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Understanding Catholicism - Devotions

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  • Understanding Catholicism - Devotions


    The Catholic Encyclopedia says:
    "Devotion, in the language of ascetical writers, denotes a certain ardour of affection in the things of God, and even without any qualifying prefix it generally implies that this ardour is of a sensible character. On the other hand, by the term "devotions" in the plural, or "popular devotions", we commonly understand those external practices of piety by which the devotion of the faithful finds life and expression."
    It is this latter, what might be called pious practices that I am considering. Here are some of the most common devotions.

    The Rosary
    One of the best known devotion (or pious practice) is the Rosary. I’m no expert on the origins of this but I understand its roots go back to the time when priests and religious recited all 150 psalms over the week. Poor people, unable to read said 150 “Our Father’s” instead, using knotted cords or beads on cords. The Our Father in Latin is Paternoster and there is still a street in London called Paternoster Row, where such beaded cords were made. When devotion to Mary grew the original greeting of Gabriel to Mary was used expressed as “Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with thee”. Later Elizabeth’s greeting was added (Lk 1:42) and then other words added until we get the Hail Mary as we know it today. In the15th century the idea of meditating on the events of Christ’s life was introduced and the beads divided into sets of 10. It gradually evolved to what we have today which is a meditation on the life of Christ.

    Stations of the Cross
    There are 14 stations representing stages of Christ’s Passion, from being condemned to death to being laid in the tomb. At each station we reflect on the event and say a prayer. Thus we remember and meditate on Christ’s Passion and walk in his footsteps to the Cross. This is especially popular during the season of Lent.

    Novenas
    Novenas are nine days of prayer (hence the name), usually of one particular prayer or set of prayers, for a particular intention. The nine days is because it is reckoned that the disciples spent nine days in prayer between the Ascension and Pentecost.

    Litanies
    "A litany is a well-known and much appreciated form of responsive petition, used in public liturgical services, and in private devotions, for common necessities of the Church, or in calamities — to implore God's aid or to appease His just wrath." (Catholic Encyclopaedia).
    The model is the prayer of the 3 youths in the fiery furnace (Dan 3:57-87) and Psalm 136.


    Such popular devotions may be said alone or in groups. Litanies are normally said in groups as a petition and response.

    These pious practices arise from the “grass roots” rather than from the hierarchy. They are immensely varied and allow people to find devotional expression in ways that they find helpful in their spiritual journey. Catholicism is not a “one size fits” all in its devotional practices.
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