Piety Doesn’t Always Start on One’s Knees

Every religious institute has a “take” on prayer, apostolate, vows, community and so on. As Paulines we call it having the Pauline “color.” Our Founder urged us always to take on this Pauline mentality and mode of living, praying, and working. It is clear then, that when you put a Benedictine next to a Carmelite you see clear distinctions between them, although they both love prayer, carry out a mission, take vows and live in community. A Franciscan doesn’t quite look like a Pauline because the founding charisms were different. The devotion of the Passionist to the passion of Christ differs from the devotion of the Pauline to Christ the Master, Way, Truth and Life. The beauty of each institute’s “color” is that it is a gift of the Holy Spirit given to the Church because the Church needed this gift from God to fulfill her mission for the salvation of the world. One is not better than another. Each is special and necessary.

So here is an example of the Pauline “color” of prayer in our community. This quote is taken from the book Ut Perfectus Sit Homo Dei, a book of instructions given to senior members of the Society of Saint Paul by Blessed James Alberione in a month-long course of exercises in 1960. In these words on Pauline prayer, three things at least stand out strongly as characteristics of our piety:

1) the link between piety and the ongoing journey of personal formation;

2) the objective of employing all the soul’s faculties in our prayer: an understanding of the vision of what is true (mind), the act of the will which is the determining factor of our movement towards improvement; deep and dynamic dedication that draws the whole man into correlation with God (heart);

3) the integration of piety with mission.

“The stimulus for every Pauline act of piety is this sense of completeness…the employment of all the soul’s faculties with a view to developing the whole person.

In the Mass and in the Eucharistic Visit, which are at the center of our spiritual life, the ‘Way-Truth-Life’ method—to which the application of the mind, will and heart wonderfully conforms—is being more and more clarified and studied by everyone. In these practices much use is made of the Missal or the Gospels so as to experience conceptually the great lessons which flow from the Liturgy or the pages of the New Testament. Piety is above all a profound act of faith, which starts from a lively involvement of the human mind. St. Thomas speaks of prayer, properly made as an ‘actus rationis.’ Man’s mind heralds his every act, and a daily focusing of the mind on the great truths of revelation is an absolute must in a person’s sound development.

“The understanding or the vision of what is true would, however, be sterile were it not followed up by the act of the will, a determining factor in our movement towards improvement. Just as the ‘mind’ is placed in correlation with the teaching of Christ-Truth, so the will must be committed to action with Christ-Way. … The will goes into action under both the impulse of grace and the attraction of the teaching of Christ, Way of all human perfection.

“Lastly, there must be that deep and dynamic dedication that draws the whole man into correlation with God…. There has to be, in other words, that essential life-giving fervor, summed up appropriately in the word ‘heart,’ which generates the profound rhythm of life: since a piety which engages the whole man, fulfills him, and results in an assured process of education.

“We mentioned previously that in the Pauline practices of piety the aim is not only the integral formation of the person but also the defining of one’s social role in the apostolate, that is, in teaching. There is a move, in other words, to identify oneself ‘in consortio veri Magistri,’ clearly adopting that style and communicating it anew to the world, in a way that is ever more precise. It is thus an ongoing movement towards a well-defined ideal, adhering to a call that came from on high and committing ourselves to attain a physiognomy in society conceived on a model which is a work and a life which is new in the Church” (Mi Protendo in Avanti, E.P. 1954, pp 276, 277 and 280)

You might want to ask yourself what it would be like to take on one or more of the points about prayer that Alberione makes in this instruction. What difference would it make in your life if you spent a few moments reading the Bible each day, or an ecclesial document, or a book about the scriptures or spiritual life? What is the impetus that propels you into action and how can you strengthen the daily impetus of grace? What is your ideal..for yourself at work, at home, at prayer? 

As a Pauline our "piety" and devotion to Jesus develops the fullness of the personality and drives us into mission to be Jesus preaching today in the world we live in. And all of our journey to transformation and the world's needs are then brought back to prayer and the Eucharist. Any of us can develop this type of prayer integrated with life so much that prayer is not something that only happens on our knees in Church, but spills into every aspect of our person, our desires, our work, our love.






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