“I’ve been praying for you. You see, I knew that I would be speaking to you at this conference, so I have been praying for you that my words would fall on fertile soil.”
That’s the way Sister Ann Shields began her talk at the Flame of Love Conference in Philadelphia on October first. Her words made me pause: was she serious? She had been praying for complete strangers? Does she do this every time she presents at a conference? How thoughtful.
It doesn’t often occur to me to pray before opening my mouth to speak. I’m usually too busy thinking for that. You see, I’d probably already rehearsed in my head what I wanted to say while you were talking. Rather than really listening to you. So then I already knew that my words would be correct.
With all that thinking, I’m amazingly thoughtless.
Sister said something else that struck me. She described the virtue of piety. Of course, I already knew what piety was: fear of the Lord. Reverence for Almighty God. But surprisingly that wasn’t how she put it. Sister said that piety is tenderness. Seeing from God’s perspective. Perhaps I need to work on that one.
Transforming Virtue: Piety
In June of 2014 Pope Francis spoke about the gifts of the Holy Spirit during his general audiences. He said that being pious wasn’t pretending to be a saint, or acting “holier than thou.” It’s opening your heart to God and opening your arms to embrace your brothers and sisters. “The gift of piety that the Holy Spirit gives us makes us meek; it makes us peaceful, patient and at peace with God in gentle service to others.” http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2014/06/04/piety-is-embracing-god-others-with-real-love-not-fake-devotion/
The English word “piety” comes from the Latin pietas, which spoke of family love. Cicero defined pietas as the virtue that leads us to do our duty to our country, parents or relatives. It’s the glue that knits society together in mutual respect and love. With a few weeks remaining until the Presidential election, we Americans need piety. http://blog.adw.org/2012/03/what-is-piety-and-how-does-a-lack-of-piety-spell-doom-for-us/
“It’s not enough to love the young: they must know that they are loved.” http://www.donboscowest.org/saints/donbosco
Don John Bosco is the patron saint of youth. He founded the Salesian Order, and is known as one of the greatest teachers of all time. He used education as a “preventive system,” a way to take at risk children and make them into good citizens. He rooted his instruction in a strong Catholic identity and charity.
His mission began with a dream. When John was nine years old, he dreamed that he was in the midst of a crowd of cursing, fighting boys. A man appeared to him, saying “Not with blows will you help these boys, but with goodness and kindness.” http://www.donboscowest.org/saints/donbosco
John started his work with one boy. On the feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 1841, a delinquent boy named Bartholomew was being ordered out of the church by the sacristan. Don Bosco told him to stay for mass, and when it was over invited him to return next Sunday with his friends. Bartholomew did return--with four ragged and hungry friends. Thus began John’s mission to feed, clothe and educate homeless boys. By Don Bosco’s death in 1888 there were 250 Salesian houses in all parts of the world containing 130,000 children & annually turning out 18,000 apprentices in trades such as masonry and carpentry.
Don Bosco’s philosophy of education is all about relationship. It’s about creating the optimal positive environment so that it will bring out the best in the child and lead him to goodness. In his own words written to a bishop: "Your Excellency surely knows that there are two systems of education: the repressive and the preventive. The former leans on force to repress and punish the guilty; the latter relies on gentleness to help the subject obey the law by offering him the most suitable and effective incentives. This is our method.” http://oce.archindy.org/library/documents/Member-Area-Downloads/Parish-Administrators-Rel-Ed/Miscellaneous-Downloads/2012.12.06---St.-John-Bosco's-Pedagogy-of-the-Heart.pdf
Present Day Piety:
A Life of Joy and Service: Mexican Nuns
The Thoughtfulness of Tim Tebow
Piety vs. Condescension
Inspiration from Sister Ann Shields
Saint Dominic Savio is a saint for kids. Born into a poor family, he joined Don Bosco’s school when he was 12 years old. He started a group for students called the Company of the Immaculate Conception, also known as Dominic’s Company. These boys swept and took care of the school and looked after the other students, keeping them out of trouble. When Don Bosco chose the young men to be the first members of this congregation, all of them had been members of Dominic’s Company.
Even though Dominic was a kid, he knew everything he needed to know in order to become a saint. He was an ordinary boy who did everything while thinking of God. He was cheerful, friendly and faithful whether he was playing games or obeying his teacher. "I can't do big things," St. Dominic Savio once said, "but I want everything to be for the glory of God." http://www.ewtn.com/library/MARY/SAVIO.htm
When Dominic died in 1857 when he was 15 years old. Many people thought he was too young to be declared a saint, but Pope Saint Pius X didn’t agree. He canonized Dominic in 1954.