Contemporary Catholics on Traditional Devotions

A surprising number of studies suggest that the appeal of traditional devotions among younger Catholics is on the rise. Some posit that the phenomenon reflects a growing conservatism among Catholics under 40. Others wonder if younger Catholics, who may not have been forced to participate in devotions as children, feel freer to embrace them on their own. Still others contend that the characteristics of the devotional lifetactile, colorful, often exoticexert a particular influence on young Catholics seeking a greater sense of mystery in their lives.

At the same time, traditional devotions can prompt a variety of responses from older Catholics. For many, the devotional life has never lost its appeal. Many fondly remember reciting the rosary with parents, attending special novena services in their home parish or receiving their first Miraculous Medal or scapular from a favorite aunt or uncle. For some, however, traditional devotions have proven mostly irrelevant, remaining on the fringes of their daily lives as Catholics. For still others the devotional life seems inconsistent with a mature faith, antithetical to contemporary Catholicism and, at times, faintly superstitious.

Advertisement

The wide variety of responses raises some interesting questions. What do traditional devotions have to say to contemporary Catholics? How might a devotion that has seen its popularity wax and wane (and now wax again) speak to Catholics unfamiliar with its appeal? Can devotions that often carry heavy theological and cultural baggage find a place in the post-Vatican II church? In short, what might devotions mean today?

This series for Lent and Easter focuses on the world of devotions in the life of contemporary believers. America asked a number of Catholics, some in their 30’s or 40’s, to write about a favorite devotionits history, its place in his or her life and its possible role in the life of contemporary believers. In this second part of the series we look at three: the Angelus, first Fridays and the Stations of the Cross.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

The Persistence of Memory, Salvador Dalí, 1931.
The God who is coming is the God who is already here.
Terrance KleinJanuary 17, 2018
Indigenous people walk past Pope Francis after presenting offertory gifts during the pope's celebration of Mass at the Maquehue Airport near Temuco, Chile, Jan. 17. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Pope Francis appealed to the Mapuche, who have suffered “great injustices,” to totally reject violence “which can make a just cause turn into a lie.”
Gerard O’ConnellJanuary 17, 2018
Dolores O'Riordan, former lead singer of The Cranberries, performs on stage during a concert in 2007 in Tirana, Albania (CNS photo/Arben Celi, Reuters).
She was Dickensian, if Dickens had written a Gaelic warrior-waif, a hero with a voice that could thrill and comfort.
Cameron Dezen HammonJanuary 17, 2018
Pope Francis dove head-first into Chile's sex abuse scandal on his first full day in Santiago.