External Acts of Piety

Father Guibert writes: “Although life is an interior activity, it would perish if it remained concentrated within us; its flame would soon be put out, if it were shut in a closed vessel and deprived of air. Moreover, what is the sign by which you recognize that a creature is alive? If it moves and feeds, you say it lives. And, further, acting and eating seem to be not only signs of life, but also necessary conditions for its preservation; without motion and food, all life ceases. And it is the same with piety—external exercises are indispensable to its maintenance.”

“If you have at heart an ardent faith, you will not be able to bury it there. It is overflowing by nature, and it needs signs of outward expression. The more it is alive within, the more it will break forth outwardly.”

“The external acts of piety are very rightly called exercises. The good that is done to the life of the body by physical exercises, spiritual exercises effect in the same way for the life of the soul. All living powers are increased by action. You would, then, condemn your soul to progressive atrophy, if you deprived it of the good of daily exercises; and, on the contrary, you will develop and strengthen it, if you stir up your faculties with the acts of religion. The more you pray, the more will you get a taste and aptitude for prayer; the more regular you are in pious reading, the more will you feel a holy activity in doing it; the more faithful you are in following the sacred offices of the Church, the more you will love them. To omit from distaste a certain part of the exercises of piety is to run the risk of soon doing without them altogether, and wisdom bids us rather to overcome the first attacks of interior weariness by still greater diligence.”

“Languors are usually brought about by a want of interior nourishment, for there are more souls than one would suppose who, in the service of God, let themselves die of hunger. Bread is within their reach, both the bread of supernatural grace and that of human help. . . . The great good of pious exercises faithfully fulfilled is just this, that they feed the soul with the spiritual bread that is necessary to its life.”

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

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