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US Bishops put popular devotions in their rightful place

The Catholic Bishops in the United States last week encouraged popular devotions as a form of spiritual activity that should support rather than replace the church's worship and sacramental life.

At their twice yearly meeting in Washington, they accepted a 21-page pastoral statement titled Popular Devotional Practices: Basic Questions and Answers.

The document does not support particular devotions, but seeks to explain the role of devotions in the lives of Catholics.

Among examples of popular devotional practices the Bishops are keen to keep in perspective include "pilgrimages, novenas, processions and celebrations in honour of Mary (e.g. Divine Mercy, pictured) and the other saints, the rosary, the Angelus, the Stations of the Cross, the veneration of relics and the use of sacramentals."

"Properly used, popular devotional practices do not replace the liturgical life of the church; rather, they extend it into daily life," the statement says.

The document relects the principles and guidelines set out by the 300-page Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, which was dated December 2001 and made public in April 2002.

Benedictine monk and lecturer in Liturgy at the Catholic Institute of Sydney Fr David Orr comments that the US Bishops are responding to a pastoral sitaution in which they need to affirm the priority of the liturgy within the life of the Catholic community. He says they want to acknowledge very strongly that liturgical life is fed by a devotional life.

He suggested the Australian Bishops could well follow suit and look at the Vatican document in the light of the cultural mix in the Catholic Church in this country. This now includes strong representation from cultures such as Vietnamese and Filipino, which contrasts with the Hispanic influence in the US.

Bishops approve document on popular devotions (Catholic News Service)

Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments
Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy (Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments)
Varietates Legitimae (Inculturation and the Roman Liturgy, Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments)
Divine Mercy Sunday
US Conference of Catholic Bishops | Media Advisory: USCCB Annual Meeting, November 10-13, Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill

17 Nov 2003