Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

On The Vigil of Pentecost V

Here are some reflections upon the ninth and tenth verses of the Sequence from the Mass of Pentecost: the Descent of the Holy Spirit Upon the Apostles. Veni, Sancte Spiritus

On Thy faithful who adore,
And confess Thee evermore,
In Thy seven-fold gifts descend.

There are seven gifts of the Holy Spirit - seven being the biblical number which signifies totality or wholeness: seven sacraments, seven days of creation...

These gifts are: wisdom, counsel, knowledge, understanding, fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord.

Perhaps a word just about piety. Piety means a devout heart. We get the words vote and vow from devout. So piety is: to make good the promises and desires of the heart towards God. 

Father Willie Doyle, S.J. was an Irish Jesuit priest who served as chaplain until his death (August 16, 1917) on the battlefields of France during the First World War. In one of his diary entries he speaks of piety. Here's a paraphrase of his thoughts.

Piety is not synonymous with religious sentiment or getting into a religious mood. It is not consolations or looking for signs. Some Christians see the spiritual life as primarily the discovery of visions, miracles, wonders and saints who had mystical gifts. But piety is delighting in and growth in virtue, which is practiced goodness.

Contrary to a popular devotional sense, piety requires no special form of prayer. Piety is not doing anything in particular, but simply listening for the Spirit's inspirations. The Spirit's work is to make us whole.

Piety is conscience, yes, doing what is good and avoiding what is evil, but it is all the more attentiveness to the whisperings which call us to awareness: how to be an authentic and fully alive persons in this moment, as was Jesus. 

~ ~ ~

Give them virtue's sure reward,
Give them Thy salvation, Lord. 
Give them joys that never end.
Amen. Alleluia.

Salvation doesn't just mean, get me to heaven, Jesus. Salvation begins here and now. It has to do with getting on a safer or more sure track. Get me to where I belong.

I remember one night years ago as a young priest answering a sick call in the middle of the night. The family gave me directions to find their home in a kind of private community. I found the home and stayed an hour or so, leaving to return to my rectory at about 2 A.M.

But I couldn't retrace the directions and became hopelessly lost, driving around and around for hours until the sun started to come up. Then all of a sudden I kind of popped out onto the main road which led me back to my rectory. 

I felt powerless and unreasonably fearful: "O God, I'll run out of gas and they'll find me here, dead on the side of the road. Get me out of here." That' just touching the need for salvation. The addict understands the need for salvation more deeply. Or the person with a life-threatening illness. Or a provider who loses a job. Or where resentment, negativity or self-pity is starting to own me. 

But whatever the person is experiencing, "Get me out of here" or "Get me home" seems to be the basis of feeling the need for salvation. 

On the Eve of Pentecost I might name my immediate need for salvation and present that in my prayer.


  1. Thank you for this post.

  2. Thank you for your explanation of piety. It is a word often used but not clearly understood.

  3. When one has knowledge and understanding, one cannot go wrong. Important gifts of the Holy Spirit to carry us through this world which is at ends with itself in so many ways.

  4. Through this post, you have made me more aware of the gift of piety. It is a tool for more fulfillment in my journey to become a better person, and more aware of who I could become. I appreciate your perseverance in bringing these messages to us. God Bless.