Piety: reverence for God or devout fulfillment of religious obligations (Dictionary app)
“Charity and devotion differ no more, the one from the other, than the flame from the fire.” -St. Francis de Sales
When I think of piety, I think of those called to live the religious life or lay apostles who try -within their secular lives- to keep the devotional habits of the religious communities to which they are ancillary.
Pious is not a label I would ever attach to myself. Like Sister Luke in “The Nun’s Story,” I would be forever lured by the desire to act out of my own moral will than subvert it to the rules of a group. My individualistic bent is quiet but deeply ingrained.
I only made it through boot camp during my initial Navy days by literally singing every chance I had. It distracted me from monotonous routine, drills and demands I take something perfectly well done and perfect it even better.
Or that I do the inane and scrub the bathroom tile with a toothbrush.
In a phase of life where I was still discovering myself, I chafed at being part of the faceless ranks. I was just getting to know who I was and I suddenly was expected to make her conform to all the other young women around me.
But I have always been marked by the stamp of “different,” even as a child. I felt a shame in that as a little girl because then I wanted so much to “belong;” as a young woman, I was finally learning to enjoy the feeling of “standing out.”
So the idea of taking on a life of piety seems like a bad match for me.
It is not that I am failing to develop a devotion to God as Father; that, is in fact, why I am attempting this challenge. I want more days in his presence because they are peaceful and uncluttered and far less messy than everyday life.
Truly I enjoy the hours spent contemplating the readings and meditations, the things that I learn. It is solitary but satisfying.
In my own way, I am attempting to burn from within in my desire to grow closer in relationship to Jesus through Mary. I want it to be a fire and not a candle flickering and easily snuffed out.
But for me that is more about desire than piety. I visualize piety as chastened and buttoned down. It seems like a discipline of coloring within the lines rather than splashing paint on canvas to see what shape it takes.
Not that I don’t admire the pious – I do. I just don’t see that I have a place among them.
Yet I know piety was one of Mary’s virtues. When she saw the wine run low at the wedding in Cana, she did not instruct the wait staff to find more wine. She told them to do as Jesus told them.
She directed their attention to her son, and a miracle happened.
Perhaps I should contemplate piety a bit longer.
“True piety hath in it nothing weak, nothing sad, nothing constrained. It enlarges the heart; it is simple, free, and attractive.”