PIETY AND PIETISM
[Continued from yesterday]
...I do not know whether in our hearts there are any other pious people we blame. At first we incline to blame all, sweeping all into one condemnation. Later we discover that not all are included; some good people are also good sorts.
Gradually, if we are patient, we limit very much our sentence; we begin to discover that it is not so much piety we condemn, or so much piety that rouses us, as either piety eccentric, or else piety gone mad, or lastly piety that has frozen into pietism.
Man is too true to be easily mistaken; truth recognises truth and always loves it; if then there is antagonism there will be untruth on one side or the other. But if piety is genuine, if it goes deep down and is therefore spontaneous, then it is always welcome; and that chiefly because it is scarcely, if at all, recognised.
It is blended with the character of the owner, and the character, chastened by it, dominates. Such a character we call real, and are prepared to accept all the rest.
All this leads us to two conclusions. In the first place let us not be in too great a hurry to condemn all piety as pietism. If we have a natural prejudice against piety, and cannot account for its origin, if we have here and there met a pious individual who has got very much on our nerves, let us not hastily assume that all piety is annoying, that all good people are wet blankets, but let us look around and count the number of those whom we revere, not in spite of, but because of their piety.
And secondly let us look to ourselves. It may be that pious people are a trouble to us, chiefly because our piety is a trouble to them. We ourselves may not be immaculate in that matter. Or again it may be that they trouble us, because we do not want to be troubled. We have settled down in a comfortable little puddle of our own, and object to being disturbed. In either case the fault may be ours; if it is, do not let piety suffer for it, even if we ourselves do not aspire so high.
From The School of Love and Other Essays
by The Most Reverend Alban Goodier, S.J.
Burns, Oates, & Washburn, Ltd. 1918