Monday, January 15, 2007

Restoring pious devotions

From then-Cardinal Ratzinger's God is Near Us, a homily on Acts 2:42:

And so I beg you, do not allow this breath of prayer, however pressed you may be, to cease in your everyday priestly life. We need the breath of prayer. You will see how it bears fruit. Let prayer spread its influence in the congregations. In order that the Eucharist may live, they need this space of prayer, which is open to us through the praise of God, rendered possible by praying vespers together. Praying the rosary and the stations of the Cross, everything by way of prayer that has developed in the fullness of the Christian faith - we need it again today. We need it especially in a world that is bored amid the perfection of its occupations, that is not just preoccupied with itself but wishes to be touched by him who alone can give our lives meaning.

Personal pious devotions have long been one of the vertebrae of the Catholic faith, and their setting aside in recent decades as antiquated and outmoded has proven to be a painful reminder of how much we don't understand ourselves. These devotions, these models of prayer, some have considered 'accretions' but I suggest that they when properly formed and properly utilized were natural and organic formations of the Spirit working in the Church to reach to more and more of those who strain toward the God they can never fully know in this life. As the Pope says elsewhere, our Churches must once again become fully alive, places where Jesus is rarely left alone, that the life given by the Life may flow out from the doors of our churches at the sounding of "Ite, missa est!" God has given us a history that we might remember it as our paternity, not that we might dismiss it as arcane.