In DPPL 34 and the following sections, the Church looks at “The Modern Period.” The Council of Trent is placed squarely here. Modern or not, the 1500’s were a time of immense upheaval. Laypeople and likely many clerics were long adrift in the liturgical life. The mid-century council attempted to address some of these issues. But they largely remained in play.
34. At the dawn of the modern period, a balanced relationship between Liturgy and popular piety did not seem any more likely. The devotio moderna of the late fifteenth century was popular with many great spiritual masters and was widespread among clerics and cultivated lay(people). It promoted the development of meditative and affective pious exercises based principally on the humanity of Christ – the mysteries of his infancy, his hidden life, his Passion and death. However, the primacy accorded to contemplation, the importance attributed to subjectivity and a certain ascetical pragmatism exalting human endeavor ensured that Liturgy no longer appeared as the primary source of the Christian life in the eyes of men and women advanced in the spiritual life.
I probably have the most familiarity with the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius. I would say that certainly, there is not necessarily a liturgical connection in these. I’m not sure they harmonize well with the liturgical year … not that they need to …
35. The De Imitatione Christi is regarded as a typical expression of the devotio moderna. It has exercised an extraordinary and beneficial influence on many of the Lord’s disciples in their quest for Christian perfection. The De Imitatione Christi orients the faithful towards a certain type of individual piety which accentuates detachment from the world and the invitation to hear the Master’s voice interiorly. Less attention is devoted to the communitarian and ecclesial aspects of prayer and to liturgical spirituality.
Somewhat understandable. Among many spiritual seekers, the emphasis was largely individualized in the liturgy and in various spiritual exercises. One had assistance from an abbot, a pastor, a confessor, and/or a spiritual director. These relationships helped to feed the writings of many of the spiritual guides of the “modern” period.
Many excellent pious exercises are to be found among those who cultivated the devotio moderna, as well as cultic expressions deriving from sincerely devout persons. A full appreciation of the celebration of the Liturgy is not, however, always to be found in such circles.
Liturgy was an ecclesiastical obligation. It was a totally objective collection of rituals divorced from the spiritual explorations of saints and ordinary people alike.
The full document, the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, is online at the Vatican site.