Pope Francis dedicated his Wednesday’s general audience to another gift of the Holy Spirit, piety, which he emphasized is not used here in a superficial sense.
Piety, as a gift of the Holy Spirit, means “our belonging to God and our profound bond with Him, a bond that gives meaning to all our lives and helps us stay firmly in communion with Him, even in the most difficult moments”.
The Pope explained to the tens of thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square that this union is not and should not be a duty or an imposition, but is instead an exchange, “something that comes from within, a relationship experienced with the heart: it is our friendship with God, given to us by Jesus, a friendship that changes our life and fills us with enthusiasm and joy. Therefore, the gift of piety arouses gratitude and praise, first and foremost. Indeed this is the reason and the most authentic meaning of our worship and our adoration. When the Holy Spirit makes us aware of the Lord’s presence and of all His love for us, this warms our hearts and moves us almost naturally to prayer and celebration. Piety, therefore, is a synonym for authentic religious spirit and filial trust in God, for that capacity to pray to Him with the love and simplicity of those who are humble at heart”.
This gift, which enables us to live as true children of God, also leads us to love our neighbor and to recognize him as our brother. “And so we are moved to sentiments of piety – not pietism, or outward religiosity. Why do I say ‘piety’ and not ‘pietism’? Because there are those who think that piety means closing one’s eyes, assuming an image or a saintly face”, commented Pope Francis, using a phrase typical of Piedmont, the Italian region from which he originates: “Fare la mugna quacia” (feign ingenuousness, Ed.). “This is not the true gift of piety. The true gift of piety makes us truly capable of rejoicing with those who are joyful, of weeping with those who weep, of being close to those who are in anguish, of correcting those who err, of consoling the afflicted, of welcoming and assisting those in need. There is also a close relationship between piety and quietude”, he observed. “The Holy Spirit makes us calm and patient, in peace with God and meekly at the service of others”.
The Holy Father concluded by quoting from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans. “All those led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father!’. Let us pray the Lord that this gift of the Holy Spirit may conquer our fears, uncertainties and also our restless, impatient spirit, and make us joyful witnesses of God and His Love”.