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Religion Library: Roman Catholicism

Worship and Devotion in Daily Life

Written by: Cynthia Stewart

Blessings are usually imparted with words of prayer, but sometimes they are given quietly with just the signing of the cross over what is being blessed. The sign of the cross involves moving the hand vertically and then horizontally while repeating the phrase, "In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit," either verbally or silently. This small ritual is part of almost every facet of Catholic life. Catholics may cross themselves before and after prayer, during Mass, when passing a Catholic church or hearing an ambulance siren, in moments of distress, and just about any other time they are reminded of the need for God's grace.

Catholics who wish to incorporate the liturgical life of the Church into their daily lives in a more formal way might follow the Divine Office, also known as the Liturgy of the Hours. This form of devotion lays out a set of order of readings and prayers for each of the seven canonical hours of the day. The Divine Office is usually woven into the life monks and nuns, and all men who receive Holy Orders vow to recite it daily. It is less common among lay Catholics, but some churches, monasteries, and retreat houses perform public prayers according to the Divine Office, with the evening prayers of Vespers being particularly popular.

Catholics from all walks of life in the contemporary world draw from the many distinctive traditions of prayer and spirituality that have arisen over the Church's history.  Some have adopted the monastic practices of the Divine Office and lectio divina, a kind of meditative reading of sacred text.  Others draw from the tradition of Saint Francis by radical service to the poor.  Still others undertake "spiritual exercises" as described by such writers as Saint Ignatius of Loyola.  The many forms of prayer, meditation, and worship are all geared toward deepening one's relationship with God and allowing that relationship to give rise to a life lived in love for others.

Study Questions:
     1.    What are sacramentals? How are they in tension with grace?
     2.    Describe the frequently used sacramentals. What are their purposes?
     3.    How are blessings embodied?
     4.    How is Catholic devotion practice individualized? Community oriented?


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