246. From the middle ages, votive processions acquired a particular importance in popular piety, and reached their apogee during the age of the Baroque. The Patron Saints of a city, or streets, or guild were honored by carrying their relics, or image, or effigy in procession.
What sorts of processions have surface today? Largely ones associated with protest: the last three generations in the West. Can popular piety reclaim these outdoor pilgrimages? Could marches and walks reclaim a certain Christianity but without images of particular saints? Is the cause enough? Then can people bring their own saints?
In their true form, processions are a manifestation of the faith of the people. They often have cultural connotations and are capable of re-awakening the religious sense of the people. From the perspective of the Christian’s faith, votive processions, like other pious exercises, are exposed to certain risks: the precedence of devotions over the sacraments, which are relegated to second place, of external displays over interior disposition; regarding the procession as the apogee of a feast; the impression given to some of the less competently instructed of the faithful that Christianity is merely a “religion of Saints”; the degeneration of the procession itself from a manifestation of faith to a mere spectacle or a purely secular parade.
The Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy is online at the Vatican site.