One of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit we receive at the sacrament of Confirmation is the gift of piety. But what is it and what do we do with it?
At a basic level, piety is about respect for the sacred. We can start with God’s name. It’s not just about being sensitive when using the name Yaweh, it’s about respecting God’s name in all three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and this includes the name of Jesus. If we throw around the name of Jesus like it’s any other word, we are not being respectful to God. If we would not substitute our own name, or the name of a loved one, then we shouldn’t use Jesus’ name in our responses.
“Sacred items” are those items set apart from the every day and are for use during Mass, prayer, and sacraments. In addition, we should respect churches and church spaces, especially when people are there to pray. This may mean avoiding unnecessary conversation or removing yourself to another location. From buildings to rosaries, and all things inbetween, piety is acknowledging that these items are not meant for our pleasure, but as conduits in our relationship with the Lord. Even something like holy water, (which is blessed) is not something we would use to bathe in, but rather we use to bless ourselves, reminding ourselves of our baptism, and to call on the grace we received in that sacrament to help us in our current challenge.
Sometimes distractions can cause us to lose focus and test our ability to be pious. For example, walking up to receive the Eucharist, we should be preparing ourselves for receiving the greatest gift of all: the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus. Yet there is that cute baby peering over the shoulder of the parent in front of us. How could anyone not smile and give a little wave? And if we receive in the hand, do we present our hands like a throne for Jesus to be placed? And on our way back to our seats, do we take the time to welcome our Lord into our bodies or do we scan the crowd to see who’s there and acknowledge our friends?
The gifts the Holy Spirit poured out on us at Confirmation may seem like that occurred a very long time ago. However, God is the master of all time, and His gifts do not have expiration dates. When we receive a gift from God, it’s not for us to keep and hold it. But rather, we are called to practice and share it. Piety is not for just “holy people” or saints, it’s for all of us. We are all called to be holy and practicing piety (with help from the Holy Spirit to lead us) will enable us to recognize the holy and sacredness of items and events in our lives. Our respect for sacred items is one way to love the God who wants nothing more than to shower us with even more gifts. We need to use and share what we have already received in order to receive more. Piety is not about perfection, it is a practice. Let us thank the Holy Spirit for this wonderful gift and ask His assistance as we put it into practice!