What Erodes Piety – Part 2 of 2

Father Guibert writes: “God is the controller of the effusion of His grace; when He pleases to let souls taste His goodness by means of consolations, it would be an unwelcome proceeding on man’s part to refuse His gifts. But, according to the subtle remark of St. Francis of Sales, though it is important ‘to seek the God of consolations, it is not a duty to seek the consolations of God.’ It would, then, be an error, and a fault as well, to cultivate piety for the sake of the sensible satisfaction expected from it, and to use it to stir up impressions which are more likely to soothe the nerves than to fortify the will. In those who are greedy for such emotions, it is the sensuous side of the disposition that is developed, and not the religious life. This is why piety disappears as soon as the senses have grown dull with habit and enjoyment has vanished, just as a plant with shallow roots dries up under the first heat of the sun.”

“Pride is the greatest danger of piety. . . . It is to the vain, who make an ostentatious display of piety, that Jesus speaks the words: ‘And when ye pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites, that love to stand and pray in the synagogues and corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men: Amen I say to you, they have received their reward. But thou when thou shalt pray, enter into thy chamber, and having shut the door, pray to thy Father in secret: and thy Father who seeth in secret will repay thee.’ (Matt 6:5-6) For piety does not look for the notice of man, indeed, but for the notice and possession of God. . . . He is in the heart of the Christian. . . . What does it matter to him if the world ignores his piety? This ignorance is even a protection to him. His good is in being alive, not in other people seeing him live.”

“How many there are who take refuge in their so-called piety to dispense themselves from the duty of living a good life.” But, such a one “does not see that his piety is entirely superficial, and that his life is no better for it. . . . To isolate religion from life is to lower it and to smite it with impotence.”

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

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