Thursday, May 15, 2014

Popular devotions

It is good to participate in a popular devotion because the devotion is popular (of course, this is defeasible: theological unsoundness would be a particularly important defeater). When one participates in a popular devotion because it is popular, one is thereby united in will with the community in which the devotion was popular. This is true even if the devotion involves something kitschy or a little garish, and such cases highlight the need to see the devotion from the point of view of the community which gives the devotion its life.

When the devotion is centered on a saint, that deepens the community aspect by extending it beyond death.

From this point of view, I think I can now understand the ways in which we pay respect to Mary under many appellations like "Our Lady of Czestochowa", "Our Lady of Mount Carmel" and "Our Lady of Perpetual Help." For the different appellations connect one with the different overlapping communities (ethnic, monastic, etc.) that are inspired by that aspect of our Lady's character and life. And part of the

richness of the life of a large vibrant community like the Church (or a nation, for that matter) are the overlapping smaller synchronic and diachronic communities found within it. Just as it is good to have particular friends, it is good to identify with multiple particular communities. All if this fulfills us as the social animals we are.

Thus, those Christians, especially Catholics, who focus on the horizontal aspects of the Christian life, who take the notion of community as central, should love popular devotions. (One thinks here of Fr. Andrew Greeley as an example of this love.)


Anonymous said...

This is the reason I actually find the Roman Catholic edifice abominable. "Make not for yourselves an image," says the LORD. What do the Catholic divines at Nicea II do? Not only establishe images, but also permit devotions to grow with respect to them. The LORD will deal with them if they do no repent.

Mark Rogers said...

"From the heavens the stars fought,
    from their courses they fought against Sisera."

Thanks for your time and patience Dr. Pruss.

Alexander R Pruss said...


If you take Exodus 20:4 as a self-standing prohibition on the making of images, apart from the prohibition in 20:5 on worship, then we're in really big trouble, since 20:4 on its own would prohibit a vast range of human activity from children's story books with pictures of dogs and cats to all scientific work that depends on microscopic and telescopic photography.

Obviously that's not what's meant.

It is images that are to be worshiped that are forbidden, as is made clear by 20:5.