DPPL 13: Distinct, But Harmonious

STA altar at night smallPious exercises and devotions. Let’s keep clear what we’re talking about here …

13. The objective difference between pious exercises and devotional practices should always be clear in expressions of worship. Hence, the formulae proper to pious exercises should not be commingled with the liturgical actions. Acts of devotion and piety are external to the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, and of the other sacraments.

The occasional practice of saying the Hail Mary during Mass comes to mind. Wholly valid form, as it derives from Scripture and is suggestive of liturgy. I’m aware of the practice of saying the Anima Christi after communion–I wonder about that, too.

On the one hand, a superimposing of pious and devotional practices on the Liturgy so as to differentiate their language, rhythm, course, and theological emphasis from those of the corresponding liturgical action, must be avoided, while any form of competition with or opposition to the liturgical actions, where such exists, must also be resolved. Thus, precedence must always be given to Sunday, Solemnities, and to the liturgical seasons and days.

In other words, a devotional form shouldn’t overwhelm the observance of Sundays, of major liturgical feasts, or the liturgical season.

Since, on the other, pious practices must conserve their proper style, simplicity and language, attempts to impose forms of “liturgical celebration” on them are always to be avoided.

And likewise, liturgical elements shouldn’t intrude on pious practices. Hmmm … Does this mean the “Pour forth, we beseech you” prayer in the rosary is inappropriate? I have to say from personal experience that I learned the Rosary without all those extra prayers, including the Fatima utterance. When I’m with the students, I usually remain silent for those “extras” and confine myself to the basics as I was taught.

To be honest, I haven’t given this intermingling of practices a whole lot of thought. I’m skeptical on an absolute apartheid between liturgy and devotions. But certainly, great care is needed. A local community can add significant “tradition” and it can be very difficult to undo it.

The full document, the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, is online at the Vatican site.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
This entry was posted in Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, post-conciliar liturgy documents. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to DPPL 13: Distinct, But Harmonious

  1. Liam says:

    I think you’re reading this at a different level than intended. Having a public recitation of the Anima Christi after everyone receives Communion is what it’s contemplating being inappropriate, not individuals silently including it in their personal prayer after receiving Communion. In terms of the reverse direction, again, I would venture it is referring to treating the public recitation of the Rosary as a liturgical event. The component prayers, other than the Fatima ejaculation used by some, are all used in the liturgy (Apostle’s Creed, Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, Salve Regina (in the form it developed in Compline/Night Prayer, to which that final “Pour forth” collect is one of the typical conclusions, in addition to being a collect for Advent IV).

  2. Todd says:

    Yes, I’m only thinking of priest-led devotional prayers. I do encounter those from time to time. I’m actually not convinced it’s such a big deal … unless done on a consistent basis.

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