The Catholic Faith
The Catholic Church and Faith is deeply rooted in tradition that spans a time period of two millennia. During this time, the Catholic Faith spread across many diverse cultures, all of which left their distinctive marks on the practices and devotions of the Church and lay faithful.
From these cultures sprung a wealth of prayers, novenas and feasts honoring the countless multitude of Saints. Catholic devotions are prayer forms which are not part of the official public liturgy of the Church but are part of the popular spiritual practices of Catholics. Many are officially sanctioned by the Church as profitable for spiritual growth but not necessary for salvation.
Numerous devotions to our Blessed Mother have become immensely popular, including the Rosary. The rosary takes its name from a popular title of Mary: “Mystical Rose.” It was originally a form of private prayer that consisted of 150 Our Fathers prayed daily in substitution for the 150 Psalms by those who were unable to read. It was also a common penance given after confession to sinners who had to use beads to count the prayers. By the 12th century, Hail Marys were substituted for the our Fathers, divided into three groups of 50 (called rosaries), and each of these divided into five groups of 10 (called decades). Three sets of themes concerning the lives of Jesus and Mary, known as mysteries (Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious) established themes for praying the rosary. Our late Holy Father, John Paul II subsequently added a fourth group of mysteries know as the Luminous Mysteries.
Another popular devotion developed very early on in Catholic history. Early Christians living in the Holy Land would walk the way our Savior trod on his way to Calvary. When Muslims recaptured the Holy Land this pilgrimage became too dangerous. As a result, a substitute pilgrimage was made leading to the creation of the Stations of the Cross. Originally an outdoor devotion throughout Europe in the Middle Ages, the Stations marked critical scriptural events of Jesus’ journey to Calvary. The number of Stations varied over time from 5 to 20 until Pope Clement XII fixed the number at 14 in the 18th Century. Representations of the 14 Stations of the Cross have become familiar fixtures in Catholic Churches all across the globe.
These are only a few examples of the wealth of devotions held dear by our Catholic tradition. These traditions have always been an important dimension of celebrating our Catholic Faith and passing it on to subsequent generations. Each age is a time of special grace, including our age of high technology in a society and culture that seem to ignore tradition. These devotions help us to gain a better understanding of and deepen our faith and serve as reminders of who we are as a Catholic people.