Tag Archives: Dr Michael Waldstein

The Gifts of the Spirit: Piety

Titian's Sacred and Profane Love

Last weekend, almost the whole of “young Catholic London”, it seemed, was at the Theology of the Body Symposium at St Mary’s Twickenham. I hear from lots of people that it was a wonderful weekend. I made it to the first talk, but was ill and so disappointed not to be able to stay for the rest of the weekend. However, it was great to be at Dr Michael Waldstein’s talk, the man who translated John Paul II’s Theology of the Body.

What he said which most struck me was about piety (one of the gifts of the Spirit). Most often I think of piety as reverence, the gift of our loving attitude towards God. But what TOB made me realise, is that it is also a gift of our attitude towards the other. If piety is a sensibility for what is holy, then surely we can have this sensibility in relationships with others too. I think this is what Theology of the Body teaches us – not to control or possess others, but to respect and reverence the person in their own mystery. The opposite is concupiscence: it arises from not seeing the person in their depth, it narrows the horizon of my mind. How easy is it to write someone off if we don’t understand them completely or get the way they are? But the gift of the Holy Spirit helps us widen our heart to accept the other as other. This is the foundation of love. How can we love someone if we want to make them in the image of ourselves?

Dr Waldstein used Titian’s “Sacred and Profane Love” to show the purity of self-giving love (portrayed in the woman on the right). In Christ, we can love freely and innocently and purely, without manipulation, fear or suspicion. What a gift! Probably most of us need to learn how to love in a way that is free and pure, but isn’t it wonderful that we CAN… with grace, and in Christ.