The Gift Comes First: An Insight of Josef Pieper

Dr. Robert Hickson

2 February 2022

Feast of Candlemas

The Presentation of Jesus and the Purification of Mary

Anthony S. Fraser (b. Candlemas1949 – d. 28 August 2014)



To my dear friend, Bob, in our common loyalty to the Holy Faith. Gratefully, Bro. Francis, M.I.C.M.” (This inscription was to Dr. Maluf’s own very fine 2000 book, COSMOLOGY: Philosophia Perennis Volume III, which has an invited Introduction by Dr. Robert Hickson, U.S. Air Force Academy, 9 January 2000, as found on pages xxi-xxvii.)


“The inmost significance of the exaggerated value which is set upon hard work appears to be this: man seems to mistrust everything that is effortless; he can only enjoy, with good conscience, what he has acquired with toil and trouble; he refuses to have anything as a gift.” (Josef Pieper, Leisure the Basis of Culture, with an Introduction by T.S. Eliot (New York: Pantheon Books, Inc., 1952, 1963), citation at and to pages 32-33).


When Brother Francis Maluf and I first met together in the mid-1990s in Richmond, New Hampshire at the Saint Benedict Center, he glowed with a rooted admiration for Professor Josef Pieper. (When I told Brother Francis Maluf that I had known Dr. Pieper personally since 1974—and about how we met memorably in Spain and long afterwards—Dr. Maluf (b. 19 July 1913 – d. 5 September 2009) was then even very happy! Josef Pieper was to die on 6 November 1997, having been born on 4 May 1904.)

Therefore, when I was later invited to write an Introduction to Dr. Maluf’s book, Cosmology, I selected one of Dr. Pieper’s own profound passages—with his allusions to St. Thomas Aquinas—and one which Brother Francis has also so fittingly cherished:

We have only to think for a moment how much this Christian understanding of life depends upon the exercise of “Grace”; let us recall that the Holy Spirit of God is Himself called a “gift” in a special sense; that the great teachers of Christianity say that the premise of God’s justice is His love; that everything gained and everything claimed follows upon something given, and comes after something gratuitous and unearned; that in the beginning there is always a gift – we have only to think of all this for a moment in order to see what a chasm separates the tradition of the Christian West and that other view. (p. 33 of the second of two Epigraphs above; and the second page on the COSMOLOGY-Introduction, p. xxii.)

We may now better see and savor our need (and our life) of Gratitude. As in Eucharistia.


© 2022 Robert D. Hickson