DPPL 2-3: Councils, Popes, and Bishops on Liturgy and Popular Piety

STA altar at night smallLet’s finish up the introduction to the introduction of the curia’s Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy (DPPL), looking at the relationship between liturgy (the Mass, the sacraments, and the Divine Office) and ritual expressions of piety among the laity.

The DPPL might have been three decades in coming from Vatican II, but it has not gone unobserved or unnoted by Rome …

2. In its constitution on the Liturgy, the Second Vatican Council explicitly touched upon the relationship between the Liturgy and pious exercises(SC 13). The question of popular piety has been more amply considered on various occasions by the Apostolic See(Cf. Eucharisticum mysterium 58-67; Marialis cultus 24-58; Evangelii nuntiandi 48; Catechesi tradendae 54; Familiaris consorti 59-62; General Directory on Catechesis 195-196.) and by the Conferences of Bishops (See, for example, III CONFERENCIA GENERAL DEL EPISCOPADO LATINO-AMERICANO, Documento de Puebla, 444-469, 910-915, 935-937, 959-963; CONFERENCIA EPISCOPAL DE ESPANA, Documento pastoral de la Comision episcopal de Liturgia, Evangelizacion y renovation de la piedad popular, Madrid 1987; Liturgia y piedad popular, Directorio Liturgico-Pastoral, Secretariado Nacional de Liturgia, Madrid 1989; CONFERENCIA GENERAL DEL EPISCOPADO LATINO-AMERICANO, Documento de Santo Domingo, 36, 39, 53.).

… or by conferences of bishops.

Saint John Paul’s thoughts from 1988, summarized:

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”(Vicemus Quintus Annus 18 ).

From a quarter century ago, the assessment was for piety to experience a “continual” evangelization. Ordinarily, one thinks of people and cultures in need of evangelization. Saint John Paul believed that popular piety was a way for human faith to deepen. But he seems to keep a respectful distance here, or at least he promoted a distance between liturgy and devotions.

In mission lands and other regions without the ministry of clergy, it’s hard to envision popular piety from taking a dominant role in Catholic life. Is it wishful thinking to assume the Mass, too, will be totally untouched by devotional rituals?

What do you make of the assessment that popular piety needs purification? Is that part of the post-conciliar suspicion of piety? Or has the criticism directed at some forms of piety after the Council perhaps been warranted?

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”(Pastor Bonus 70), 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.

And so from here, we launch into the rest of the Introduction (4-21) in which we’ll look at specific issues to be covered in greater detail in the rest of the document (22-280).

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Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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One Response to DPPL 2-3: Councils, Popes, and Bishops on Liturgy and Popular Piety

  1. Liam says:

    One thing I’d suggest to keep in mind as a generally unstated subtext: how popular ritual practices fed the faithful when the availability of liturgical prayer through clergy was fraught. What we think of now as the normal pattern of organizing the Church through dioceses with territorial parochial flocks is something more of a Second Millennium structure.In the latter half of the First Millennium in particular, there were considerable swaths of Christianized Europe that weren’t “covered” by parishes where the Mass was regularly celebrated as we now think normal. (Monastic establishments were more commonly the anchors of the sacramental life than parishes in that era. Even so, they weren’t think on the ground like parishes of today.) In addition, there have been long periods where the normal functioning of parochial life in the Second Millennium was compromised by hostility of the civil arm. Think of Recusant Catholicism in England; of post-penal law Ireland; of Russian- or Ottoman-occupied areas where Catholics were common; think of the Second World (China today, for example). The Directory, curiously, doesn’t get into this in any particular depth as best I can remember; it’s curious to me because Pope John Paul II came from a Poland that at the time of his birth had only recently been freed from over a century of foreign occupation, perhaps he came from the (comparatively small) part of Poland that had been occupied by a Catholic power (Austria-Hungary).

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