Piety: A Gift of the Holy Spirit

The Desire to Do What Is Pleasing to God

Piety Street, New Orleans
Piety Street, New Orleans. Matthew D White / Getty Images

Piety is the sixth of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, enumerated in Isaiah 11:2-3. Like all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, piety is granted to those who are in a state of grace. As, in the words of the current Catechism of the Catholic Church (para. 1831), the other gifts of the Holy Spirit "complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them," piety completes and perfects the virtue of religion.

Piety: The Perfection of Religion

When we are infused with the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, we respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit as if by instinct, the way that Christ Himself would. Perhaps in none of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is this instinctual response more obvious than in piety. While wisdom and knowledge perfect the theological virtue of faith, piety perfects religion, which, as Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., notes in his Modern Catholic Dictionary, is "The moral virtue by which a person is disposed to render to God the worship and service he deserves." Far from being a drudgery, worship should be an act of love, and piety is the instinctive affection for God that makes us desire to render worship to Him, just as we voluntarily honor our parents.

Piety in Practice

Piety, Father Hardon notes, arises "not so much from a studied effort or acquired habit as from a supernatural communication conferred by the Holy Spirit." People sometimes say that "piety demands it," which usually means that they feel compelled to do something that they don't want to do. True piety, however, makes no such demands but instills in us a desire always to do that which is pleasing to God—and, by extension, that which is pleasing to those who serve God in their own lives.

In other words, piety, like each of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, helps us to live our lives as full and complete human beings. Piety draws us to Mass; it prompts us to pray, even when we may not feel like doing so. Piety calls us to respect that natural order created by God, including the natural human order; to honor our father and our mother, but also to respect all of our elders and those in authority. And just as piety binds us to previous generations still alive, it moves us to remember and to pray for the dead.

Piety and Tradition

Piety, then, is tied closely to tradition, and like tradition, this gift of the Holy Spirit is not simply backward-looking but forward-looking. Caring for the world in which we live—especially our little corner of the vineyard—and trying to build up a culture of life not only for us but for future generations are natural outgrowths of the gift of piety.

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ThoughtCo. "Piety: A Gift of the Holy Spirit." Learn Religions, Apr. 5, 2023, learnreligions.com/piety-gift-of-the-holy-spirit-542127. ThoughtCo. (2023, April 5). Piety: A Gift of the Holy Spirit. Retrieved from https://www.learnreligions.com/piety-gift-of-the-holy-spirit-542127 ThoughtCo. "Piety: A Gift of the Holy Spirit." Learn Religions. https://www.learnreligions.com/piety-gift-of-the-holy-spirit-542127 (accessed June 9, 2023).