I have been doing a lot of thinking on, praying with, and studying of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This image of Mary is near and dear to my own heart as it is the namesake of my own religious congregation. But recently it has been an image — and a certain kind of devotion — that has drawn me in, almost as if asking me, inviting me, to go deeper.
I didn’t really grow up with Catholic devotions though the sacredness and mystery of Catholic devotions surrounded me like incense on a high holy day. As a kid, I wondered how people could be so into their devotion, what attracted them so much. No devotion ever gave me that kind of feel so I figured I was either doing something wrong or I just wasn’t religious enough.
Things have changed since I was a child. I look at and experience Catholic devotions in a very different way, though the feeling of sacredness and mystery are still there. As Mary and the image of her immaculate heart have stayed and grown with me, I’m in a different place to consider what devotion means to me and what this image in particular means to me as well as within the Church’s tradition and the lived faith of others.
Coincidentally (in fact I remembered this just as I was writing this post) I recently discovered a book we published at Loyola Press in our company library: Awake My Soul: Contemporary Catholics on Traditional Devotions It’s got me wondering what Catholic devotions mean to other people.
How are you with devotions? What are especially meaningful to you and how does it engage you, call to you deep within your spirit?
Deacon John November 25, 2008 at 8:16 am
For over 40 years devotion to the Sacred Hearts of Jesus & Mary have been my thrust in life! My daily prayer & consecration is that my small and worn out heart can be placed in between those Two Hearts (look at the back of the Miraculous Medal for image) and can be One! In our living room we have a beautiful painting of Jesus with His Sacred Heart all aflame, placed where all can see who enter our home. In our bedroom we have a small altar set up with two statues side by side: the Sacred Heart of Jesus & the Immaculate Heart of Mary. My intial devotion to Mary’s Immaculate Heart started when I read a book by a man named Walsh titled: “Our Lady of Fatima”. Through the Fatima story I learned about the ‘First Five Saturdays’ devotion to offer reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and also about consecrating ourselves to her. From this devotion, so dear to Our Lady, I grew in my Faith and become totally devoted to Jesus in the Eucharist, which is the Heart of Jesus among us. It all boils down to Love; God loves us and reveals that love through the Hearts of Jesus & Mary. We love God by adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and honoring the Heart of Mary. We then can spread that love to our neighbor in Good Works i.e. “when I was hungry you fed me, clothed me, visited me, etc. This is what devotion means to me! Blessings and Happy Thanksgiving+
Steve T November 25, 2008 at 9:38 am
I am a convert to Roman Catholicism from the Episcopal Church… I converted for the Read Presence in the Eucharist. The devotions that have always meant the most to me, even before my official conversion, was the Jesus Prayer, and the Rosary. I was interviewed for the newspaper and Time magazine about Protestants with a devotion to the Blessed Mother. I have now added regular novenas to the Sacred Heart, which is enthroned in my h0me. I am particularly devoted to St. Therese, Teresa of Avila, and John XXIII. As a Lay Cistercian I have become absolutely attached to the Solemn Exposition and Adoration at the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani. Truthfully, anywhere they have a Solemn Exposition I will go.
Heather November 25, 2008 at 3:39 pm
I never really grew up with any particular devotions.. or even the concept of such a thing. My grandmother was always giving us glow in the dark rosaries, holy cards, and little statues but nobody ever explained to us what they were really all about…or why you say a prayer to this or that…
Needless to say, my Catholic education was somewhat lacking. I’ve learned more from Wikipedia and reading blogs like this than I ever did going to Church and catechism!
Kazimer November 25, 2008 at 10:12 pm
A devotion that I have felt a call to renew is Jesus’ Divine Mercy strengthened through the recitation of The Divine Mercy Chaplet. JEZU UFAM TOBIE (Jesus I trust you). There was a saying that once I heard it, I had to write it down: “Through forgiveness of our sins by His mercy God shows His love for us.”
Jen November 26, 2008 at 1:04 am
The Liturgy of the Hours. I wouldn’t be exaggerating to call it a life-saver.
Lucia November 26, 2008 at 8:07 am
What Kazimer & Jen said. Honestly, the Divine Mercy chaplet and the Liturgy of the Hours have saved my life. I’m not exaggerating at all–it is so true.
Another devotion I have really become close to is the Rosary. I don’t pray it as often as I should (perhaps I will start now!), but it does help me become closer to both God and Him in my Dominican calling. I like the Rosary because it helps me meet Mary and Jesus not as these abstract holy silhouettes that glow in the dark or something, but as people, as human beings I can relate to. It’s really interesting.
I don’t know if it counts as a ‘devotion,’ but I have to say, my number one (NUMBER ONE) way of “getting to God” is through His saints. If it were not for the saints I would not be here today. I really would not. They bring me through everything.
Amy November 26, 2008 at 7:21 am
I read scripture every morning, based on the daily mass readings. I meditate on some verses that really speak to me, and I write them in my journal. I also meditate on the words of hymns love. Sitting in the dark with a candle burning, I seek to offer praise and thanksgiving to God.
Katie November 26, 2008 at 8:00 am
I’m applying to a community of sisters who have a deep devotion to the Sacred Heart. As a (young) cradle Catholic, I had no idea what sort of spiritual implications such a devotion had. Yet these sisters have truly shown me how meaningful this lived spirituality can be.
What I find interesting is how people seem to have a hunger to express their relationship with God in a deeply personal and meaningful way which is also connected to how people relate to God over centuries of tradition.
Annie November 26, 2008 at 9:55 am
What exactly is a devotion? I’m a bit stumped.
Sister Julie November 27, 2008 at 7:58 am
Hi Annie, Wikipedia actually has a good introductory paragraph on the meaning of Catholic Devotions.
Mary December 1, 2008 at 8:11 am
I have never been particularly fond of Catholic devotions because they seem to smack of idolatry to me. One is left to explain the hairline difference between praying to God through a saint and directly beseeching a saint. The average Catholic doesn’t have enough theology to explain this.
But I think of someone who said (I think it was Bishop Neuman) something along the lines of “what’s the harm?” and I realize that devotions are a tool for bringing people to God.
Adoro December 27, 2008 at 11:04 am
I grew up with the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary, and Mom always tried to get us to pray the rosary (which we hated) After I grew up, went relativistic liberal, I had a conversion, came back to the Church, and now I’m fully embracing these devotions. The ones from childhood are especially important to me, but there are others…Divine Mercy was a HUGE aid in my conversion, Our Lady of Guadalupe (spent a sem in Mexico, have been to the Basilica twice now), many Saints, I have a devotion to the Guardian Angels (not the New-Agey stuff, but true theological reality of Angels and their missions), and above all…Eucharistic Adoration. It all points me closer to God, reminds me of the Communion of Saints, and all of it has lead me into praying the Liturgy of the Hours. I also have a deepening devotion to the Precious Blood of Christ. (For those who aren’t familiar with it…look it up or find a booklet on it..amazing stuff.)
Devotions are wonderful, but what I’ve learned is that we have to allow the Holy Spirit to guide us in them. Some are foundational…rosary, LOH, for example. But others, such as novenas to particular causes, well, sometimes I am drawn to pray specific devotions for specific things, but may never return to those devotions again.
It all has to do with listening to God as He draws us deeper into Himself and into the Mystical Body.
Sister Julie December 27, 2008 at 11:59 am
Thanks, Adoro. A very good point about allowing the Holy Spirit to guide us in our devotions and to help us fall into God’s embrace.