The Bond Between Piety and Virtue

Father Guibert states: “The distinctive mark of true piety is progress in goodness—at least, in the endeavour towards what is better. Between genuine piety and real virtue there is, then, a bond in their very nature.”

“Here is a man upon whose heart piety has taken a strong hold, so that the thought of God encircles him, the love of God fires him, and the exercises of religion are his necessary food. Watch his conduct, and you will see that at the same time he shows more self-control, he is more gentle, more devoted, more ready for sacrifice and more generous in his work. In proportion as his piety increases, his virtue grows.”

“But if, after an impulse of fervour, his piety begins to decrease, if it is dissipated and fails from his heart, together with an abandonment of his religious exercises, you will at once find that all the springs of his life become relaxed. In proportion as piety lowers, his virtue goes by degrees, and the man is like a disabled ship amidst the eddies of passion; he becomes selfish, exacting, touchy, cross, and unfaithful to the duties of his state of life; and then it is clear that his virtue depended only upon his piety.”

“This experience, which has been observed hundreds of times by those who are pious, both in their own case and in the case of others, shows what a profound influence is exercised by piety upon the will. For if virtue be the fruit of grace, it is also a product of the will, and it depends for its merit upon the conscious part played by the will. . . . It is, then, by acting upon the will, and by imprinting upon it a moral impulse, that piety engenders virtue.”

How does piety exercise a direct action upon the will? “The will is an interior force that carries us towards the good. Its activity is manifested at first within, but it must spring forth and spread itself without. Its interior effort consists in the firm decision by which we determine to act rightly. But this determination must be energetic enough to issue in outward action and to last.” The will “is not always ready to act. Clear ideas are not enough for it, just as a knowledge of machinery is not enough to set a motor going. And, just as in the motor, steam under pressure is required for action, so the will must possess a certain amount of heat of feeling to come into play. If we know how to awaken and to enkindle feeling in the soul, we then have the secret of moving the will.”

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

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