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The Message
Evansville, Indiana
December 18, 1987     The Message
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December 18, 1987

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, Faith Today Supplement, The Message, Catholic Diocese of Evansville, December 18, 1987 1 7 III I I I I t Faith Todav I Ill I I I II Ill II A t to Jc   by NATIONAL CATHOUC NEWS SERVICE t312 Ma Ave. N.W., Washlngton, D.C, 20005. w t asstanm from The Cethohc Church EXTENSION so*w 35 East Woder Dr., Ocogo, Illinois 60601 All contents coht@t987 by NC News Sen,lce. 44 III II By Father Herbert Weber NC News Service uring a recent visit with my father in a nursing home, he and I prayed a decade of the rosary together. Because of a stroke he suffered last year, he was unable to pray more. But that single decade of the sorrowful mysteries was filled with all the suffering and hope that he and my family have gone through during the last 15 months. It reflected our human experience. It was not the first time that Dad and I have prayed the rosary. Growing up in the 1950s our family was among many that gathered for a daily rosary. I recall eagerly waiting to be old enough to lead some of the prayer. Years have passed since then. Church devotions and family prayer styles have changed. Yet devotions still have their place when they provide a bridge bet- ween one's life experiences and the message of the faith that is celebrated by the church. 7q[]E3 A devotion is a form of per- sonalized prayer in which one or several people participate. Devo- tions can be developed and adapted by anyone. Most frequent- ly, devotions are at their best when celebrated in conjunction with the church's liturgical cycle. Families have told mc that they regularly celebrate the church's seasons at home. eAdvcnt wreaths are used with a short Scripture passage as the candle for each Sunday of the season is lit. The home Nativity scene is completed with children adding the figurines of the Magi on the feast of the Epiphany and singing "We Three Kings." A Lenten calendar is followed, and certain prayers and sacrifices become family projects. Images of new life -- but- terflies, eggs, flowers -- are col- lected around Easter and brought into a family prayer session. To these family celebrations of the church's liturgy, people can add their personal faith remem- brances. For example, on the an- niversary of someone's baptism, that person's candle, first lit at the baptismal ceremony, can be used together with a reading of an ac- count of Jesus sending his disciples out on mission. i II I I i,i i i i i i Church devotions are still a part of Catholic life today, although the way we view them has changed somewhat in the years since the Second Vatican Council. In fact, says Father Herbert Weber, devotions "are a weekday way of keeping in touch with what the liturgy is saying on Sunday." He describes how some individuals and families have discovered new meaning in traditional devotions -- and how they have created devotions of their own. II I II I I What remains important is to keep in mind that devotions do not replace the Mass. Instead, devotions are a weekday way of keeping in touch with what the liturgy is saying on Sunday. Furthermore, because devotions can refer specifically to the wor- ries, fears and hopes an individual or family is facing on any given day, they can help people bring that experience to the communal gathering on Sunday. At the time of the recent revolu- tion in the Philippines, I observed a small group of university students from the Philippines praing the Stations of the Cross together. I did not disturb them, but I am sure that the devotion had special meaning because of the cross of fear and uncertainty that they were bearing. Even devotion to a saint still can hold lots of meaning for peo- ple. But it may be necessary to spend some time searching for saints whose lives reflect what one is experiencing. Perhaps that is the genius of the patron saint concept. People of virtually any occupation can look to someone who has shared their experiences. 1 once saw a group of Chimney sweeps -- dressed as though right out of a Dickens novel -- at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago celebrating their patron saint's feast. The w:ly to make sense of devo- New meaning for old devotio i I . tions today is neither to try to re- create what was going on 30 years ago nor to disregard the past. Devotions remain a vehicle of prayer for those who try to keep in touch with their faith. But devotions have to be timely and appropriate. People ha,ze to keep one ear to the sound of whatever is going on in their lives and the other ear to the thrust of the church calendar and the liturgical message. This was summed up when a woman told me she used to light blessed candles whenever there was a storm. She asked if that was still acceptable. I in turn asked what the candle meant to her and what it was about storms that led her to seek some protection. Soon our discussion changed to the use of the Easter candle lit in the darkness of Holy Saturday night. She decided she would con- tinue to light a candle during storms, but it would not be a near-magic ritual of warding off evil. Instead, it would be a prayer of thankfulness that Christ is a light in the dark. For her, a new meaning had been resurrected from an old devotion. (Father Weber is pastor of St. Thomas More University Parish in Bowling Green, Ohio.)