Many years ago, when I taught in the Bronx, I had an after-school club to assist students who couldn’t complete their homework because of challenging situations at home.
One day, I told the after-school club that I needed to close the classroom early to go Christmas shopping. An avenue two blocks from the school contained many stores of various kinds. I had an hour to shop before our community of Sisters would gather to pray the Liturgy of the Hours. I knew I had to purchase quickly, and I already knew what I was going to buy.
As I closed up the classroom and dismissed my students, one of the girls asked, “Sister, can I tag along with you? I am interested in what kind of stuff you would buy.” Shrugging, I said, “Sure. But, you need to keep up. I plan to walk really fast!” She agreed.
As I trotted down the block with her on my heels, several men and women acknowledged me with, “Hola! Mamasita!” (Hello, Little Mama) or, “Hola! Hermana!” (Hello, Sister!)
This recognition from others as they passed on the sidewalk was completely against the culture of the area where I lived. You see, it truly was not “safe” to even make eye contact with others. My student was completely aware of this and, as I flew down the block, she called out to me, “Did you know that guy? Why did he greet you? Aren’t you afraid?” Little did she know that even those who didn’t greet me verbally, I greeted my Beloved within them.
Smiling, my response to her questioning was this: “Melissa, don’t you understand, when folks see me because of what I am wearing, they know that I am safe to greet? I do not engage in a conversation with them, just greet them. Yes, I know, I have to be careful! You have to be as well. But – even if I don’t know them by name – they are my brothers and sisters because of God creating them! Even if they don’t know it!”
I am reminded of this story as I continue my series on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Let’s focus on the gift of piety.
“The gift of piety fosters the following spiritual dispositions: first, filial respect for God as a loving Father; second, a generous and childlike love, so that a person wants to please God, even if it means making sacrifices; and third, a loving obedience toward the teachings and commandments, respecting them as expressions of God’s love for us. As such, a person approaches prayer or worship at Mass not as a task or burden but as an act of joyful love; a person adheres to the commandments and teachings of the Church — as difficult as it may be at the time, given “popular” opinion — because he knows they express God’s truth and therefore show the way to eternal life. Immediately, we can see why fear of the Lord and piety are so closely linked.”1
Look at it this way: The gift of piety guides us in our relationship with God. A relationship that is personal and childlike, and a love that is so profound that one would undertake any sacrifice that is asked. This love is not only extended to the Godhead but also to every human being because we love Him.
Archbishop Martinez, in his book The Sanctifier, says it this way: “Every day in holy Mass the Church voices the sentiment: ‘We give you thanks for your great glory.’ Do we really understand these words? We give thanks to God, not because of what he has given us, but because he is great, because of his glory. It is natural for a son who truly and worthily loves his father to take immense care of that father’s honor and glory, not regarding the benefits that may come to him from it. …. When a leper approached [St. Francis of Assisi], he felt a supernatural movement in his soul. He responded to it and in that very moment he received a revelation: the revelation of human fraternity. When St. Francis understood and knew that all men are brothers, he received the marvelous effect of piety. This gift enables us to perform our obligation toward others…in accord with the great affection we bear them in our souls.” 2
As I put these words on digital paper, I ponder that one of the graces that COVID has brought to the world is a realization that we are truly connected. My love and my prayers for you do matter! So even behind your mask and at a physical distance, love others with the same kind of love that stirred Jesus to go to the Cross and to be resurrected three days later!
2Martínez Luis M. The Sanctifier. Pauline Books & Media, 2004. Pg. 166-167.
By Sister Geralyn Schmidt, SCC, Special to The Witness