Directory On Popular Piety and the Liturgy - Part 1, Chapter 1

August 11, 2008

PART ONE

EMERGING TRENDS
HISTORY, MAGISTERIUM AND THEOLOGY

Chapter One

LITURGY AND POPULAR PIETY
IN A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
 

Liturgy and Popular Piety Throughout the Centuries 

22. The relationship between Liturgy and popular piety is ancient. It is therefore necessary to begin by surveying, even rapidly, how this relationship has been experienced down through the centuries, since it will often help to resolve contemporary difficulties.

Christian antiquity

23. The Apostolic and post-apostolic periods are marked by a profound fusion of the cultic realities which are now called Liturgy and popular piety. For the earliest Christian communities, Christ alone (cf. Col 2,16) was the most important cultic reality, together with his life-giving word (cf. John 6,63), his commandment of reciprocal charity (cf. John, 13,34), and the ritual actions which he commanded in his memory (cf. 1 Cor 11,24-26). Everything else - days and months, seasons and years, feasts, new moons, food and drink… (cf. Gal 4,10; Col 2,16-19) - was of secondary importance.

Nevertheless, the signs of personal piety are already to be found among the first generation of Christians. Inspired by the Jewish tradition, they recommended following the example of incessant prayer of Jesus and St. Paul (cf. Luke 18,1; Rm 12,12; 1 Thes 5,17), and of beginning and ending all things with an act of thanksgiving (cf. 1 Cor 10,31; 1 Thes 2,13; Col 3,17). The pious Israelite began the day praising and giving thanks to God. In the same spirit, he gave thanks for all his actions during the day. Hence, every joyful or sorrowful occasion gave rise to an expression of praise, entreaty, or repentance. The Gospels and the writings of the New Testament contain invocations of Jesus, signs of christological devotion, which were repeated spontaneously by the faithful outside of the context of Liturgy. It must be recalled that it was a common usage of the faithful to use biblical phrases such as : “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me” ( ); “Lord if you wish, you can heal me” (…); “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (…); “My Lord and my God” ( …); “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (..). Innumerable prayers to Christ have been developed by the faithful of every generation on the basis this piety.

Until the second century, expressions of popular piety, whether deriving from Jewish, Greco-Roman or other cultures, spontaneously came together in the Liturgy. It has already been noted, for example, that the Traditio Apostolica contains elements deriving from popular sources(25).

The cult of martyrs, which was of great importance for the local Churches, preserves traces of popular usages connected with the memory of the dead(26). Some of the earliest forms of veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary(27) also reflect popular piety, among them the Sub tuum praesidium and the Marian iconography of the catacombs of St. Priscilla in Rome.

While always most vigilant with regard to interior conditions and the prerequisites for a dignified celebration of the sacred mysteries (cf. 1 Cor 11, 17-32), the Church has never hesitated in incorporating into the liturgical rites forms drawn from individual, domestic and community piety.

In this period Liturgy and popular piety, either conceptually or pastorally, did not oppose each other. Both concurred harmoniously in celebrating the one mystery of Christ, considered as a whole, and in sustaining the supernatural and moral life of the disciples of the Lord.

24. In the fourth century, given the new politico-social situation of the Church, the question of the relationship between liturgy and popular piety begins to be raised consciously in terms of adaptation and inculturation rather than solely in terms of spontaneous convergence.

The local Churches, guided by clear pastoral and evangelizing principles, did not hesitate to absorb into the Liturgy certain purified solemn and festive cultic elements deriving from the pagan world. These were regarded as capable of moving the minds and imaginations of the people who felt drawn towards them. Such forms, now placed at the service of the mystery of worship, were seen as neither contrary to the Gospel nor to the purity of true Christian worship. Rather, there was a realization that only in the worship of Christ, true God and true Saviour, could many cultic expressions, previously attributed to false gods and false saviours, become true cultic expressions, even though these had derived from man’s deepest religious sense.

25. In the fourth and fifth centuries, a greater sense of the sacredness of times and places begins to emerge. Many of the local Churches, in addition to their recollection of the New Testament data concerning the dies Domini, the Easter festival and fasting (cf. Mark 2,18-22), began to reserve particular days for the celebration of Christ’s salvific mysteries (Epiphany, Christmas and Ascension), or to honour the memory of the martyrs on their dies natalis or to commemorate the passing of their Pastors on the anniversary of their dies depositionis, or to celebrate the sacraments, or to make a solemn undertaking in life. With regard to the socialization of the place in which the community is called to celebrate the divine mysteries and give praise to the Lord, it must be noted that many of these had been transformed from places of pagan worship or profane use and dedicated exclusively to divine worship. They became, often simply by their architectural arrangements, a reflection of the mystery of Christ and an image of the celebrating Church.

26. During this period, the formation of various liturgical families with their consequent differences, matured. The more important metropolitan Churches now celebrate the one worship of the Lord with their own cultural and popular forms which developed from differences of language, theological traditions, spiritual sensibilities, and social contexts. This process gave rise to the progressive development of liturgical systems with their own proper styles of celebration and agglomeration of texts and rites. It is not insignificant to note that even during this golden age for the formation of the liturgical rites, popular elements are also to be found in those rites.

On the other hand, bishops and regional synods began to establish norms for the organization of worship. They became vigilant with regard to the doctrinal correctness of the liturgical texts and to their formal beauty, as well as with regard to the ritual sequences(28). Such interventions established a liturgical order with fixed forms which inevitably extinguished the original liturgical creativity, which had not been completely arbitrary. Some scholars regard these developments as one of the source of the future proliferation of texts destined for private and popular piety.

27. Mention must be made of the pontificate of the great pastor and liturgist Pope St. Gregory VII (590-604), since it is regarded as an exemplary reference point for any fruitful relationship between the Liturgy and popular piety. Through the organization of processions, stations and rogations, Gregory the Great undertook a major liturgical reform which sought to offer the Roman people structures which resonated with popular sensibilities while, at the same time, remaining securely based on the celebration of the divine mysteries. He gave wise directives to ensure that the conversion of new nations did not happen without regard for their own cultural traditions. Indeed, the Liturgy itself could be enriched by new legitimate cultic expressions and the noble expressions of artistic genius harmonized with more humble popular sensibilities. He established a sense of unity in Christian worship by anchoring it firmly in the celebration of Easter, even if other elements of the one mystery of Salvation (Christmas, Epiphany, and Ascension) were also celebrated and the memorials of the Saints expanded.

The Middle Ages

28. Among the main concerns of the Oriental Christian Churches, especially the Byzantine Church, of the middle ages, mention can be made of both phases of the struggles against the iconaclast heresy (725-787 and 815-843) which was a watershed for the Liturgy. It was also a period of classical commentaries on the Eucharistic Liturgy and on the iconography for buildings set aside for worship.

In the liturgical field, there was a noticeable increase in the Church’s iconographical patrimony and in her sacred rites which assumed a definitive form. The Liturgy reflected the symbolic vision of the universe and a sacral hierarchical vision of the world. In this vision, we have the coalescence of all orders of Christian society, the ideals and structures of monasticism, popular aspirations, the intuitions of the mystics and the precepts of the ascetics.

With the decree De sacris imaginibus of the Second Council of Nicea (787)(29) and the resolution of the iconaclastic controversy in the “Triumph of Orthodoxy” (843), icognagraphy, having been given doctrinal legitimacy, developed and organized its definitive form. The icon, hieratic and pregnant with symbolic power, itself became part of the celebration of the Liturgy, reflecting, as it did, the mystery celebrated and retaining something of its permanent presence which was exposed for the veneration of the faithful.

In the West, the high middle ages saw the formation of new cultures, and political and civil institution deriving from the encounter of Christianity, already by the fifth century, with peoples such as the Celts, the Visigoths, the Anglosaxons, and the Francogermans.

Between the seventh and the fifteenth century, a decisive differentiation between Liturgy and popular piety began to emerge which gradually became more pronounced, ending eventually in a dualism of celebration. Parallel with the Liturgy, celebrated in Latin, a communitarian popular piety celebrated in the vernacular emerged.

30. The following may be counted among the reasons for the development of this dualism:

  • the idea that the Liturgy was the competence of clerics since the laity were no more than spectators at the Liturgy;

  • the marked distinction of roles in Christian society - clerics, monks, and laity - gave rise to different styles and forms of prayer;

  • in Liturgy and iconography, the distinct and particular consideration given to the various aspects of the one mystery of Christ, while expressing a devotion for the life and work of our Lord, failed to facilitate an explicit realization of the centrality of the Paschal mystery and encouraged a multiplicity of particular times and forms of celebration of a distinctively popular tenor;

  • lack of a sufficient knowledge of the Scriptures on the part, not only of the laity, but of many clerics and religious, made access to an understanding of the structure and symbolic language of the Liturgy difficult;

  • the diffusion of apocryphical literature containing many stories of miracles and episodic anecdotes, on the other hand, had a significant influence on iconography which, touching the immagination of the faithful, naturally attracted their attention;

  • the parctical absence of any form of homeletic preaching, the disappearance of mystagogical preaching, and poor catechetical formation, rendered the celebration of the Liturgy closed to the understanding and active participation of the faithful who turned to alternative cultic times and forms;

  • a tendencey to allegory, excessively incroaching on the meaning of the liturgical texts and rites, often deviated the faithful from an understanding of the true nature of the Liturgy;

  • the discovery of expressive, popular forms and structures unconsciously redrafted the Liturgy which, from many perspectives, had become increasingly incomprehensible and distant from the people.

31. The Middels ages saw the emergence and development of many spiritual movements and associations of different ecclesiastical and juridical form. Their life and activities had notable consequences for the relationship between Liturgy and popular piety.

The new religious orders of evangelical and apostolic life, devoted their efforts to preaching and adopted simpler liturgical forms in comparison to those found in the monasteries. These liturgical forms were often close to the people and to their exprssive forms. On the other hand, they also developed and promoted pious exercises that encapsulated their charism, and diffused them among the people.

The emergence of the Confraternities, with their religious and charitable objectives, and of the lay corporations with their professional interests, gave rise to a certain popular liturgical activity. These often erected chapels for their religious needs, chose Patrons and celebrated their feast days. Not infrequently, they compiled the officia parva and other prayers for the use of their members. These frequently reflected the influence of the Liturgy as well as containing elements drawn from popular piety.

The various schools of spirituality that had arisen during the middle ages became an important reference point for ecclesial life. They inspired existential attitudes and a multiplicity of ways of interpreting life in Christ and in the Holy Spirit. Such interpretations exercised considerable influence on the choice of celebration (e.g. episodes from the Passion of Christ) and were the basis of many pious exercises.

Civil society, constituted ideally as a societas Christiana, modelled many of its structures on ecclesiastical useage and measured itself according to the rhythms of liturgical life. An example of this is to be found in the ringing of bells in the evening which called the peasants from the fields and simultaneously signalled the Angelus.

32. Throughout the middle ages many forms of populuar piety gradually emerged or developed. Many of these have been handed down to our times:

  • the organization of sacred performances depicting the mysteries celebrated during the liturgical year, especially those surrounding the salvific events of Christ’s birth, his passion, death and resurrection;

  • the participation of the faithful was encouraged by the emergence of poetry in the vernacular which was widely used in popular piety;

  • as a parallel, or even an alternative to many liturgical expressions, several devotional forms appeared; for example, various forms of Eucharistic adoration served to compensate for the rarity with which Holy Communion was received; in the late middle ages, the rosary tended to substitute for the psalter; among the faithful, the pious exercises of Good Friday became a substitute for the Liturgy proper to that day;

  • the growth in popular forms of devotion to Our Lady and the Saints: pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and to the tombs of the Apostles and martyrs, veneration of relics, litanies, and suffrage for the dead;

  • the considerable developmnt of the rites of blessing which, together with Christian elements, also reflected a certain response to a naturalistic sensibility as well to popular pre-Christian beliefs and practices;

  • nucleuses of “sacred times” based on popular practices were constituted. These were often marginal to the rhythm of the liturgical year: sacred or profane fair days, tridua, octaves, novenas, months devoted to particular popular devotions.

33. In the middle ages, the reationship between Liturgy and popular piety is constant and complex, but a dual movement can be detected in that same relationship: the Liturgy inspired and nourished various expressions of popular piety; and several forms of popular piety were assumed by, and integrated into the Liturgy. This is especially true with regard to the rites of consecration of persons, the assumption of personal obligations, the dedication of places, the institution of feasts and to the various blessings.

A dualism, however, prevailed between Liturgy and popular piety. Towards the end of the middles ages, both, however, went through a period of crisis. Because of the collapse of cultic unity, secondary elements in the Liturgy acquired an excessive relevance to the detriment of its central elements. In popular piety, because of the lack of adequate catechesis, deviations and exaggerations threatened the correct expressions of Christian worship.

The Modern Period

34. At the dawn of the modern period, a balanced relationship between Liturgy and popular piety did not seem any more likely. The devotio moderna of the late fifteenth century was popular with many great spiritual masters and was widespread among clerics and cultivated laymen. It promoted the development of meditative and affective pious exercises based principally on the humanity of Christ - the myteries of his infancy, his hidden life, his Passion and death. However, the primacy accorded to contemplation, the importance attributed to subjectivity and a certain ascetical pragmatism exalting human endeavour ensured that Liturgy no longer appeared as the primary source of the Christian life in the eyes of men and women advanced in the spiritual life.

35. The De Imitatione Christi is regarded as a tyical expression of the devotio moderna. It has exercised an extraordinary and beneficial influence on many of the Lord’s disciples in their quest for Christian perfection. The De Imitatione Christi orients the faithful towards a certain type of individual piety which accentuates detachment from the world and the invitation to hear the Master’s voice interiorly. Less attention is devoted to the communitarian and ecclesial aspects of prayer and to liturgical spirituality.

Many excellent pious exercises are to be found among those who cultivated the devotio moderna, as well as cultic expressions deriving from sincerely devout persons. A full appreciation of the celebration of the Liturgy is not, however, always to be found in such circles.

36. From the end of the fifteenth to the beginning of the sixteenth century, the discovery of Africa, America and the Far East caused the question of the relationship between Liturgy and popular piety to be posed in new terms.

While the work of evangelizing and catechising countries distant from the cultural and cultic centre of the Roman Rite was certainly accomplished through preaching the Word and celebrating the sacraments (cf. Mt 28, 19), it also came about through the pious exercises popularized by the missionaries.

Pious exercises became a means of transmitting the Gospel message and, following conversion, of preserving the Christian faith. By virtue of the norms designed to preserve the Roman Rite, there were few reciprocal influences bewteen the Liturgy and the autochthonous cultures. In Paraguay, the Reductiones are a rare example of this. The encounter with these cultures, however, was easily facilitated in the field of popular piety.

37. Among those most concerned for the reform of the Church at beginning of the sixteenth century, mention must be of two Camoldelesi monks, Paolo Giustiniani and Pietro Querini, authors of the famous Libellus ad Leonem X(30) which set out important principles for the revitalization of the Liturgy so as to open its treasures to the entire People of God. They advocated biblical instruction for the clergy and religious, the adoption of the vernacular in the celebration of the divine mysteries and the reform of the liturgical books. They also advocated the elimination of spurious elements deriving from erroneous popular piety, and the promotion of catechesis so as to make the faithful aware of the importance of the Liturgy.

38. Shortly after the close of the fifth Lateran Council (6 March 1517), which had made provisions for the instruction of youth in the Liturgy(31), the crisis leading to the rise of protestantism arose. Its supporters raised many objections to the Catholic doctrine on the sacraments, to the Church’s worship, and to popular piety.

The Council of Trent (1545-1563), convoked to resolve the situation facing the People of God as a result of the spread of protestantism, addressed questions relating to the Liturgy and popular piety from the doctrinal and cultic perspective(32), at all three of its phases. Becasue of the historical context and the doctrinal nature of the matters dealt with by the Council, the liturgical and sacramental questions placed before the Council were answered predominantly from a doctrinal perspective. Errors were denounced and abuses condemned. The Church’s faith and liturgical tradition were defended. The decree De reformatione generali(33) proposed a pastoral programme, whose activation was entrusted to the Holy See and to the Bishops, which demonstrated concern for the problems arising form the liturgical instruction of the people.

39. In conformity with the dispositions of the Council, synods were held in many of the ecclesiatical provinces. These often demonstarted a concern to bring the faithful to an active participation in the celebration of the divine mysteries. Simultaneously, the Roman Pontiffs began a vast programme of liturgical reform. The Roman Calendar and the liturgical books

of the Roman Rite(34) were revised in the relatively short space of time between 1568 and 1614. In 1588 the Sacred Congregation of Rites was established to promote and correctly order the liturgical celebrations of the Roman Church(35). The Catechismus ad Parochos fulfilled the provision of pastoral and liturgical formation.

40. The reform of the Council of Trent brought many advantages for the Liturgy. There was a return to the “ancient norm of the Fathers”(36) in many of the Church’s rites, notwithstanding the relatively limited scientific knowledge of the period then available. Elements and impositions extraneous to the Liturgy or excessively connected with popular sensibilities were eliminated. The doctrinal content of the liturgical texts was subjected to examination to ensure that they reflected the faith in its purity. The Roman Liturgy acquired a notable ritual unity, dignity and beauty.

The reform, however, had a number of indirect negative consequences: the Liturgy seemed to acquire a certain fixed state which derived from the rubrics regulating it rather from its nature. In its active subject, it seemed to become almost exclusively hierarchical which reinforced the existing dualism between Liturgy and popular piety.

41. The Catholic reform, with its positive concern to promote a doctrinal, moral and institutional reform of the Church and to counteract the spread of protestantism, in a certain sense endorsed the complex cultural phenomenon of the Baroque. This, in turn, exercised a considerable influence on the literary, artistic and musical expressions of Catholic piety.

In the post Triedntine period, the relationship bewteen Liturgy and popular piety acquires some new aspects: the Liturgy entered a static period of substantial uniformity while popular piety entered a period of extraordinary development.

While careful to establish certain limits, determined by the need for vigilance with regard to the exuberant or the fantastic, the Catholic reform promoted the creation and diffusion of pious exercises which were seen as an important means of defending the Catholic faith and of nourishing the piety of the faithful. The rise of Confraternities devoted to the mysteries of the Passion of Our Lord, as well as those of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints are good examples. These usually had the triple purpose of penance, formation of the laity and works of charity. Many beautiful images, full of sentiment, draw their origins from this form of popular piety and still continue to nourish the faith and religious experience of the faithful.

The “polular missions” emerged at this time and contributed greatly to the spread of the pious exercises. Liturgy and popular piety coexist in these exercises, even if somewhat imbalanced at times. The parochial missions set out to encourage the faithful to approach the Sacrament of Penance and to receive Holy Communion. They regarded pious exercises as a means of inducing conversion and of assuring popular participation in an act of worship.

Pious exercises were frequently collected and organized into prayer manuals. Reinforced by due ecclesiastical approval, such became true and proper aids to worship for the various times of the day, month and year, as well as for innumerable circumstances that might arise in life.

The relationship between Liturgy and popular piety during the period of the Catholic Reform cannot be seen simply in contrasting terms of stability and development. Anomalies also existed: pious exercises sometimes took place within the liturgical actions and were superimposed on those same actions. In pastoral practice, they were sometimes more important than the Liturgy. These situations accentuated a detachment from Sacred Scripture and lacked a sufficient emphasis on the centrality of the Paschal mystery of Christ, foundation and summit of all Christian worship, and its priviliged expression in Sunday.

42. The age of enlightenment further delineated the separation of “the religion of the learned” which was potentially close to the Liturgy, and the “religion of the simple people” which, of its very nature, was closer to popular piety. Both the “learned” and the “simple people”, however, shared the same religious practices. The “learned” promoted a religious practice based on knowledge and the enlightenment of the intelligence and eschewed popular piety which they regaded as superstitious and fanatical.

The arisocratic sense which permeated many aspects of culture had its influence on the Liturgy. The encyclopaedic character of knowledge, coupled with a critical sense and an interest in research, led to the publication of many of the liturgical sources. The ascetical concerns of some movements, often influenced by Jansenism, fuelled a call for a return to the purity of the Liturgy of antiquity. While certainly redolent of the cultural climate, the renewal of interest in the Liturgy was fuelled by a pastoral concern for the clergy and laity, especially from the seventeenth century in France.

In many areas of its pastoral concern, the Church devoted its attention to popular piety. There was an intensification of that form of apostolic activity which tended to integrate, to some degree, the Liturgy and popular piety. Hence, preaching was encouraged at significant liturgical times, such as Advent and on Sundays when adult catechesis was provided. Such preaching aimed at the conversion of the hearts and morals of the faithful, and encouraged them to approach the Sacrament of Penance, attend Sunday Mass regularly, and to demonstrate the importance of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick and Viaticaum.

Popular piety, which had been effective in stemming the negative influences of protestantism, now became an effective antidote to the corrosiveness of rationalism and to the baleful consequences of Jansenism within the Church. It emerged strengthened and enriched from this task and from the extensive development of the parish missions. Popular piety emphasized certain aspects of the Christian mystery in a new way, for example, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and new “days”, such as the “first Friday of the month”, gained importance in the piety of the faithful.

With regard to the eighteenth century, mention must be made of the work of Ludivico Antonio Muratori who combined erudition with notable pastoral activity. In his famous work, Della regolata devozione dei cristiani, he advocated a form of religosity based on the Liturgy and the Scriptures that eschewed all attachment to superstition and magic. The work of Benedict XIV (Prospero Lambertini) was also significant, especially his authorization of the use of the Bible in the vernacular.

43. The Catholic Reform strengthened the structure and unity of the Roman Rite. Given the notable missionary expansion of the eighteenth century, the Reform spread its proper Liturgy and organizational structure among the peoples to whom the Gospel message was preached.

In the missionary territories of the eighteenth century, the relationship between Liturgy and popular piety was framed in terms similar to, but more accentuated than, those already seen in the sixteenth and seventeenth ceturies:

  • the Liturgy retained a Roman character and hence remained, at least partially, extraneous to autochthonous culture. The question of inculturation was practically never raised, partly because of the fear of negative consequence for the faith. In this respect, however, mention must be made of the efforts of Matteo Rici in relation to the question of the Chinese rites, and those of Roberto de’ Nobili on the question of the Indian rites;

  • popular piety, on the one hand, was subject to the danger of religious syncretism, especially where evangelization was not deeply rooted; while on the other, it became more autonomous and mature: it was not limited to reproducing the pious practices promoted by the missionaries, rather it created other forms of pious exercises that reflected the character of the local culture.

The Contemporary Period

44. Following the French revolution with its objective of eradicating the Christian faith and its overt hostility to Christian worship, the nineteenth century witnessed a important liturgical revival.

This was preceeded by the development of a vigorous ecclesiology which saw the Church not only in terms of a hierarchical society but also as the People of God and as a worshipping community. Besides the revival of ecclesiology, mention must also be made of the flowering of biblical and patrictic studies, as well as the ecclesial and ecumenical concerns of men such as Antonio Rosmini (+1855) and John Henry Newman (+1890).

The history of the renaissance of liturgical worship reserves a special place for Dom Prosper Guéranger (+ 1875), who restored the monastic life in France and founded the abbey of Solesmes. His conception of the Liturgy is permeated by a love for the Church and for tradition. The Roman Rite, he maintained in his writings on Liturgy, was indispensable for unity and, hence, he opposed autochthonous forms of liturgical expression. The liturgical renewal which he promoted has the distinct advantage of not having been an academic movement. Rather, it aimed at making the Liturgy an expression of worship in which the entire people of God participated.

45. The revival of the Liturgy was not the sole activity of the nineteenth century. Independently of that revival, popular piety experienced significant growth. The revival of liturgical song coincided with the development of many popular hymns, the widespread use of liturgical aids such as bilingual missals for the use of the faithful, and a proliferation of devotional booklets.

The culture of Romanticism rediscovered man’s religious sense and promoted the quest for, and understanding of, the elements of popular piety, as well as emphasizing their importance in worship.

The nineteenth century experienced a phenomenon of crucial significance: expressions of local cult arising from popular initiatives and often associated with prodigous events such as miracles and apparitions. Gradually, these received official approval as well as the favour and protection of the ecclesial authorities, and were eventually assumed into the Liturgy. Several Marian sanctuaries and centres of pilgrimages, and of Eucharistic and penitential Liturgies as well as Marian centres associated with popular piety are all emblematic of this phenomenon.

While the relationship between popular piety and the Liturgy in the nineteenth century must be seen against the background of a liturgical revival and an ever increasing expansion of popular piety, it has to be noted that that same relationship was affected by the negative influence of an accentuated superimposition of pious exercises on the liturgical actions, a phenomenon already evident during the period of the Catholic Reform.

46. At the outset of the twentieth century, St. Pope Pius X (1903-1914) proposed bringing the Liturgy closer to the people, thereby “popularizing” it. He maintained that the faithful assimilated the “true Christian spirit” by drawing from its “primary and indenspensable source, which is active participation in the most holy mysteries and from the solemn public prayer of the Church”(37). In this way, St. Pope Pius X gave authoratative recognition to the objective superiority of the Liturgy over all other forms of piety; dispelled any confusion between Liturgy and popular piety, indirectly clarified the distinction between both and opened the way for a proper understanding of the relationship that must obtain between them.

Thus was born the liturgical movement which was destined to exercise a prominent influence on the Church of the twentieth century, by virtue of the contribution of many eminent men, noted for their learning, piety and committment, and in which the Supreme Pontiffs recognized the promptings of the Spirit(38). The ultimate aim of the liturgical movement was pastoral in nature(39), namely, to encourage in the faithful a knowledge of, and love for, the divine mysteries and to restore to them the idea that these same mysteries belong to a priestly people (cf. 1 Pt 2,5).

In the context of the liturgical movement, it is easy to understand why some of its exponents assumed a diffident attitude to popular piety and identified it as one of the causes leading to the degeneration of the Liturgy. They faced many of the abuses deriving from the superimposition of pious exercises on the Liturgy as well as instances where the Liturgy was displaced by acts of popular worship. In their efforts to restore the purity of divine worship, they took as their ideal the Liturgy of the early centuries of the Church, and consequently radically rejected any form of popular piety deriving from the middles ages or the post tridentine period.

This rejection, however, failed to take sufficient account of the fact that these forms of popular piety, which were often approved and recommended by the Church, had sustained the spiritual life of the faithful and produced unequalled spiritual fruits. It also failed to acknowledge that popular piety had made a significant contribution to safeguarding and preserving the faith, and to the diffusion of the Christian message. Thus, Pope Pius XII, in his encyclical Mediator Dei of 21 November 1947(40), with which he assumed leadership of the liturgical movement, issued a defence of pious exercises which, to a certain extent, had become synonymous with Catholic piety in recent centuries.

The Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium of the Second Vatican Council finally defined, in proper terms, the relationship obtaining between the Liturgy and popular piety, by declaring the unquestionable primacy of the Sacred Liturgy and the subordination to it of pious exercises, while emphasizing their validity(41).

 

Liturgy and Popular Piety: The Current Problematic 

47. From the foregoing historical outline, it is clear that the question of the relationship between Liturgy and popular piety is not an exclusively contemporary one. Albeit from different perspectives and in changing terms, the question has constantly arisen. It is now time to draw some conclusions from history so as to address the frequently and urgently asked pastoral questions which arise to-day.

Historical considerations: the causes of imbalances

48. History principally shows that the correct relationship between Liturgy and popular piety begins to be distorted with the attenuation among the faithful of certain values essential to the Liturgy itself. The following may be numbered among the casues giving rise to this:

  • a weakened awareness or indeed a diminished sense of the Paschal mystery, and of its centrality for the history of salvation, of which the Liturgy is an actualization. Such inevitably occurs when the piety of the faithful, unconscious of the “hierarchy of truths”, imperceptibly turns towards other salvific mysteries in the life of Christ, of the Blessed Virgin Mary or indeed of the Angels and Saints;

  • a weakening of a senses of the universal priesthood in virtue of which the faithful offer “spiritual sacrifices pleasing to God, through Jesus Christ” (1 Pt 2,5; Rm 12,1), and, according to their condition, participate fully in the Church’s worship. This is often accompanied by the phenomenon of a Liturgy dominated by clerics who also perform the functions not reserved to them and which, in turn, causes the faithful to have recourse to piuos exercises through which they feel a sense of becoming active participants;

  • lack of knowledge of the language proper to the Liturgy - as well as its signs, symbols and symbolic gestures - causing the meaning of the celebration to escape the greater understanding of the faithful. Such can engender a sense of being extraneous to the liturgical action, and hence are easily attracted to pious exercises whose language more easily approaches their own cutural formation, or because certain forms of devotions respond more obviously to daily life.

49. Each of these factors, and both in certain cases, not infrequently produces imbalances in the relationship between the Liturgy and popular piety, to the former’s detriment and the latter’s impoverishment. These should therefore be corrected through careful and persistent catechetical and pastoral work.

Conversely, the liturgical renewal and the heightened liturgical sense of the faithful have often recontextualized popular piety in its relationship with the Liturgy. Such should be regraded as a positive develoment and in conformity with the most profound orientation of Christian piety.

The Sacred Constitution on the Liturgy

50. The relationship between the Liturgy and popular piety, in our times, must be approached primarily from the perspective of the directives contained in the constitution Sacrosactum Concilium, which seek to establish an harmonious relationship between both of these expressions of piety, in which popular piety is objectively subordinated to, and directed towards, the Liturgy(42).

Thus, it is important that the question of the relationship between popular piety and the Liturgy not be posed in terms of contradiction, equality or, indeed, of substitution. A realization of the primordial importance of the Liturgy, and the quest for its most authentic expressions, should never lead to neglect of the reality of popular piety, or to a lack of appreciation for it, nor any position that would regard it as superfluous to the Church’s worship or even injurious to it.

Lack of consideration for popular piety, or disrespect for it, often betrays an inadequate understanding of certain ecclesial realities and is not infrequently the product not so much of the doctrine of the faith, but of some ideologically inspired prejudice. These give rise to attitudes which:

  • refuse to accept that popular piety itself is an ecclesial reality prompted and guided by the Holy Spirit(43);

  • do not take sufficient account of the fruits of grace and sanctity which popular piety has produced, and continues to produce, within the ecclesial body;

  • not infrequently reflect a quest for an illusory “pure Liturgy”, which, while not considering the subjective criteria used to determe purity, belongs more to the realm of ideal aspiration than to historical reality;

  • and confound, “sense”, that noble component of the soul that legitimitatly permeates many expressions of liturgical and popular piety, and its degenerate form which is “sentimantality”.

51. In the relationship between the Liturgy and popular piety, the opposite phenomenon is also encountered - the importance of popular piety is overestimated practically to the detriment of the Church’s Liturgy.

It has to be said that where such happens, either because of particular circumstances or of a theoretical choice, pastoral deviations emerge. The Liturgy is no longer the “summit towards which the activity of the Church is directed; [and]…the fount from which all her power flows”(44). Rather it becomes a cultic expression extraneous to the comprehension and sensibility of the people which is destined to be neglected, relegated to a secondary role or even become reserved to particular groups.

52. The laudable idea of making Christian worship more accessible to contemporary man, especially to those insufficiently catechized, should not lead to either a theoretical or practical underestimation of the primary and fundamental expression of liturgical worship, notwithstanding the acknowledged difficulties arising from specific cultures in assimilating certain elements and structures of the Liturgy. In some instances, rather than seeking to risolve such difficulties with patience and farsightedness, recourse is sometimes made to simplistic solutions.

53. In those instances where the liturgical actions have been superceeded by popular piety comments, such as the following, are often heard:

  • popular piety is sufficient for the free and spontaneous celebration of “Life” and its multiplicity of expressions; Liturgy, on the other hand, centered at it is on the “Mystery of Christ” is essentially anaemic, repetative, formalistic and inhibits spontaneity;

  • the Liturgy fails to involve the total being, both corporeal and spiritual, of each member of the faithful; popular piety, because it speaks directly to man, involves his body, heart and mind;

  • popular piety is an authentic and real locus for the life of prayer: through pious exercises the faifthful truly dialogue with the Lord, in terms which they fully understand and regard as their own; the Liturgy, however, places words on their lips that are not their own or alien to their level of culture, and thereby becomes a hindrance to prayer rather than a means;

  • the ritual with which popular piety is expressed is one which is received and accepted by the faithful because of its correspondence between their cultural expectations and ritual language; the ritual proper to the Liturgy is impenetrable because its various expressive forms derive from different cultural sources widely removed from those of the faithful.

54. In an exaggerated and dialectic way, such views reflect the divergence that undeniably exists between the Liturgy and popular piety in some cutlural ambits.

Where such views are held, they inevitably indicate that an authentic understanding of the Christian Liturgy has been seriously compromised, or even evacuated of its essential meaning.

Against such views, it is always necessary to quote the grave and well pondered words of last ecumenical Council: “every Liturgical celebration, because it is an acion of Christ the Priest and of his Body, which is the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others. No other action of the Church can equal its efficacy by the same title and to the same degree”(45).

55. Any unilateral exaltation of popular piety which fails to take account of the Liturgy, is inconsistent with the fact that the essential elements of the Liturgy derive from the will of Christ himself, and is unable to emphasize its indispensable sotereological and doxological importance. Following the Lord’s ascension to the glory of the Father, and the descent of the Holy Spirit, the perfect glorification of God and the salvation of man comes about primarily through the celebration of the liturgy(46), which requires an adherence of faith, and brings the believer to participate in the fundamental salvific event: the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ (cf. Rm 6,2-6, 1 Cor 11,23-26).

The Church’s understanding of her mystery, and her worshipping and saving actions, constantly affirms that it is through “the Liturgy…, especially in the divine sacrifice of the Eucharist, [that] ‘the work of our redemption is accomplished’”(47). This affirmation, however, does not deny the importance of other forms of piety.

56. Theoretical or practical contempt for the Liturgy inevitably leads to a clouding of the Christian understanding of the mystery of God, Who has mercifully deigned to look down on fallen man and bring him to Himself through the incarnation of His Son and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Such fails to perceive the significance of salvation history and the relationship between Old and New Testaments. It underestimates the saving Word of God which sustains the Liturgy, and to which the Liturgy always refers. Such a disposition attenuates in the faithful any realization of the importance of the work of Christ our only Saviour who is the Son of God and the Son of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Eventually, it leads to a loss of the sensus Ecclesiae.

57. Any exclusive promotion of popular piety, which should always be seen in terms of the Christian faith(48), can encourage a process that eventually leads the faithful away from Christian revelation and encourages the undue or distorted use of elements drawn from cosmic or natural religions. It can also give rise to the introduction into Christian worship of elements taken from pre-Christian beliefs, or that are merely cultural, national or ethnic psychological expressions. Likewise, the illusion can be created that the transcendent can be reached through unpurified religious experiences(49), thereby promoting the notion that salvation can be achieved through man’s own personal efforts (the constant danger of pelagianism should never be forgotten), thereby compromising any authentic Christian understanding of salvation as a gratuitous gift of God. Indeed, the role of secondary mediators, such as the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Angels and Saints, or even national saints, can surpass that of the Lord Jesus Christ, the one Mediator, in the minds of the faithful.

58. The Liturgy and popular piety, while not conterminous, remain two legitimate expressions of Christian worship. While not opposed to each other, neither are they to be regarded a equiparate to each other. Rather, they are to be seen in harmony with each in accordance with the Council’s liturgical constitution: “The popular devotions of the

Christian people [...] should accord with the sacred Liturgy…[and] in some way derive from it, and lead people to it, since in fact the Liturgy by its very nature is far superior to any of them”(50).

Hence, the Liturgy and popular piety are two forms of worship which are in mutual and fruitful relationship with each other. In this relationship, however, the Liturgy remains the primary reference point so as “clearly and prudently to channel the yearnings of prayer and the charismatic life”(51) which are found in popular piety. For its part, popular piety, because of its symbolic and expressive qualities, can often provide the Liturgy with important insights for inculturation and stimulate an effective dynamic creativity(52).

Importance of Formation

59. In the light of the foregoing, it would seem that the formation of both clergy and laity affords a means of resolving many of the reasons underlying the imbalances between the Liturgy and popular piety. Together with the necessary formation in Liturgy, which is a long-term process, provision should also be made to complement it by re-discovering and exploring formation in popular piety(53), especially in view of the latter’s importance for the enrichment of the spiritual life(54).

Since “the spiritual life…is not limited solely to participation in the liturgy”(55), restricting the formation of those involved in assisting spiritual growth exclusively to the Liturgy seems inadequate. Moreover, liturgical action, often reduced to participation at the Eucharist, cannot permeate a life lacking in personal prayer or in those qualities communicated by the traditional devotional forms of the Christian people. Current interest in oriental “religious” practices, under various guises, clearly indicates a quest for a spirituality of life, suffering, and sharing. The post-conciliar generation - depending on the country - often has never experienced the devotional practices of previous generations. Clearly, catechesis and educational efforts cannot overlook the patrimony of popular piety when proposing models for the spiritual life, especially those pious exercises commended by the Church’s Magisterium.

Vatican

Directory On Popular Piety and the Liturgy - Introduction

August 4, 2008

INTRODUCTION

1. In accordance with the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, this Congregation, in furthering and promoting the Liturgy, “the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed…and the fount from which all her power flows”(1), wishes to draw attention to the need to ensure that other forms of piety among the Christian people are not overlooked, nor their useful contribution to living in unity with Christ, in the Church, be forgotten(2).

Following on the conciliar renewal, the situation with regard to Christian popular piety varies according to country and local traditions. Contradictory attitudes to popular piety can be noted: manifest and hasty abandonment of inherited forms of popular piety resulting in a void not easily filled; attachments to imperfect or erroneous types of devotion which are estranged from genuine Biblical revelation and compete with the economy of the sacraments; unjustified criticism of the piety of the common people in the name of a presumed “purity” of faith; a need to preserve the riches of popular piety, which is an expression of the profound and mature religious feeling of the people at a given moment in space and time; a need to purify popular piety of equivocation and of the dangers deriving from syncretism; the renewed vitality of popular religiosity in resisting, or in reaction to, a pragmatic technological culture and economic utilitarianism; decline of interest in popular piety ensuing on the rise of secularized ideologies and the aggressive activities of “sects” hostile to it.

The question constantly occupies the attention of Bishops, priests, deacons, pastoral assistants, and scholars, who are concerned both to promote the liturgical life among the faithful and to utilize popular piety.

2. In its constitution on the Liturgy, the Second Vatican Council explicitly touched upon the relationship between the Liturgy and pious exercises(3). The question of popular piety has been more amply considered on various occasions by the Apostolic See(4) and by the Conferences of Bishops(5). In his Apostolic Letter Vicesimus Quintus Annus, John Paul II raised the question again in relation to the liturgical renewal and indicated that it remained among those to be addressed at a future date: “popular piety can neither be ignored nor treated with indifference or disrespect because of its richness and because in itself it represents an religious attitude in relation to God. However, it has to be continually evangelized, so that the faith which it expresses may become more mature and authentic. The pious exercises of the Christian people and other forms of devotion can be accepted and recommended provided that they do not become substitutes for the Liturgy or integrated into the Liturgical celebrations. An authentic pastoral promotion of the liturgy, will know how to build on the riches of popular piety, purify them and direct them towards the Liturgy as an offering of the people”(6).

3. With a view, therefore, to assisting the Bishops in “promoting and honouring the prayers and pious practises of the Christian people, that fully reflect the norms of the Church”(7), in addition to the Liturgy, the preparation of this present Directory appears opportune to this Dicastery. In a general way, it considers the various connections between the Liturgy and popular piety. This Directory also reaffirms some principles and establishes guidelines for their practical application.

 Nature and Structure

4. This Directory contains two parts. The first, entitled Emerging trends, provides the elements necessary for the harmonization of Liturgy and popular piety. It draws on the experience which has matured during the long history and emergence of the contemporary problematic (Chapter 1). The teachings of the Magisterium are systematically restated since they are indispensable for ecclesial communion and fruitful action (Chapter 2). Finally, the theological principles, according to which difficulties concerning the relationship between Liturgy and popular piety are approached and resolved, are stated (Chapter 3). The possibility of realizing a true and fruitful harmonization of Liturgy and popular piety can only be achieved by a wise and committed respect for these presuppositions. Conversely, overlooking them leads to nothing but reciprocal and futile ignorance, damaging confusion and contradictory polemics.

The second part, entitled Guidelines , offers a series of practical proposals. It does not claim to be able to include every usage or practice of popular piety to be found in particular locations throughout the world. Mention of particular practices or expressions of popular piety is not to be regarded as an invitation to adopt them where they are not already practised. This section is elaborated in reference to the Liturgical Year (Chapter 4); to the special veneration given by the Church to the Mother of our Saviour (Chapter 5); to devotion to the Holy Angels, the Saints and the Beatified (Chapter 6); to suffrage for the dead (Chapter 7) and to pilgrimage and examples of popular piety connected with shrines (Chapter 8).

The object of this Directory is to offer guidelines and, where necessary, to prevent abuses or deviations. Its tone is positive and constructive. In the same context, it provides short historical notes on several popular devotions in its Guidelines. It records the various pious exercises attached to these devotions while signalling their theological underpinning, and making practical suggesting in relation to time, place, language and other factors, so as to harmonize them with the Liturgy.

 Those to Whom the Directory is Addressed

5. The operative proposals of this Directory, which are intended solely for the Latin Church and primarily for the Roman Rite, are addressed firstly to the Bishops, whose office entails presiding over the worshipping community of the dioceses, promoting the liturgical life and coordinating other forms of worship(8) with it. They are also intended for the Bishops’ closest collaborators - their episcopal Vicars, priests, deacons and especially the Rectors of sanctuaries. These proposals are also intended for the major Superiors of the institutes of consecrated life -both male and female, since many forms of popular piety arose within, and were developed by, such institutes, and because the religious and the members of the secular institutes can contribute much to the proper harmonization of the various forms of popular piety with the Liturgy.

6. The history of the Western Church is marked by the flowering among the Christian people of multiple and varied expressions of simple and fervent faith in God, of love for Christ the Redeemer, of invocations of the Holy Spirit, of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, of the veneration of the Saints of commitment to conversion and of fraternal charity. These expressions have grown up alongside the Liturgy. Treatment of this vast and complex material which is sometimes referred to as “popular religiosity” or “popular piety”(9) lacks a uniform terminology. Hence it will be necessary to adopt a certain precision of language. Without pretending to resolve all difficulties in this area, it will be useful to outline the commonly understood meaning of certain terms employed in this document.

Pious Exercis

7. The expression “pious exercise” in this Directory refers to those public or private expressions of Christian piety which, although not part of the Liturgy, are considered to be in harmony with the spirit, norms, and rhythms of the Liturgy. Moreover, such pious exercises are inspired to some degree by the Liturgy and lead the Christian people to the Liturgy(10). Some pious exercises have been established by mandate of the Apostolic See or by mandate of the Bishops(11). Many of these exercises are part of the cultic patrimony of particular Churches or religious families. Pious exercises always refer to public divine revelation and to an ecclesial background. They often refer to the grace revealed by God in Jesus Christ and, in conformity with the laws of the Church, they are practised “in accordance with approved customs or books”(12).

Devotions

8. In the present context, this term is used to describe various external practices (e.g. prayers, hymns, observances attached to particular times or places, insignia, medals, habits or customs). Animated by an attitude of faith, such external practices manifest the particular relationship of the faithful with the Divine Persons, or the Blessed Virgin Mary in her privileges of grace and those of her titles which express them, or with the Saints in their configuration with Christ or in their role in the Church’s life(13).

Popular Piety

9. The term “popular piety” designates those diverse cultic expressions of a private or community nature which, in the context of the Christian faith, are inspired predominantly not by the Sacred Liturgy but by forms deriving from a particular nation or people or from their culture.

Popular piety has rightly been regarded as “a treasure of the people of God”(14) and “manifests a thirst for God known only to the poor and to the humble, rendering them capable of a generosity and of sacrifice to the point of heroism in testifying to the faith while displaying an acute sense of the profound attributes of God: paternity, providence, His constant and loving presence. It also generates interior attitudes otherwise rarely seen to the same degree: patience, an awareness of the Cross in every-day life, detachment, openness to others and devotion”(15).

Popular Religiosity

10. “Popular religiosity” refers to a universal experience: there is always a religious dimension in the hearts of people, nations, and their collective expressions. All peoples tend to give expression to their totalizing view of the transcendent, their concept of nature, society, and history through cultic means. Such characteristic syntheses are of major spiritual and human importance.

Popular religiosity does not always necessarily refer to Christian revelation.

  Some Principles

An overview of the present Directory can be obtained from the following principles which are more fully developed and explained in the subsequent text.

The Primacy of the Liturgy

11. History shows that, in certain epochs, the life of faith is sustained by the forms and practices of piety, which the faithful have often felt more deeply and actively than the liturgical celebrations. Indeed, “every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the Priest and of his Body, which is the Church, it is a sacred action surpassing all others. No other action of the Church can equal its efficacy by the same title or to the same degree”(16). Hence, the ambivalence that the Liturgy is not “popular” must be overcame. The liturgical renewal of the Council set out to promote the participation of the people in the celebration of the Liturgy, at certain times and places (through hymns, active participation, and lay ministries), which had previously given rise to forms of prayer alternative to, or substitutive of, the liturgical action itself.

The faithful should be made conscious of the preeminence of the Liturgy over any other possible form of legitimate Christian prayer. While sacramental actions are necessary to life in Christ, the various forms of popular piety are properly optional. Such is clearly proven by the Church’s precept which obliges attendance at Sunday Mass. No such obligation, however, has obtained with regard to pious exercises, notwithstanding their worthiness or their widespread diffusion. Such, however, may be assumed as obligations by a community or by individual members of the faithful.

The foregoing requires that the formation of priests and of the faithful give preeminence to liturgical prayer and to the liturgical year over any other form of devotion. However, this necessary preeminence is not to be interpreted in exclusive terms, nor in terms of opposition or marginalization.

Evaluation and Renewal

12. The optional nature of pious exercises should in no way be taken to imply an under estimation or even disrespect for such practices. The way forward in this area requires a correct and wise appreciation of the many riches of popular piety, of the potentiality of these same riches and of the commitment to the Christian life which they inspire.

The Gospel is the measure against which all expressions of Christian piety - both old and new - must be measured. The task of evaluating devotional exercises and practices, and of purifying them when necessary, must be conducted against this criterion so as to ensure their proper relationship with the Christian mystery. What is said of the Christian Liturgy is also true of popular piety: “it may never incorporate rites permeated by magic, superstition, animism, vendettas or sexual connotations”(17).

Hence, the liturgical renewal willed by the Second Vatican Council must also inspire a correct evaluation and renewal of pious exercises and devotional practices. Popular piety should be permeated by: a biblical spirit, since it is impossible to imagine a Christian prayer without direct or indirect reference to Sacred Scripture; a liturgical spirit if it is to dispose properly for or echo the mysteries celebrated in the liturgical actions; an ecumenical spirit, in consideration of the sensibilities and traditions of other Christians without, however, being restricted by inappropriate inhibitions; an anthropological spirit which both conserves symbols and expressions of importance or significance for a given nation while eschewing senseless archaicisms, and which strives to dialogue in terms redolent with contemporary sensibility. To be successful, such a renewal must be imbued with a pedagogical awareness and realized gradually, always taking into consideration time and particular circumstances.

Distinct from and in harmony with the Liturgy

13. The objective difference between pious exercises and devotional practices should always be clear in expressions of worship. Hence, the formulae proper to pious exercises should not be commingled with the liturgical actions. Acts of devotion and piety are external to the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, and of the other sacraments.

On the one hand, a superimposing of pious and devotional practices on the Liturgy so as to differentiate their language, rhythm, course, and theological emphasis from those of the corresponding liturgical action, must be avoided, while any form of competition with or opposition to the liturgical actions, where such exists, must also be resolved. Thus, precedence must always be given to Sunday, Solemnities, and to the liturgical seasons and days.

Since, on the other, pious practices must conserve their proper style, simplicity and language, attempts to impose forms of “liturgical celebration” on them are always to be avoided.

 The Language of Popular Piety 

14. While conserving its simplicity and spontaneity, the verbal and gestural language of popular piety should be careful to ensure the transmission of the truth of the faith together with the greatness of the Christian mysteries.

Gestures

15. Popular piety is characterized by a great variety and richness of bodily, gestural and symbolic expressions: kissing or touching images, places, relics and sacred objects; pilgrimages, processions; going bare-footed or on one’s knees; kneeling and prostrating; wearing medals and badges… . These and similar expressions, handed down from father to son, are direct and simple ways of giving external expression to the heart and to one’s commitment to live the Christian life. Without this interior aspect, symbolic gesture runs the risk of degenerating into empty customs or mere superstitions, in the worst cases.

Texts and Formulae

16. While drawn up in terms less exacting than those employed for the prayers of the Liturgy, devotional prayers and formulae should be inspired, nonetheless, by Sacred Scripture, the Liturgy, the Fathers of the Church and the Magisterium, and concord with the Church’s faith. The established public prayers attached to pious devotions and the various acts associated with pious exercises must always be approved by the local Ordinary(18).

Song and Music

17. Song, a natural expression of the soul of any nation, plays an important role in popular piety(19). The conservation of the received corpus of traditional songs must be linked with a biblical and ecclesial spirit which is open to the possibility, where necessary, of their revision or to the composition of new songs.

Among some peoples, song is instinctively linked with hand-clapping, rhythmic corporeal movements and even dance. Such are external forms of interior sentiment and are part of popular traditions, especially on occasions such as patronal feasts. Clearly, such should be genuine expressions of communal prayer and not merely theatrical spectacles. The fact of their prevalence in one area, however, should not be regarded as a reason for their promotion in other areas, especially where they would not be spontaneous.

Sacred Images

18. The use of sacred images is of major importance in the whole area of popular piety, since culturally and artistically they assist the faithful in encountering the mysteries of the Christian faith. Indeed, the veneration of sacred images belongs to the very nature of Catholic piety. Such is clear from its artistic patrimony, which can be seen in many churches and sanctuaries, and to which popular devotion has often contributed.

Here, the principles apply which govern the liturgical use of images of Christ, Our Lady, the Saints. These have been traditionally asserted and defended by the Church in the knowledge that “the honour rendered to the image is directed to the person represented”(20). The necessary rigour which has to be applied in drawing up the iconographic scheme of churches(21) - in matters relating to the truths of the faith and their hierarchy, beauty an  quality- must also be applied to images and objects destined for private and personal devotion.

So as to ensure that the iconography used in sacred places is not left to private initiatives, those with responsibility for churches and oratories should safeguard the dignity, beauty and quality of those sacred images exposed for public veneration. Likewise, they should avoid the de facto imposition on the community of pictures or statues inspired by the private devotion of individuals(22).

The Bishops, therefore, and the rectors of sanctuaries are to ensure that the sacred images produced for the use of the faithful, either in their homes or on their persons, or those borne aloft on their shoulders, are not reduced to banalities, nor risk giving rise to error.

Sacred Places

19. Apart from the church, sanctuaries -which are sometimes not churches- afford important opportunities for the expression of popular piety, which are often marked by particular devotional forms and practices, among which the most significant is that of pilgrimage. Together with these sacred places, which are clearly reserved for public and private prayer, others exist which are often not less important: e.g. homes, places of life and work. On certain occasions even the streets and squares can become places facilitating the manifestation of the faith.

Sacred Times

20. The rhythm associated with the change from day to night, from one month to another, or of the seasons is often associated with various forms of popular piety. Such can also be true of particular days recalling joyous or tragic personal or community events. Above all, the “the feast days”, withe their preparations for various religious manifestations, have contributed much in forging the traditions peculiar to a given community.

 Responsibilities and Competencies 

21. Manifestations of popular piety are subject to the jurisdiction of the local Ordinary. It is for him to regulate such manifestations, to encourage them as a means of assisting the faithful in living the Christian life, and to purify and evangelize them where necessary. He is also to ensure that they do not substitute for the Liturgy nor become part of the liturgical celebrations(23). The local ordinary also approves the prayers and formulae associated with acts of public piety and devotional practices(24). The dispositions given by a particular local Ordinary for the territory of his jurisdiction are for the particular Church entrusted to his pastoral care.

Hence, the faithful - both clerics and laity, either as groups or individuals, may not publically promote prayers, formulae or private initiatives without the permission of the ordinary.

In accordance with the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus, n.70, it is the competence of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments to assist the Bishops in matters relating to prayers and devotional practices of the Christian people, as well as to issue dispositions in those cases surpassing the bounds of a particular Church, and in imposing subsidiary provisions.

Vatican

Redemptionis Sacramentum - Preamble

July 28, 2008

Preamble

[1.] In the Most Holy Eucharist, Mother Church with steadfast faith acknowledges the Sacrament of redemption,[1] joyfully takes it to herself, celebrates it and reveres it in adoration, proclaiming the death of Christ Jesus and confessing his Resurrection until he comes in glory[2] to hand over, as unconquered Lord and Ruler, eternal Priest and King of the Universe, a kingdom of truth and life to the immense majesty of the Almighty Father.[3]

[2.] The Church’s doctrine regarding the Most Holy Eucharist, in which the whole spiritual wealth of the Church is contained - namely Christ, our Paschal Lamb[4] - the Eucharist which is the source and summit of the whole of Christian life,[5] and which lies as a causative force behind the very origins of the Church,[6] has been expounded with thoughtful care and with great authority over the course of the centuries in the writings of the Councils and the Supreme Pontiffs. Most recently, in fact, the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II, in the Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia, set forth afresh certain elements of great importance on this subject in view of the ecclesial circumstances of our times.[7]

In order that especially in the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy the Church might duly safeguard so great a mystery in our own time as well, the Supreme Pontiff has mandated that this Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments,[8] in collaboration with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, should prepare this Instruction treating of certain matters pertaining to the discipline of the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Those things found in this Instruction are therefore to be read in the continuity with the above-mentioned Encyclical Letter, Ecclesia de Eucharistia.

It is not at all the intention here to prepare a compendium of the norms regarding the Most Holy Eucharist, but rather, to take up within this Instruction some elements of liturgical norms that have been previously expounded or laid down and even today remain in force in order to assure a deeper appreciation of the liturgical norms;[9] to establish certain norms by which those earlier ones are explained and complemented; and also to set forth for Bishops, as well as for Priests, Deacons and all the lay Christian faithful, how each should carry them out in accordance with his own responsibilities and the means at his disposal.

[3.] The norms contained in the present Instruction are to be understood as pertaining to liturgical matters in the Roman Rite, and, mutatis mutandis, in the other Rites of the Latin Church that are duly acknowledged by law.

[4.] “Certainly the liturgical reform inaugurated by the Council has greatly contributed to a more conscious, active and fruitful participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar on the part of the faithful.”[10] Even so, “shadows are not lacking”.[11] In this regard it is not possible to be silent about the abuses, even quite grave ones, against the nature of the Liturgy and the Sacraments as well as the tradition and the authority of the Church, which in our day not infrequently plague liturgical celebrations in one ecclesial environment or another. In some places the perpetration of liturgical abuses has become almost habitual, a fact which obviously cannot be allowed and must cease.

[5.] The observance of the norms published by the authority of the Church requires conformity of thought and of word, of external action and of the application of the heart. A merely external observation of norms would obviously be contrary to the nature of the Sacred Liturgy, in which Christ himself wishes to gather his Church, so that together with himself she will be “one body and one spirit”.[12] For this reason, external action must be illuminated by faith and charity, which unite us with Christ and with one another and engender love for the poor and the abandoned. The liturgical words and rites, moreover, are a faithful expression, matured over the centuries, of the understanding of Christ, and they teach us to think as he himself does;[13] by conforming our minds to these words, we raise our hearts to the Lord. All that is said in this Instruction is directed toward such a conformity of our own understanding with that of Christ, as expressed in the words and the rites of the Liturgy.

[6.] For abuses “contribute to the obscuring of the Catholic faith and doctrine concerning this wonderful sacrament”.[14] Thus, they also hinder the faithful from “re-living in a certain way the experience of the two disciples of Emmaus: ‘and their eyes were opened, and they recognized him’”.[15] For in the presence of God’s power and divinity[16] and the splendour of his goodness, made manifest especially in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, it is fitting that all the faithful should have and put into practice that power of acknowledging God’s majesty that they have received through the saving Passion of the Only-Begotten Son.[17]

[7.] Not infrequently, abuses are rooted in a false understanding of liberty. Yet God has not granted us in Christ an illusory liberty by which we may do what we wish, but a liberty by which we may do that which is fitting and right.[18] This is true not only of precepts coming directly from God, but also of laws promulgated by the Church, with appropriate regard for the nature of each norm. For this reason, all should conform to the ordinances set forth by legitimate ecclesiastical authority.

[8.] It is therefore to be noted with great sadness that “ecumenical initiatives which are well-intentioned, nevertheless indulge at times in Eucharistic practices contrary to the discipline by which the Church expresses her faith”. Yet the Eucharist “is too great a gift to tolerate ambiguity or depreciation”. It is therefore necessary that some things be corrected or more clearly delineated so that in this respect as well “the Eucharist will continue to shine forth in all its radiant mystery”.[19]

[9.] Finally, abuses are often based on ignorance, in that they involve a rejection of those elements whose deeper meaning is not understood and whose antiquity is not recognized. For “the liturgical prayers, orations and songs are pervaded by the inspiration and impulse” of the Sacred Scriptures themselves, “and it is from these that the actions and signs receive their meaning”.[20] As for the visible signs “which the Sacred Liturgy uses in order to signify the invisible divine realities, they have been chosen by Christ or by the Church”.[21] Finally, the structures and forms of the sacred celebrations according to each of the Rites of both East and West are in harmony with the practice of the universal Church also as regards practices received universally from apostolic and unbroken tradition,[22] which it is the Church’s task to transmit faithfully and carefully to future generations. All these things are wisely safeguarded and protected by the liturgical norms.

[10.] The Church herself has no power over those things which were established by Christ himself and which constitute an unchangeable part of the Liturgy.[23] Indeed, if the bond were to be broken which the Sacraments have with Christ himself who instituted them, and with the events of the Church’s founding,[24] it would not be beneficial to the faithful but rather would do them grave harm. For the Sacred Liturgy is quite intimately connected with principles of doctrine,[25] so that the use of unapproved texts and rites necessarily leads either to the attenuation or to the disappearance of that necessary link between the lex orandi and the lex credendi.[26]

[11.] The Mystery of the Eucharist “is too great for anyone to permit himself to treat it according to his own whim, so that its sacredness and its universal ordering would be obscured”.[27] On the contrary, anyone who acts thus by giving free reign to his own inclinations, even if he is a Priest, injures the substantial unity of the Roman Rite, which ought to be vigorously preserved,[28] and becomes responsible for actions that are in no way consistent with the hunger and thirst for the living God that is experienced by the people today. Nor do such actions serve authentic pastoral care or proper liturgical renewal; instead, they deprive Christ’s faithful of their patrimony and their heritage. For arbitrary actions are not conducive to true renewal,[29] but are detrimental to the right of Christ’s faithful to a liturgical celebration that is an expression of the Church’s life in accordance with her tradition and discipline. In the end, they introduce elements of distortion and disharmony into the very celebration of the Eucharist, which is oriented in its own lofty way and by its very nature to signifying and wondrously bringing about the communion of divine life and the unity of the People of God.[30] The result is uncertainty in matters of doctrine, perplexity and scandal on the part of the People of God, and, almost as a necessary consequence, vigorous opposition, all of which greatly confuse and sadden many of Christ’s faithful in this age of ours when Christian life is often particularly difficult on account of the inroads of “secularization” as well.[31]

[12.] On the contrary, it is the right of all of Christ’s faithful that the Liturgy, and in particular the celebration of Holy Mass, should truly be as the Church wishes, according to her stipulations as prescribed in the liturgical books and in the other laws and norms. Likewise, the Catholic people have the right that the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass should be celebrated for them in an integral manner, according to the entire doctrine of the Church’s Magisterium. Finally, it is the Catholic community’s right that the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharist should be carried out for it in such a manner that it truly stands out as a sacrament of unity, to the exclusion of all blemishes and actions that might engender divisions and factions in the Church.[32]

[13.] All of the norms and exhortations set forth in this Instruction are connected, albeit in various ways, with the mission of the Church, whose task it is to be vigilant concerning the correct and worthy celebration of so great a mystery. The last chapter of the present Instruction will treat of the varying degrees to which the individual norms are bound up with the supreme norm of all ecclesiastical law, namely concern for the salvation of souls.[33]

————————————————————————-

[1] Cf. Missale Romanum, ex decreto sacrosancti Oecumenici Concilii Vaticani II instauratum, auctoritate Pauli Pp. VI promulgatum, Ioannis Pauli Pp. II cura recognitum, editio typica tertia, diei 20 aprilis 2000, Typis Vaticanis, 2002, Missa votiva de Dei misericordia, oratio super oblata, p. 1159.

[2] Cf. 1 Cor 11, 26; Missale Romanum, Prex Eucharistica, acclamatio post consecrationem, p. 576; Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Letter, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 17 April 2003, nn. 5, 11, 14, 18: AAS 95 (2003) pp. 436, 440-441, 442, 445.

[3] Cf. Is 10: 33; 51, 22; Missale Romanum, In sollemnitate Domini nostri Iesu Christi, universorum Regis, Praefatio, p. 499.

[4] Cf.1 Cor 5: 7; Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests, Presbyterorum ordinis, 7 December 1965, n. 5; John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation., Ecclesia in Europa, n. 75: AAS 95 (2003) pp. 649-719, here p. 693.

[5] Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen gentium, 21 November 1964, n. 11.

[6] Cf. Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 17 April 2003, n. 21: AAS 95 (2003) p. 447.

[7] Ibidem: AAS 95 (2003) pp. 433-475.

[8] Ibidem, n. 52: AAS 95 (2003) p. 468.

[9] Ibidem.

[10] Ibidem, n. 10: AAS 95 (2003) p. 439.

[11] Ibidem; cf. Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Letter, Vicesimus quintus annus, 4 December 1988, nn. 12-13: AAS 81 (1989)pp. 909-910; cf. also Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, 4 December 1963 n. 48.

[12] Missale Romanum, Prex Eucharistica III, p. 588; cf. 1 Cor 12: 12-13; Eph 4: 4.

[13] Cf. Phil 2,5.

[14] Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia, n. 10: AAS 95 (2003), p. 439.

[15] Ibidem, n. 6: AAS 95 (2003) p. 437; cf. Lk 24: 31.

[16] Cf. Rom 1: 20.

[17] Cf. Missale Romanum, Praefatio I de Passione Domini, p. 528.

[18] Cf. Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Veritatis splendor, 6 August 1993, n. 35: AAS 85 (1993) pp. 1161-1162; Homily given at Camden Yards, 9 October 1995, n. 7: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, XVII, 2 (1995), Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1998, p. 788.

[19] Cf. Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia, n. 10: AAS 95 (2003) p. 439.

[20] Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 24; cf. Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Instruction Varietates legitimae, 25 January 1994, nn. 19 and 23: AAS 87 (1995) pp. 295-296, 297.

[21] Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 33.

[22] Cf. St Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses, III, 2: SCh.., 211, 24-31; St Augustine, Epistula ad Ianuarium: 54,I: PL 33,200: «Illa autem quae non scripta, sed tradita custodimus, quae quidem toto terrarum orbe servantur, datur intellegi vel ab ipsis Apostolis, vel plenariis conciliis, quorum est Ecclesia saluberrima auctoritas, commendata atque statuta retineri.»; Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 7 December 1990, nn. 53-54: AAS 83 (1991) pp. 300-302; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Certain Aspects of the Church as Communion, Communionis notio, 28 May 1992, nn. 7-10: AAS 85 (1993) pp. 842-844; Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Instruction Varietates legitimae, n. 26: AAS 87 (1995) pp. 298-299.

[23] Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 21.

[24] Cf. Pope Pius XII, Apostolic Constitution Sacramentum Ordinis, 30 November 1947: AAS 40 (1948) p. 5; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration Inter insigniores, 15 October 1976, part IV: AAS 69 (1977) pp. 107-108; Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Instruction Varietates legitimae, n. 25: AAS 87 (1995) p. 298.

[25] Cf. Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Letter Mediator Dei, 20 November 1947: AAS 39 (1947) p. 540.

[26] Cf. S. Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship, Instruction Inaestimabile donum, 3 April 1980: AAS 72 (1980) p. 333.

[27] Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia, n. 52: AAS 95 (2003), p. 468.

[28] Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, nn. 4,38; Decree on the Catholic Eastern Churches, Orientalium Ecclesiarum, 21 November 1964, nn. 1,2,6; Pope Paul VI, Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanum: AAS 61 (1969) pp. 217-222; Missale Romanum, Institutio Generalis, n. 399; Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Instruction Liturgiam authenticam, 28 March 2001, n. 4: AAS 93 (2001) pp. 685-726, here p. 686.

[29] Cf. Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Europa, n. 72: AAS 95 (2003) p. 000.

[30] Cf. Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia, n. 23: AAS 95 (2003) pp. 448-449; S. Congregation of Rites, Instruction Eucharisticum mysterium, 25 May 1967, n. 6: AAS 59 (1967) p. 545.

[31] S. Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship, Instruction Inaestimabile donum: AAS 72 (1980) pp. 332-333.

[32] Cf. 1 Cor 11,17-34; Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Letter, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, n. 52: AAS 95 (2003) pp. 467-468.

[33] Cf. Code of C anon Law, 25 January 1983, can. 1752.

Vatican - Redemptionis Sacramentum

 

Beatific Vision

July 16, 2008

The immediate knowledge of God which the angelic spirits and the souls of the just enjoy in Heaven. It is called “vision” to distinguish it from the mediate knowledge of God which the human mind may attain in the present life. And since in beholding God face to face the created intelligence finds perfect happiness, the vision is termed “beatific”. For further explanation of the subject, see HEAVEN.

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