A listing of medieval developments. Some of these have developed into some of the most glorious moments of Western musical art. I’ll also mention that children, excluded in many ways as the medieval laity were, often identify with some of these more deeply than the Mass.
32. Throughout the middle ages many forms of popular piety gradually emerged or developed. Many of these have been handed down to our times:
• the organization of sacred performances depicting the mysteries celebrated during the liturgical year, especially those surrounding the salvific events of Christ’s birth, his passion, death and resurrection;
• the participation of the faithful was encouraged by the emergence of poetry in the vernacular which was widely used in popular piety;
Just imagine a world without Vatican II: hip-hop, the modern poetry even more ascendant in some circles.
• as a parallel, or even an alternative to many liturgical expressions, several devotional forms appeared; for example, various forms of Eucharistic adoration served to compensate for the rarity with which Holy Communion was received; in the late middle ages, the rosary tended to substitute for the psalter; among the faithful, the pious exercises of Good Friday became a substitute for the Liturgy proper to that day;
Walking the Way of the Cross is no longer something confined to Holy Week, or even Lent.
• the growth in popular forms of devotion to Our Lady and the Saints: pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and to the tombs of the Apostles and martyrs, veneration of relics, litanies, and suffrage for the dead;
• the considerable development of the rites of blessing which, together with Christian elements, also reflected a certain response to a naturalistic sensibility as well to popular pre-Christian beliefs and practices;
Recall even substitutions for liturgical seasons:
• nucleuses of “sacred times” based on popular practices were constituted. These were often marginal to the rhythm of the liturgical year: sacred or profane fair days, tridua, octaves, novenas, months devoted to particular popular devotions.
The full document, the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, is online at the Vatican site.