SR. LOUISE ZDUNICH, NDC
August 25, 2014
"Keep in touch" are words we often hear friends say to one another. Don't we need to keep in touch with God? Wouldn't it be good to recover some of our old devotions which enabled us to be aware of God in our busy lives?
Yes, we need to "keep in touch" with God. We notice that Jesus raises his eyes to heaven at various times, especially before performing miracles. In this way, he shows that he is in touch with the Father. We, too, need to keep in touch with God.
Many of our past devotions had a strong impact on the lives of our pioneers, simple and practical folks. One could hear parents and grandparents praying in a low voice or see them making the sign of the cross before ordinary activities. They did not let an opportunity pass by to connect with God. They had a strong faith.
One can see evidence of their faith in the numerous churches they built. Recently, a TV documentary showed prairie churches built by our pioneers. Churches were important for the practice of the faith and so they were built by cooperation and hard work.
Yes, we need to develop an intimate friendship with God by turning our minds and hearts to God in whose presence we dwell. One way Catholics have done this is by repeating simple invocations to God, the Blessed Virgin or various saints. These devotions helped Catholics to stay alert to God in their lives and helped them live holy lives.
These spontaneous prayers were useful in keeping them aware of God's presence in the hardships of settling a new land. These simple invocations were accessible at all times and in all places. Some of these devotional practices are more important today than ever, especially with fewer priests and fewer Masses.
These devotions are called sacramentals because they bear a resemblance to the sacraments by bringing God into our lives. However, they do not confer the special graces of the sacraments. Instead, by the Church's prayer, they prepare us to receive the gift of God in our lives, especially through the sacraments.
Sacramentals can sanctify every object and event of our lives. We have rosaries and sacred objects blessed by a priest or deacon. We also bless material things and then by their use, they remind us of God. We used to have our cars blessed so that we would always be safe driving. We used to bless our homes so that God would protect them.
We seem to have stopped such customs? Why?
The Angelus was, at one time, a prominent sacramental prayer which has fallen into disuse. Three times a day, when the Angelus bell rang, as a reminder of salvation through Mary's fiat to the angel's message, Catholics would stop their work to pray.
It is rather sad that Catholics have given up so many devotional practices while Muslims prostrate themselves to pray five times a day.
The Angelus prayer contains the history of our salvation with God's initiative in taking on human flesh and the graced human response. When this prayer is prayed reverently and from the heart, the soul keeps in touch with the divine. Most churches today don't have bells to ring the Angelus or their sound is silenced out of respect for night workers who sleep during the day.
In our busyness, we often forget the presence of God within us and about us. We forget that Jesus himself tells us "Listen! I am standing at the door knocking, if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and eat with you and you with me" (Revelation 3.20).
Young children are receptive to the idea of Jesus and their guardian angel being with them at all times. It is sad to deprive them of this legacy.
Catholics would do well to look into their history and at the possibility of restoring certain insights and practices which were so vital in the everyday life of the Church. Along with the Eucharistic Liturgy, these practices identified Catholics worldwide as a community.
Indeed, it would be beneficial to recapture a Catholic consciousness which could be fed by devotions that were the heart of the Christian life and are available to everyone at any time. Our lives would be transformed and we could truly be Christ to those around us.
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