Through this spiritual gift, the Pope told the thousands gathered for the weekly General Audience in a sunny, St. Peter’s Square, “we experience ever anew, with joy and gratitude, the loving relationship with God our Father which has been granted us in Jesus his Son which grounds and perfects our authentic worship of God.”
When the Holy Spirit pours love into our hearts, he continued, it "leads us to perceive the Lord’s presence and love in our lives, and moves us to respond joyfully in prayer and adoration."
The Holy Father began his address saying piety is so often misunderstood or considered in a superficial way. But this gift of piety is “not identified with having compassion for someone, having pity for one’s neighbor," he said. Instead it indicates "our belonging to God and our profound bond with Him, a bond that gives meaning to the whole of our life and which keeps us firm, in communion with Him, also in the most difficult and trying moments.”
The Holy Father went on to stress two aspects of piety.
On the first, he said, "This bond with the Lord is not intended as a duty or an imposition. It is a bond that comes from within. It is a relation lived with the heart: it is our friendship with God, given us by Jesus; a friendship that changes our life and fills us with enthusiasm and joy.
For this reason, piety “arouses in us, first of all, gratitude and praise” and is the motive and the most authentic meaning of our worship and of our adoration.
“When the Holy Spirit makes us perceive the presence of the Lord and all his love for us, He warms our heart and moves us almost naturally to prayer and to celebration,” the Pope said.
Turning to the second point, Pope Francis explained that if the gift of piety "makes us grow in relationship and communion with God and leads us to live as his children, at the same time it helps us in passing this love on the others and recognize them as brothers."
Through very visual language, the Pope distinguished piety and pity, stressing pity does not motivate faithful in their relationships and encounters.
“Why do I say not to pity? Why do some people think that having compassion is close your eyes, make a face like a little picture, pretend to be a saint," he said. "This is not the gift of piety.”
Rather, he said, piety “means to be truly capable of rejoicing with those in joy, to weep with those who weep, to welcome and help those who are in need."
Noting a very close relation between the gift of piety and meekness, he said piety “makes us meek, it makes us tranquil, patient, in peace with God, and at the service of others with meekness.”
The Bishop of Rome recalled Paul’s Letter to the Romans: "'All who are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God, and ye have not received a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the Spirit adopted as children, by whom we cry, 'Abba, Father. '"
The Apostle Paul’s words still apply to faithful today, he stressed.
The Pope closed inviting faithful to ask the Lord that the gift of his Spirit “may conquer our fear, our uncertainties, also our restless, impatient spirit," and be able to "render us joyful witnesses of God and of his love, adoring the Lord in truth and also in the service of our neighbor, with meekness and with the smile that the Holy Spirit always gives us in joy.”