from the hand of death, what can be the good of it? . . . This perverted religion, without calling forth a single interior act of love for God, looks for all success from the magical influence of a recited formulary, or a lighted candle, or a medal or a scapular.”
“It is not that God does not care for our temporal needs. He makes provision for them by His providence; and sometimes He condescends to signalize His intervention by striking acts that we rightly call miracles, so that we have good reason to fly to Him in our necessities. Nor does He at all disapprove of the external signs by which we express our desires, provided that superstition does not transform them into pagan practices. But all this is not religion: it is only its rind—a rind that is worth keeping so long as it contains, and does not stifle, religion.”
“Religion, particularly in its most active form, which is piety, is the ascent to God of the soul that confides in the divine power. Under this impulse the soul is uplifted and purified, and becomes more worthy of the God to whom it draws near; the grace of God penetrates it, ennobles it, transforms it and fortifies it. . . . It is enough if God have changed the soul, without changing the circumstances in which it lives, for it to find everything altered. It has more courage to turn its powers and capacities to account, and to conquer in the struggle for existence; temporary defeats do not beat down its energy or prevent its recovery of self-possession, so that it can set to work once more. It remains in firmness and resignation to face the evils that it cannot get rid of, and it makes use even of its sufferings to help on its moral progress. Such effects, which are the fruits of religion, are surely worth more to men than the transitory benefit of some earthly gain. Would that Christians always sought in their piety for this inestimable good!”
Quotations from Jean Guibert, On Piety (London: R. & T. Washbourne, Ltd., 1911).