Liturgy, Sacramentals, Private Prayer and Devotions
Here are some resources that may help your participation in, and enjoyment of, the liturgy, sacramentals, private prayer, and devotions. We desire to facilitate an understanding of the basic categories of Catholic prayer, and to encourage participation in them. God has chosen to reveal himself to people in both private, very personal ways, and through public, communal means. In the prayers offered to God by members of the Church, both collectively and individually, it is important to recognize the theological differences between the order of grace related to the Seven Sacraments, the order of grace related to matters essential to the life of the Church, and the order of grace present in one’s own prayer life. These distinctions were established by God’s gift of a “Public Revelation” through the Patriarchs (and Matriarchs), through the history of Israel, the historical mission of Jesus, and through the Apostles.
The liturgy is the official prayer of the Church by which the People of God give thanks to God and receive grace. The liturgy consists of the rituals in which the Seven Sacraments are administered and received. These Sacraments are the extension of Jesus’ saving mission throughout history by means of his Church. In the liturgy, Christ himself is present and acting in numerous ways in his priestly role to sanctify men and women. For example, in the Mass Christ is present in the Eucharist, the priest, and in the people. Through signs, symbols, and gestures, the liturgy draws people to the Sacraments. The unchanging essentials of liturgy are the Matter and Form of the Sacraments, and also the Intention of the Church in regard to the giving and receiving of them. Other liturgical elements, such as the decoration of the worship space, processions, music, etc. may take different shapes according to history, culture, and the sensibilities of the assembly, within limits specified by the Vatican. As such, liturgy’s structure and content are officially promulgated and sanctioned.
In regard to the Liturgy of the Hours, also known as The Divine Office, it is considered liturgy by virtue of the fact that the Sacramental ministry is normally joined to the ministry of the Word, and to prayer, as was Jesus’ own practice. The Liturgy of the Hours is considered to be the extension of the Liturgy throughout the day.
Sacramentals are defined as those officially promulgated rituals which are not themselves Sacraments. Sacramentals are easily combined with the Liturgy but are to be clearly distinguished from it. Examples of Sacramentals include: Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction, the Profession of a Religious, the Consecration of Virgins, Funeral Rites, Burial Rites, blessing rituals for objects, people, or places, dedication of a church or altar, certain rites within RCIA, etc. These rites can be found in special publications of the conferences of bishops, with Vatican approval. There is some confusion between this application of the word “sacramentals” and the one you are probably more familiar with, that of referring to certain objects used in popular devotions. This category of sacramentals is described below under “Devotions & Private Prayer”.
Devotions & Private Prayer
Devotions are related to private prayer in that they generally spring from popular piety and private revelation. The People of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit, are equipped to discern the movements of God in their lives. However, because of the difficulties involved with discerning true spirituality from false and then also promulgating the good without the bad, which not everyone can do nor express properly, it is the role of the Magisterium to determine which devotions conflict with Public Revelation and which do not. The Body of Christ, head and members together, recognizes the movements of the Holy Spirit. This is usually done at the local level first, through the local bishop, before spreading.
Devotions often involve the use of sacramentals. These sacramentals are distinguished from the above category of rituals in that they refer to the objects produced by one of the blessing rituals. These objects may include: rosaries, crosses, holy water, salt, oil, scapulars, medals, etc. The use of these types of sacramentals, and the devotions that go with them, must be clearly separated from the liturgical rites. In the past, there has been inappropriate use made of devotions and their accompanying sacramentals during the liturgy that gave the impression of a mistaken order of importance. Further, though the Church may have approved of a particular devotion, popular piety often introduces false theological accretions or superstitious practices. These objects, and any prayers or related “promises”, do not have the power to save a person apart from a life given to the practice of the Sacraments. Devotions are meant to support faith and to bring a person closer to the Sacraments.
Divine Mercy(scroll down)
Divine Mercy (EWTN)
Divine Mercy (Marians)
Sacred Heart of Jesus
The Shroud of Turin
Various Other Prayers
The Way of the Cross
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