Friday, May 1, 2009

What I Love About Catholicism: Devotions

When I left the Catholic Church back in the early 80's for "something more," I didn't realize I already had more than enough spiritual sustenance within Catholicism. In my early twenties, I remember eagerly hunting for books on living the Christian faith and was especially happy if I found a good devotional book. This, of course, was done in non-Catholic Christian bookstores.

There were a few "classics," Morning and Evening by Charles H. Spurgeon, My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers, and the wonderfully concise If by Amy Carmichael. Each of them are excellent. However, I got the impression back then that only non-Catholics were able to mine to deeper spiritual truths and put them in a book.

How wrong I was. In fact, it may not be a matter of "right and wrong" but one of understanding. We cannot understand something if we do not realize its existence. I've slowly been coming to the conclusion that as exemplary as my all-girls Catholic high school education was; it was mostly "progressive" in its approach to the Catholic faith. How different would my life have been if, say, I had teachers who talked about St. Catherine of Siena in religion class? Or talked about Marian devotions such as the ones by St. Louis Marie de Montfort? I heard none of that. Now I'm discovering saints and devotions that I never knew existed; but seen with fresh eyes - delight my soul.

(A little 'bravo' here to all you homeschooling Catholic mothers who are teaching your children such things. You are building a strong foundation in them that will serve them well.)

Another observation about devotionals: Non-Catholics will write many books on their thoughts about God. Catholic devotions are basically prayers to God. I remember a few Catholic prayers when I was younger, mostly the Memorare and the rosary. Now that I am learning about various devotions, such as novenas, I realize that the prayers are simply beautiful and yes, very Biblical. I remembered when I was attending non-denominational churches, I would look at Catholic devotions as "superstitious." I thought the prayers were just outdated texts that really didn't have any value for the culture today. Again, I was wrong.

The prayers I am discovering have incredible meaning and are at times breathtaking in their ability to express a person's "heartcry" toward God. I was just telling someone yesterday how I prayed my first novena ever last year, when I was looking for a job. I was at the end of my rope and realized that perhaps my age was starting to affect my job search. (Those who are middle-aged can attest to the "overqualified" phenomenon.) I decided to make my first novena to St. Joseph, who is the patron saint of workers.

I obtained the prayer and for nine consecutive days, I prayed the prayer along with the rosary. I was at a conference in July, during part of those nine days, and still kept the novena. In August, I was offered a full-time job that would perfectly use my skills and education. Some might doubt that the novena had anything to do with it, but I'd disagree. There are graces for being with the Catholic Church and I believe praying novenas is one of them.

I am now engaged in St. Louis Marie de Montfort's "Preparation for Total Consecration to Jesus Through Mary." I am only in the fourth day of it, but already, it has grounded my spirit in Christ. What touched me was the very first day of the devotional. It focused on the Beatitudes. As I read them, I marveled at how timely they were for the Christian who is witnessing greater hostility to our faith than ever before. Meditating on the Beatitudes brought peace as I remembered that Jesus didn't have it any better. This 33-day devotion is divided into four parts: The Spirit of the World, Knowledge of Self, Knowledge of our Lady, and Knowledge of Christ. I am looking forward to completing this devotion, which Pope John Paul II called "integral" to his interior prayer life.

There are many other devotions, and I look forward to discovering them. Devotions are just that: devotion to God through prayer and supplication. They strengthen and nourish our spirit and help keep us on the right path. I've been humbled by God for my previous judgement of Catholic devotions. But I am so glad He allowed me to see the truth of their purpose.

Note: I just found out today is the Feast Day of St. Joseph the Worker! Well, my gosh. How providential is that?! Bless you this day. :-)


owenswain said...

I very much appreciate the breadth and wealth of devotions and do myself practice some of them. However, they are not iron glad guarantees, even the ones that claim to never have been known to fail. (I am not saying you are saying as such. I am simply thinking along with you here.)

For instance, since giving up my ordained protestant minister pay cheque to convert to the Church Jesus Christ established on earth I have continued to suffer from under-employment to unemployed (my present state, again). This summer it will be four years since I collected a regular pay cheque. We are certainly hurting and beyond. I have prayed the St. Joseph novena - in fact, I did so even before the transition knowing that it would come and I had the faith to believe God would care for us - and I've observed other devotions but here I am .

I am not doubting our Church nor am I bitter though sometimes the good fortune stories of others can be a little hard to rejoice along with but again, that's where God works humility and redemptive sacrifice in me so with each upset I (hope I) become a tiny bit more Christ -like.

So, God is still sovereign and their are no guarantees. In spite of the disappointments Catholic devotions have still met their ultimate aim in being for me a devotion to God that draws me closer to him.

Finally, I have, sadly, met Catholics who are no better than certain of our separated brethren in terms of seeing devotions as a good luck charm or a divine ATM. I have absolutely met the Catholic versions of say the Prayer of Jabez type Christian. There's good, bad, sane and inane on both sides of the Tiber.

Thanks for another thought provoking article MR and may our Lord bless you and yours today.

Mary Rose said...

Owen, I can relate to what you've said. I also had those moments of having difficulty rejoicing with others who had found true love while I kept wondering when God was going to "get on with it" and bring me marriage. I had to wait until I was 39 years old before that finally happened.

I've also seen some Catholics use devotions as a type of "magic charm." I definitely don't agree with that but when one is desperate, it can be tempting to do so. You nailed it when you said the goal was being drawn closer to Him. That is exactly how I feel.

I ask that those who read this would add Owen to their prayers. I've been praying, too, for open doors. I know it gets tougher and tougher to find a decent job the older we get. Many companies would rather hire a young person (who wouldn't ask for a higher wage) than hire an older person and have to pay them more.

Owen, you're a dear. Thank you for reading my blog and ::thrive:: in all things. :-)

paramedicgirl said...

I remember searching for religion, even though I was a Catholic. Like you, I didn`t know the full depths of the Catholic faith. Then, a good friend lent me a box of Catholic books. Real Catholic books. It turned my life (and my faith) around.

That was twelve years ago.

Now my favourite Catholic author is St. Alphonsus Liquori, Doctor of the Church. He has written over a hundred books on the faith. I have read five, and can`t wait to get my hands on more.

There is such a spirtual wealth between the covers of his books; it is as though God is speaking through him to tell us how to sanctify our lives to attain the gift of eternal salvation.

Shirley said...

I too have a devotion to St. Joseph, he has helped me and my husband many times. Owen, I will start a novena for you to find gainful and meaningful employment. My favorite devotion is praying for the holy souls in Purgatory.