What are Catholic devotions?
A devotion is a customary popular prayer, often linked to other holy actions, objects or places.
Devotions are good because they help form habits of prayer, they are shared with others and they help to sanctify people, places and things. Their diversity meets different needs and expresses some of the richness of the kingdom of heaven.
Devotions of the Liturgical Year
Advent and Christmas
Advent is the four-week period of preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ, celebrated at Christmas. The most popular devotion during Advent is the advent wreath containing four candles that are lit one after the other on the Sundays leading up to Christmas. At Christmas it is customary to erect a crib. This is made up of model figures of the baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph and others grouped according to the scene at Bethlehem where Jesus was born.
Lent and Easter
Lent is the period of forty days in which we prepare, by prayer, fasting and penance, for the celebration of the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ at Easter. The most popular devotion during Lent is the Stations of the Cross, in which we walk and pray at fourteen stations that retrace the Passion of Jesus Christ from his condemnation to his entombment.
Ordinary Time covers the rest of the year. It includes, however, some major solemnities and feasts. On Corpus Christi it is customary to carry the Blessed Sacrament in solemn procession. We especially honour the Blessed Virgin Mary during May and October, and on the Assumption we honour her by a procession and by crowning her statue. Many Catholics prepare for the major feasts by a novena, a series of prayers over the preceding nine days.
Devotions to the Holy Eucharist
Adoration is the worship of Jesus Christ, present under the appearance of bread. It is customary to expose the Eucharistic host in a monstrance for a set period of time outside Mass. Most parishes set aside at least an hour a week for Eucharistic adoration.
Benediction is the rite of blessing with the Eucharistic host given by a priest or deacon. It is customary to sing (for example, Tantum Ergo) and incense the host during Benediction.
Devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary
The Rosary is a series of prayers which brings to mind 20 of the main events in the life of Jesus and Mary. For each of the 20 mysteries (5 joyful, 5 luminous, 5 sorrowful and 5 glorious) we pray a ‘decade’, which is: one Our Father, ten Hail Mary’s and one Glory Be, following these prayers on a set of beads.
The many other Marian devotions include the Angelus, which is prayed at 6am, noon and 6pm, the Litany of Loreto, wearing the Brown Scapular and the Miraculous Medal.
Devotions to the saints and the dead
Patron saints accompany, help and intercede for us. We choose saints as our own patrons, especially at Baptism and Confirmation. Countries, occupations and activities also have distinctive patrons.
Praying for the dead in purgatory is a spiritual work of mercy. A common prayer for them is, “Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them, may they rest in peace”. It is also good to visit graves and pray for our deceased.
Shrines, pilgrimages and visits
A shrine is a church or other place of special devotion which, with the approval of the local bishop, is frequented by the faithful as pilgrims. Examples are at Fatima, Lourdes and Walsingham. A pilgrimage is a journey to a shrine for the purpose of prayer and special intentions. Examples of visits are going to a church to pray before Christ in the tabernacle, or lighting a candle and praying.
Recommended devotions for the home
It is strongly recommended that every Catholic family pray the Rosary together regularly. It is also good to pray before and after meals and at the beginning and end of the day. Also, it is spiritually beneficial for every home to have a crucifix and some holy image of Mary or the saints. Some homes have a little shrine where a candle can be lit and prayers said. A Bible in a prominent position is another good practice. A holy water font by the door enables those passing by to bless themselves with the Sign of the Cross.
This article is originally from ‘CREDO: The Catholic Faith explained’ by CTS.