Mediator Dei 29-30

Pope Pius XII was concerned about those two branches of piety, especially that non-Eucharistic devotion would somehow be sidelined by a renewed emphasis on the centrality and efficacy of the Eucharist:

29. It is an unquestionable fact that the work of our redemption is continued, and that its fruits are imparted to us, during the celebration of the liturgy, notable in the august sacrifice of the altar. Christ acts each day to save us, in the sacraments and in His holy sacrifice. By means of them He is constantly atoning for the sins of (humankind), constantly consecrating it to God. Sacraments and sacrifice do, then, possess that “objective” power to make us really and personally sharers in the divine life of Jesus Christ. Not from any ability of our own, but by the power of God, are they endowed with the capacity to unite the piety of members with that of the head, and to make this, in a sense, the action of the whole community. From these profound considerations some are led to conclude that all Christian piety must be centered in the mystery of the Mystical Body of Christ, with no regard for what is “personal” or “subjective,” as they would have it. As a result they feel that all other religious exercises not directly connected with the sacred liturgy, and performed outside public worship should be omitted.

30. But though the principles set forth above are excellent, it must be plain to everyone that the conclusions drawn from them respecting two sorts of piety are false, insidious and quite pernicious.

I have no direct experience of 1940’s Catholicism. From my reading of church istory, I know that many interpret the post-Reformation clergy-centered sacramental life as being distant from the laity and their spirituality. It’s not surprising that believers would adopt rituals apart from the sacraments, especially considering all the obstacles that appeared to shut them out of the Mass and their participation in it.

My sense is that there are a lot of questionable pieties afoot in Roman Catholicism. Some are just, well, questionable. The questions have little to do with a lack of grounding in the Eucharist. Some smack of things magical, gnostic, pelagian, or just plain superstitious. And some literally intrude on the celebration of Mass, or they did, as I am led to believe from the subjective testimony of others.

The bottom line here is that the Mass and sacraments are central and essential. But we don’t eliminate religious and spiritual practices because they are separate activities with independent pedigrees.

You can read Mediator Dei in it’s entirety on the Vatican web site here.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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