What Characterizes the
Recognizing what piety is, and how to go in search of it, and integrating traditional pious practices into one’s daily life.
Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary defines piety as “dutifulness in religion: DEVOUTNESS”, and the adjective pious as “marked by or showing reverence for deity and devotion to divine worship.” Pious is simply the word used to describe someone who is diligent in loving God.
Above all, the Catholic who wishes to grow in piety must cultivate a love for solitude. The Saints remind us that we enter this world alone, and leave it alone, and when practicing the Presence of God, one should realize that He regards each one of us as if we were the only person alive. In addition to this, consider the fact that Jesus would have died to save only you, if, perchance, you alone were the only human being in need of salvation. God is an eminently personal God and we only really hear His divine whisperings in the depths of our hearts when we go aside from the world, nourishing an affection and appreciation for solitude.
“Solitude, and the silence which is there enjoyed, force the soul to leave the earth in thought, and meditate on things of Heaven,” says St. Bernard. Through love for prayer, the Blessed Virgin was so enamored of solitude that, as She told St. Bridget, when She lived in the temple, She avoided even discourse with her parents.
It is also important to remember that the pious Catholic demonstrates fidelity to his convictions by not separating his religion in any way from the secular realm. For example, one cannot witness bad marriages, even within one’s immediate family, and, as well, one must uphold an uncompromising pro-life stance in regards to voting and political affiliations of any sort.
Finally, remember that the practice of piety is to please God alone, not to impress one’s neighbor, or to lead people to think we are holier than we are. It is God Who sees intentions and rewards them magnificently, and it is often prudent to hide pious practices from the eyes of worldly people. On the other hand, we should never be ashamed of publicly professing our faith, when circumstances require that we do so. Always call to mind the frightening admonition of Jesus:
“He that shall be ashamed of Me and of My words, of him the Son of man shall be ashamed, when He shall come in His majesty ...” Luke 9:26
Piety in a pragmatic sense is demonstrated by: suitable composure of body while praying (i.e. kneeling); pronouncing vocal prayers perfectly (i.e. at the very least moving one’s lips when praying vocally); making the Sign of the Cross perfectly, before and after every prayer; genuflecting to acknowledge the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist; bowing one’s head at the Holy Name of Jesus and never using It as an expletive; and respect for the Most Holy Virgin (i.e. capitalizing all nouns and pronouns that refer to Her when writing about Her).
Traditional pious practices that demonstrate and nourish a healthy love for God include the wearing of blessed Sacramentals; the use of holy water, blessed candles, blessed salt and blessed chalk; saving, then burning or burying worn out or badly damaged sacramentals (rather than throwing them in the garbage); always rising from your seat when a priest or nun enters the room; kissing a priest’s hand when you go to shake it (those anointed hands that have the extraordinary power of confecting the Sacraments); kissing Crucifixes, statues and pictures of Our Lady and the saints; and ornamenting holy images with flowers to show them honor and love.
We show reverence to God by limiting conversation while in church to absolute minimum, and only when necessary, speaking in a whisper (recognizing we are in God’s most august presence); dressing modestly and neatly at all times (not slovenly), especially at Mass, bearing in mind that we should have a profound respect for our own bodies, the temple of the Holy Ghost; and, in general, choosing our words carefully, speaking sparsely and modestly, to avoid detraction, vulgarity and sarcasm.