Progressing in Piety

Father Guibert notes: “It has been rightly said that, ‘in the way of God, not to go forward is to go back.’ . . . In the same way as iron gets rusty if it is not often rubbed, and as a house falls into dilapidation and ruin if it is not periodically renewed, so all living creatures visibly fall away and incline towards death as soon as their activity ceases growing in strength. . . . On the path that leads to God there is no stage where it can stay and sit down. On this steep slope there is no resting-place; either one ascends, while the will is active, or else one goes down, as soon as the will relaxes.”

In what does progress in piety consist? “It does not consist in the multiplication of hours explicitly devoted to prayer, for the mind is incapable of a progressively increasing strain; it cannot concentrate itself upon God to any good effect unless it avoids overwork and fatigue. Furthermore, it is not the object of piety to hinder the duties of one’s state of life; on the contrary, it aims at fulfilling them still more completely, by drawing moral strength from God Himself. It is, indeed, quite possible that the duties of one’s state, with their increasing demands, may temporarily encroach upon the hours of piety. . . . The progress of piety is to be measured, not by the time spent upon it, but by the intensity of the interior life that it develops, and by the real influence that it bears upon conduct.”

“The pious soul carries away from its exercises into the midst of its work the splendours of faith and the ardour of divine love. The thought of God is its companion and guide. . . . And the cultivation of the thought of God must be the aim of piety; this is the most unequivocal sign of its progress.”

“If it is a good thing to have one’s attention fixed upon God, it is still better to offer Him one’s service. St. Vincent de Paul, indeed, reached this apogee of piety when he asked himself before doing anything: ‘What does God wish me to do? What advice does He wish me to give? What step does He wish me to take?'” Then we see realized the Apostle’s word as the highest expression of piety: ‘I live, now not I; but Christ liveth in me’ (Gal 2:20).”

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

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