How to be Holy and Pious in Private


Okay, so my mom has constantly been telling me (and probably anybody else who will listen) about her devotion to the Confraternity of the Holy Face or something like that. One of her ‘offerings’ or whatever is that she does not do unnecessary commerce or servile labor on Sundays. Good, great! Nevermind I have mentioned this practice to her on a few occasions over the last couple of years as a practice that I borrowed from a mentor of mine. No, she came up w/ this completely on her own!

So the problem, as often is, w/ my mom (and myself at times) is that she is constantly seeking recognition and praise for being so pious and holy, it all seems to be for show which really discounts its genuineness. For example, when I visited my folks this weekend, my dad wanted to go to their usual after-mass breakfast hangout. Now, I generally practice not buying on Sundays b/c it causes others to work on what should be a day of rest . . .but in ‘special’ cases like this, I will make an exception. However, mom was just beside herself! She stood there at the door telling my dad ‘you know I made a promise to the Confraternity of the Holy Face’ and trying to convince him that he shouldn’t eat out on Sunday either. I told her basically to give it a rest and not snub us at breakfast, but she could just sit there and drink water.

What’s especially irritating is that she no longer cooks, so basically, she either wanted dad to cook a continental breakfast (that she would turn her nose up at anyway and insist he not eat either b/c they’re on a diet), or insist that everyone just eat cold cereal or fast b/c of her convictions.

Now, the lady I picked this practice up from does not preach her convictions to others publicly (she does so in private at the appropriate time), and if she had company, she would make a special point to go all out on breakfast if she was truly convicted about not eating out on Sunday. The point is, when do you decide that your convictions are more important that being hospitable to your guests? Would Jesus really want you to hold to your convictions if it meant alienating your company? Mom just really has a hard time striking a harmonious balance, and sometimes I do too.

I am often conflicted w/ being holy and pious in private, and living my faith ‘out loud’ so to speak so that others will ‘see our good works and be drawn to the Lord.’ Any suggestions on striking a balance? My thoughts at this time are that if you are seeking recognition from others for your faith, it is better for the time being that you live your faith in private.


I think we all have trouble with that. I know I do. I pray every night at 9 PM for our country and our troops and often I am in a public place. I feel a little funny about doing it in the middle of a restaurant with a table full of people, or in my own home with company.

A couple of times at home I’ve explained our practice and people joined in with us. But when we’re out lately I’ve been retreating to the rest room to do this in private.

Should I explain and continue doing this prayer in public? Or is it better to retreat and pray in private?

See—everyone struggles with these issues, I bet.


I think this is a common struggle and there are no clear answers. I don’t think anyone can give you exact specifics, although wouldn’t that be nice to have some sort of list so you knew you were doing the right thing?

I will pray for you and your mother. I feel bad for you because I know you want a close relationship with her but she is difficult to be around. It is probably easy to see where her errors are but try as best as you can to be charitable to her. She is a soul that is seeking…she is seeking God’s love and the love and admiration of her family and she is going about it in an odd manner. Try and feel sympathy for her as she has not been blessed by God’s beautiful grace to the extent that you have. I hope this helps, take care.


I have similar struggles with people in my life.
People can have private devotions that no one even knows about. They can be completely between you and God. But others feel the need to display their faith for one reason or another.

It’s painful to deal with people like this… I know!
My only advice is to pray for your mom, and to read over the parables in the Gospels which talk about “praying in private and not in the open as the hipocrates do” and the one about “not to let your left hand know what your right hand is doing”…

You do not know the state of her heart, so I’m not saying in any way that she’s a “hipocrate”, but those Gospels are a very helpful prayer in dealing with people who have a need to expose their faith to others.

God bless!


The tone of your message was not very complementary to your mother. Despite her failings, you are to honor her. You cannot change her, only pray for her. But for yourself, I would continue to practice my own pieties in private. You will be a witness to others not because of the specific practices you follow, but because of the humble, loving personality you develop as a result of those practices.
Perhaps you can start a new family tradition for when you are there on Sunday’s. Bring over a crockpot of a lovely meal that you prepared the night before. Then none of you have to cook on Sunday and your father can still have a nice, warm meal after Mass. (If you eat from paper plates, there will be no servile clean-up afterwards either.)


Is it actually a sin to eat out on Sunday if it can be avoided?


And for that matter, due to what Sr Salley said, is it actually a sin to wash dishes or do any small bit of “work” whatsoever, if it can be avoided?


No it is not a sin. If one was to plan on cleaning their house not out of fun but obligation (yes, there are some who enjoy house cleaning, me not being one) then that could fall under not keep the Sabbath Holy. But simple, necessary functions and tasks (sanitary tasks like dish washing, prepping food, etc.) is more than fine.

As for the eating food on the Sabbath, actually Sunday is the day of Resurrection, therefore should be celebrated with feasts not fasting. You don’t have to go to a restaurant for that, but that would be my guess why many cultures and families have long standing traditions of having the big “Family Dinner” every Sunday, to celebrate the Resurrection.

As for the OP, does your mom even want to leave the house? Does she not want to avoid having drs, emergency personnel (police officers, firefighters, paramedics), on-call plumbers, etc. work on Sundays or is it just those in the other customer service industries?


My wife is a saint.

She goes to daily mass, she says the liturgy of the hours, she prays for all of us, she’s always at the church.

I say she is a saint not because of these devotions, but because her life reflects this.

We were driving to mass yesterday (I try to take first Fridays off to go to mass. Ooops, guess I shouldn’t have told you :slight_smile: ) and she was asking if she was too over the top. I told her that if she was ever indicted for being a Christian, she would be in trouble because she would certainly be convicted. Because of her actions, not her devotions.

What’s the point? It’s how we are living our lives, isn’t it? The devotions are well and good as ways to gain in holiness, but if we are doing them to simply do devotions and FEEL holy, then we have missed something.


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