Sep 15, 2002

Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy appears in English

Online Edition – Vol. VIII, No. 6: September 2002

Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy appears in English

Pope John Paul II, in a message last September to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, congratulated the CDW for its work on a Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy.

The Congregation issued the Directory in Latin on December 17, 2001. The Vatican’s English translation of this exhaustive teaching document on popular piety appeared on the Vatican web site in August 2002. [Vatican online edition – Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy]

An excerpt from the Directory concerning Eucharistic Adoration appears on page 12.

In his message to the CDW, the Holy Father stressed the need for the Directory and its guidelines in this message:

"I am aware of this Congregation’s deep commitment, and that of the Bishops, to the promotion and development of the Church’s liturgical life. In expressing my appreciation, it is my hope that this valuable work will contribute to make the celebration of the Liturgy ever more dignified and fruitful.

"With a view to the preparation of a Directory, your Plenary has chosen popular religiosity as its main topic. Popular piety is an expression of faith which avails of certain cultural elements proper to a specific environment which is capable of interpreting and questioning in a lively and effective manner the sensibilities of those who live in that same environment.

"Genuine forms of popular piety, expressed in a multitude of different ways, derive from the faith and, therefore, must be valued and promoted. Such authentic expressions of popular piety are not at odds with the centrality of the Sacred Liturgy. Rather, in promoting the faith of the people, who regard popular piety as a natural religious expression, they predispose the people for the celebration of the Sacred Mysteries.

"The correct relationship between these two expressions of faith must be based on certain firm principles, the first of which recognizes that the Liturgy is the center of the Church’s life and cannot be substituted by, or placed on a par with, any other form of religious expression. Moreover, it is important to reaffirm that popular religiosity, even if not always evident, naturally culminates in the celebration of the Liturgy towards which it should ideally be oriented. This should be made clear through suitable catechesis".

Cardinal Jorge A. Medina Estévez, prefect of the CDW, issued the decree promulgating the Directory. The text of the decree appears at the beginning of the Directory. The decree follows:

"In affirming the primacy of the Liturgy, ‘the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed … and fount from which all her power flows’ (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 10), the Second Vatican Council nevertheless reminds us that ‘the spiritual life, however, is not limited solely to participation in the Liturgy’ (ibidem, 12). The spiritual life of the faithful is also nourished by ‘the pious practices of the Christian people’, especially those commended by the Apostolic See and practiced in the particular Churches by mandate of the Bishop or by his approval. Mindful of the importance that such cultic expressions should conform to the laws and norms of the Church, the Council Fathers outlined their theological and pastoral understanding of such practices: ‘pious devotions are to be ordered so as to harmonize with the Sacred Liturgy and lead the Christian people to it, since in fact the Liturgy by its very nature is far superior to any of them’ (ibidem,13).

"In the light of this authoritative teaching and of other pronouncements of the Church’s Magisterium on the pious practices of the Christian people, and drawing on pastoral cases that have emerged in recent years, the Plenary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, held September 26-28, 2001, approved this present Directory, which considers, in general terms, the relationship between Liturgy and popular piety, restates the principles regulating that nexus, and stipulates guidelines for their fruitful implementation in the particular Churches, in accordance with their specific traditions. By cultivation of a positive and encouraging pastoral stance towards popular piety, therefore, the Bishops in a special way value popular piety, whose fruits have been, and remain, of major importance in conserving the faith of the Christian people.

"Having received the approval of the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II to publish this ‘Directory on Popular Piety. Principles and Guidelines‘ (Letter of the Secretariat of State, Prot. N. 497.514 of December 14, 2001), the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments is pleased to publish it in the hope that both Pastors and faithful may draw from this instrument, encouragement to grow in Christ, through Him and with Him, in the Holy Spirit to the praise of God the Father in heaven.

"Anything contrary not withstanding.

"From the offices of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, December 17, 2001".

Jorge A. Cardinal Medina Estévez
Francesco Pio Tamburrino
Archbishop Secretary

The Directory is divided into two main parts, and begins with a historical review of popular devotions and their relationship with the Liturgy. Part I contains chapters on the Church’s teaching on the value of popular devotions, and the theological foundations for the evaluation and renewal of popular piety.

Part II, Guidelines for the Harmonization of Popular Piety with the Liturgy, consists of five chapters: The Liturgical Year and Popular Piety, which surveys devotions throughout the Church year, beginning with Sunday and Advent; Veneration of Our Blessed Mother of Our Lord, which examines principles underlying devotions such as the Rosary, the Angelus, Litany of Mary; Veneration of the Saints and the Beatified, including Feast days, litanies as well as relics and images; Suffrage for the Dead, including the meaning of prayer for the dead and commemorations of the dead in popular piety; and a final chapter on Shrines and Pilgrimages, which presents the meaning of shrines as places of worship where various sacraments of the Church are celebrated, and the importance of shrines as places of evangelization, charity, culture and ecumenical commitment.

The Directory also contains an exhaustive index of Biblical references, another on persons and places, and extensive notes. The Holy Father’s message follows the Congregation for Divine Worship’s decree quoted above, at the beginning of the Directory.

A few brief quotes from the Directory follow:

The Word of God and Popular Piety (§87-89)

"In choosing biblical texts, it is always desirable to take short texts, that are easily memorized, incisive, and easily understood, even if difficult to actualize. Certain forms of popular piety, such as the Via Crucis [Way of the Cross] and the Rosary, encourage the use of Sacred Scripture, which can easily be related to particular prayers or gestures that have been learned by heart, especially those biblical passages recounting the life of Christ which are easily remembered".

Sacred Images (§§ 238-244)

"The image is not venerated in itself. Rather, that which it represents is venerated. …

"The fact that some sacred images are the object of such devotion that they have become embodiments of the religious culture of nations or cities or particular groups, should be explained in the light of the grace which is at the basis of the veneration accorded them, and of the historical and social circumstances of the history surrounding them. It is good that a people should recall such events, to strengthen its faith, glorify God, conserve its cultural identity, and pray incessantly with confidence to the Lord".

The Annual Blessing of Family Homes

152. "The annual blessing of families takes places in their homes during Eastertide, or at other times of the year. This pastoral practice is highly recommended to parish priests and to their assistant priests since it is greatly appreciated by the faithful and affords a precious occasion to recollect God’s constant presence among Christian families. It is also an opportunity to invite the faithful to live according to the Gospel, and to exhort parents and children to preserve and promote the mystery of being ‘a domestic church’". 



The Editors