Gifts of the Spirit: Piety
St Francis in Prayer (National Gallery, London)

Gifts of the Spirit: Piety

Most high, all-powerful, all good, Lord. All praise is yours, all glory, all honor and all blessing. To you, alone, Most High, do they belong. No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce your name. All praise be yours, my Lord, through all that you have made, and first my lord Brother Sun, Who brings the day; and light you give to us through him…

In his “Canticle of Creatures” Saint Francis of Assisi praises God the Creator for all the wonders he has made. Through his reverence of the Creator and respect for the creatures that God has made, Saint Francis models for us, Piety. This last essay on the Gifts of the Spirit will explore how we can become more pious Christians.

Piety is having reverence for God through worship and praise. St. Francis of Assisi was a well known pious man who attracted the attention of those around him by how he lived. Saint Francis demonstrated Piety through fasting, poverty, his works, and in his interactions with others. But perhaps he is most well known for his love of the animals. His Piety for God was manifest in his love for all of God’s creatures, including the lowest of the creatures. St. Francis is a model for us in how we can grow in Piety, and we will use St. Francis’ love of creation to set the stage for our discussion.

When we think about how we worship God, going to church on Sunday probably comes to mind most quickly. And faithfully attending church on Sunday morning is a great example of Piety. But as we talked about in the essay on Knowledge, if we just settle for church on Sunday, we restrict how we can grow in this Gift. Just how we saw the close relationship between Faith and Knowledge, so do we see a relationship between Piety and Charity or Love, the third of the theological virtues. Out of Love for God, we revere him, we worship him. We are pious disciples out of Love for our Creator. 

The first two chapters of Genesis detail the accounts of creation. And now, millennia after the early Israelite authors wrote down their divinely inspired accounts, we continue to marvel at the works of God’s mouth and hands. God crafted the trees, oceans, mountains, insects, birds, and us. He selected human kind above all creatures to be made in his image and to be his children. Perhaps we take this for gratitude because we are constantly exposed to creation each day. Perhaps we get caught up in the things of the world that we forget that the physical bodies which we inhabit are fashioned by God. Whatever the reason, we lose track of where we come from and forget that we have daily reminders of the marvels of God.

Saint Francis models for us one of the ways that we can grown in Piety, which is through loving God’s creatures, great and small, creepy and soft, tame and fierce. And we cannot forget, that when we look to improve our love of God’s creatures, this includes caring for our selves. When we show respect and care for God’s creatures, we show respect for his creation. When we pick up trash that we see along our path, we show care for God’s creation. When we work to control pollution and waste, we show care for God’s creation. We also show God respect when we praise him for the blessings we have in his creation, the food we eat, the clothes we wear, and the houses in which we live. We can so easily take Piety in creation for granted perhaps because we see it all the time and we have become so used to it. 

When we take care of our physical bodies and our mental health, we praise God. It has become so hard to take care of our physical bodies and our mental health these days. With all the access to junk food, quick meals, electronics, and the plethora of instant gratification, we have forgotten how to care for our bodies and our minds. And through this we have forgotten how to praise God with our bodies and our minds. If our minds are always plugged into a screen, where is room for God? If we are stuffing our feelings with candy and cookies, where is room for the food of the Spirit? We are God’s creatures. We are the pinnacle of God’s creatures. How much more does God love us than the animals? Yet we throw this reality away when we stop taking care of ourselves. 

Two of the biggest barriers for our growth in Piety are stress and shame. Stress causes us to neglect our bodies to ease our mental health. We stress eat and distract ourselves with TV and our phones. Shame creeps into our minds in various ways, but it is always bad and unhelpful. Shame tries to take all the hope and love out of our lives, and this leaves us feeling helpless and worthless. If we look back at the creation stories in Genesis, we see that shame comes as a result of sin. Before sin, there was not shame. Therefore, we should work to eliminate shame from our lives because it is a product of sin and not of God. When we develop healthy ways to manage stress and when we say no to shame, then we can grow in Piety “and in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” Romans 12:1.

If we want to grow in Piety, we can start by taking better care of our physical bodies and our mental health. Let us pray to St. Francis and ask for his intercession to help us love God’s creations even more, and that we may love our own bodies and minds even beyond that such that we may better worship our maker and glorify him with our very selves. 

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Written by
Alexandra Bochte