DPPL 93: Guidelines for the Harmonization of Popular Piety with the Liturgy

STA altar at night smallIf anybody is dozing (I can see your glassy stares!) for our series on the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy (check the hyperlinked highlight for the document online) we’re getting close to wake-up time.

93. The following guidelines on the relationship between popular piety and the Sacred Liturgy are offered to facilitate the translation into concrete pastoral action of those principles outlined above, so as ensure consistency and fruitfulness in pastoral activity. While mentioning the most common pious exercises and devotional practices, the following exposition does not contain an exhaustive account of every possible local form of popular piety or devotional practice. Given the affinity of the material, and the fact that it sometimes falls into categories that are not clearly defined, some mention will be made of the pastoral care of the Liturgy.

“Concrete pastoral action” means telling us or giving examples of what we should do, what we could do. This Part Two, commencing today with section 93, will take us all the way to the conclusion of the document, section 288. Here’s the roadmap for the weeks ahead:

The following exposition contains five chapters:

  • chapter four, on the question of the Liturgical Year, seen from the prospect of the desirability of harmonizing its celebrations with popular piety;
  • chapter five, on the veneration of the Holy Mother of God, which occupies a singular position both in the Liturgy and popular devotion;
  • chapter six, on the cult of the Saints and Beati, which also occupies a significant place in the Liturgy and in the devotion of the faithful;
  • chapter seven, on suffrage for the dead, which occurs in various forms in the Church’s worship;
  • chapter eight, on shrines and pilgrimages; places and expressions characteristic of popular piety, and their liturgical implications.

While referring to very diverse situations, and to the multiplicity of types and forms found in pious exercises, the following text has been developed in constant reference to a number of fundamental presuppositions:

  • the superiority of the Liturgy in respect to other forms of cult(Cf. SC 7, 13);
  • the dignity and legitimacy of popular piety(Cf. DPPL 61-64));
  • the pastoral need to avoid any opposition between the Liturgy and popular piety, insurance that their various forms are not confused, so as to eschew the development of hybrid celebrations(Cf. DPPL 74).

These suppositions will be folded into our coming examination of the liturgical year, of devotion to Mary and the saints, of our connection with the dead, and special places and journeys that inspire our faith. I think more of our readers will find this part of the Directory more interesting, as we get specific and concrete about liturgy and devotional practices.

Any big thoughts, or small ones, as we move forward?

Posted in Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, post-conciliar liturgy documents | 1 Comment


Leaving aside any change in doctrine, what a difference a change of tone makes. Included in James Martin’s piece, a citation from the synod document:

Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners.

“Astonishing” is how Fr Martin described that “praise.”


Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?

Some communities are capable. Others, perhaps not.

What do you make of John Allen’s term lifestyle ecumenism?

Fr Martin’s tweet today was incisive as well:

If I had said that “mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the [gay] partners” five years ago I would have probably been silenced. Now it’s the Synod of Bishops who is saying that. The Holy Spirit is afoot.

I think he’s right. Is Roman Catholicism better off for having people able to say such things? And what of this change in the quality in enthusiasm? Select conservatives seem to be in a tailspin, but most other Catholics seem full of a headiness we haven’t seen in decades. When the verve fades, will we be ready for the hard work of actually welcoming people and helping to inspire them?

Posted in Miscellaneous | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments

DPPL 92: Further Thoughts on Inculturation

STA altar at night smallThe CDWDS’s concerns here reflect the era 1978-2013, and perhaps some of this language might be tempered if it were being written today. That said, DPPL 92 opens with a genuinely optimistic view:

92. The adaptation or inculturation of a particular pious exercise should not present special difficulties at the level of language, musical and artistic forms, or even of adopting certain gestures. While at one level pious exercises do not concentrate on the essential elements of the sacramental life, at another, it has to be remembered, they are in many cases popular in origin and come directly from the people, and have been formulated in the language of the people, within the framework of the Catholic faith.

Do we presume faith? Good faith on the part of people who utilize forms outside of the liturgy? I would think yes.

The fact that pious exercises and devotions express popular sentiment, does not, however, authorize personalistic or subjective approaches to this material. With due respect for the competence proper to local Ordinaries or the Major Superiors of religious orders in cases involving devotions connected with their Orders, the Conference of Bishops should decide in matters relating to pious exercises widely diffused in a particular country or in a vast region.

The CDWDS is careful to involve people involved in religious life. Many practices might spread beyond the boundaries of any one diocese, if the devotional life is expressed within a broad religious community.

For bishops, the challenge may be less the acts of piety themselves, and the runaway charism of particular leaders.

Great vigilance and a deep sense of discernment are required to ensure that ideas contrary to the Christian faith, or forms of worship vitiated by syncretism, are not insinuated into pious exercises though various forms of language.

Theological issues such as syncretism are possibly better addressed as a large-scale effort. It’s not just pious practices, and it’s not just non-“orthodox” who fall prey to it. Language is perhaps over-criticized as a problem.

It is especially necessary to ensure that those pious exercises undergoing adaptation or inculturation retain their identity and their essential characteristics. In this regard, particular attention must always be given to their historical origin and to the doctrinal and cultic elements by which they are constituted.

Respect for the integrity of what lay people bring to public prayer: this is laudable.

With regard to the question of assuming certain elements from popular piety in the process of inculturating the Liturgy, reference should be made to the relative Instruction already published on the subject by this Dicastery(Cf. Varietates legitimate 45)

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

Posted in Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, post-conciliar liturgy documents | Leave a comment

Parish Art

St Thomas Aquinas statueOne of our parish’s Liturgy Commission members wrote a series for the summer bulletins on the stories behind various works of art in our parish. It was adapted for our parish website here.

We have moved exclusively to commissioning artists for pieces like those at the link, as well as other liturgical items like a Book of the Deceased and a credence cabinet.

Upcoming priorities include rebinding our lectionaries, a monstrance, a hymn board, and maybe a columbarium is on the road ahead.

It’s a nice thing to be able to involve parishioners, and among them, especially our students to work with artists and engage a dialogue with our own faith, and with others who can help us express this faith in substantial ways.

Posted in Art, Parish Life | Leave a comment

Not So Bad

I missed Cathleen Kaveny’s favorably nostalgic look at the 70’s. Maybe we weren’t sleeping on catechesis after all:

My parochial elementary school used the very popular Life, Love, Joy series published by Silver Burdett and written by Carl Pfeifer and Janaan Manternach. My own textbooks have long gone to their eternal reward. But my mother, who taught sixth-grade CCD for many years, held on to her old teacher’s handbook, which I recently perused. The content is surprisingly rich. The series proclaims itself to be “grounded in the traditional teaching and practices of the Catholic Church, while respecting recent developments in the theological and social sciences.” Among the theological developments it reflects is the emphasis on Scripture called for by Vatican II. The theme of sixth-grade religious education was “Growth in the Spirit,” which is explored in units titled: “Abraham and the Mystery of Faith,” “Moses and the Mystery of Freedom,” “David and the Mystery of Service,” and “Jeremiah and the Mystery of Hope.” The series took care to emphasize that these mysteries were deepened and revealed in Christ Jesus, and passed on in their fullest form in the Catholic tradition. A final unit in the book reinforces the Christocentric understanding of the themes by reflecting on the meaning of major Catholic holy days.

Judging by this text, the content of the series was both rich and deep. So what was the problem?

Good question. Let’s remember these authors and the writer’s parish catechists were all formed in the faith in pre-conciliar times.

Still, the skeptics persist. One of Ms Kaveny’s commenters spoke about 33% of  Catholics not believing in the Real Presence and not knowing the Church teaches it. Clearly, that’s not perfect. But what if the pre-conciliar number on that was 40% or even more?

Another commentator, while lamenting the quality of some of the compositions sung at Mass in those days, did look with some longing at the enthusiasm carried over from the 60’s. I recall a lot more verve in many aspects of Catholic culture when I was a teen and a college student.

Today’s university students have more cars, more jobs, and more working hours to get deeper into debt. But they don’t seem to have the time for a full weekend retreat anymore. Even in the 80’s when I was a young adult in a parish, the pastor and staff convinced sixty-some of us to attend a parish leadership and discernment retreat that ran Friday dinner through Sunday lunch.

I think we’ve let the JP2/B16-era frowny culture of complaint to go on for too darned long. I think for the next decade, I’m letting up on blaming poor catechesis. I’m going to say that we, meaning the Church, needed an attitude adjustment in the face of cultural pressures. Forget the sex, people. I want to know who filched our joy.

Posted in Commentary, The Blogosphere | 7 Comments

DPPL 91: Inculturation and Popular Piety

STA altar at night smallWe’re going to wrap up Part One and Chapter Three with a look at inculturation. DPPL 91 contains two long footnotes, one from Cardinal Ratzinger, and the other from the Pontifical Council for Culture. So we’ll tackle the witness of the recent magisterium for inculturation today. Then finish up tomorrow.

Let’s read:

91. Popular piety is naturally marked by historical and cultural factors. The sheer variety of its expressions is an indicator of that fact. It reflects forms of popular piety that have arisen and been accepted in many particular Churches throughout the ages, and are a sure sign of the extent to which the faith has taken root in the hearts of particular peoples, and of its influence on the daily lives of the faithful. Indeed, “popular piety is the first and most fundamental form of the faith’s ‘inculturation,’ and should be continually guided and oriented by the Liturgy, which, in its turn, nourishes the faith though the heart”(J. Ratzinger, Commento teologico, in CONGREGAZIONE PER LA DOTTRINA DELLA FEDE, Il messaggio di Fatima, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Città del Vaticano 2000, p. 35.).

It’s the same work cited in yesterday’s post.

Notice Cardinal Ratzinger’s acknowledgement of faith being formed in the heart.

The encounter between the innovative dynamism of the Gospel message, and the various elements of a given culture, is affirmed in popular piety*

*Cf. PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR CULTURE, Per una Pastorale della Cultura, Libreria Editrice Vaticana 1999, 28: Popular piety remains one of the principal expressions of a true inculturation of the faith because in it faith and liturgy harmonize, as well as sentiment and the arts, while affirming a consciousness of a proper identity through local traditions. Thus, “America, which historically has been, and still is, a melting-pot of peoples, has recognized in the mestiza face of the Virgin of Tepeyac, ‘in Blessed Mary of Guadalupe, an impressive example of a perfectly inculturated evangelization’ …..(Ecclesia in America 11) Popular piety allows a people to express its faith, its relationship with God and Providence, with Our Lady and the Saints, with neighbors, with the dead., with creation and strengthens membership of the Church.”

“Innovative dynamism” isn’t quite how I would describe the institutional approach to the preaching of the Gospel. Still, it is a goal toward which we can be reaching.

Take a look at that long note to DPPL 91b. Affirmation for what has developed around the Lady of Guadalupe. Subsequent apparitions seem to have less power. Lourdes is where I would draw the line. But Juan Diego’s vision is certainly attractive and deeply meaningful for the Americas.

Your thoughts on any of this?

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

Posted in Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, post-conciliar liturgy documents | Leave a comment

Cor Ad Cor

Cardinal NewmanWe observed the memorial of John Henry Newman this past Thursday night at the student liturgy. Sort of. The visiting presider from the other parish in town used presidential material for the Common of Pastors, but the readings were straight-up ordinary time: stupid Galatians and fish eggs and scorpion snakes.

Britain’s Catholic Herald is an enthusiastic counterpoint to The Tablet, but I still find their blogging and news-gathering interesting. Have a look at fellow Oratorian Ignatius Harrison’s piece promoting Cardinal Newman as saint and Doctor of the Church. The post-essay commentary is, as usual, hilarious.

Fr Harrison’s most persuasive and striking reason is this:

Newman drew others to Christ through the attraction they felt towards him, their pastor. In this, he is a fine example of how we can best pursue our mission to evangelise. Merely repeating with cool detachment the words on the pages of the Catechism, true though they are, will not by itself turn hearts and minds to the Lord. Human warmth and inter-personal engagement are also needed. Heart must speak to heart. The human element is essential if the Spirit’s gift of faith is to take root and bear fruit.

What a contrast: cool detachment versus the warmth of the human heart. Perhaps that is what is missing in forming Christian disciples today.

When I gave blood earlier this week, I felt the warmth of the tube wrapped around my forearm as the unit was draining out of my inner elbow. The machine then switched to a different phase, and the plasma and saline solution was sent back through the same tube. It wasn’t exactly cool, but it might have been a few degrees shy of body temperature. It was just something I noticed.

cor ad cor loquitorSometimes the information we impart to others has a deeper chill about it. When we press an extra large bite of ice cream against our hard palate, the pain can be excruciating. Icy treats are nice, with small bites. But how often does the Church (and its witnesses) try to cram too much frigid stuff down people’s throats?

Cor ad cor loquitur: what a beautiful image for evangelization in this century. Not head speaking to head. But one heart reaching out to another: warmth to warmth.

When I was a young boy, I think our family pediatrician was one of the last who made house calls. I recall him as a kindly man coming to my bedside once or twice. As a medical man, he certainly cared for my heart, and other parts of my body. The warmth of Cardinal Newman’s relationships certainly suggest his heart beat warm and strong for the Gospel mission and for his sisters and brothers. We can always use one more doctor, I would say.


Posted in evangelization, Ministry, spirituality | Tagged | 1 Comment