Previously, when I was in Rome, I was able to complete the major “tasks.” I visited the four major basilicas, the Vatican Museum, and several churches that held particular interest to me because of their history, or dead occupants. I decided to use these last two days in Rome to explore the churches which host images which are centerpieces to religious devotions in the Catholic Church.
Yesterday was St. Alfonso’s and today, I visited the church of Santo Spirito, which is where the Archdiocese of Rome keeps the image of The Divine Mercy. The reason for my return to Rome was specifically to serve the international committee planning the World Congress on the Divine Mercy next year, so I felt it most appropriate to visit the shrine of the image.
This very modern image of Jesus contrasts the ornate Baroque character of the church, which is located very close to Piazza del San Pietro, (The Vatican). If you have downloaded Google Earth onto your computer, you can view my pictorial of Santo Spirito by clicking here.
In school, I learned how to make analogous comparisons. For example, lion is to jungle, as frog is to pond. Los Angeles is to California, as New York is to New York. Fascist conservative political bias is on Fox News as wet is on water. It all makes sense.
So I have been trying to come up with a good analogous comparison for Devotionals are to Catholic as _____________ are to _____________.
By devotionals, I am referring to practices in which worshipers go beyond the ordinary worship of the Catholic faith community, in order to show a particular affection for a certain narrative of belief. Explaining devotionals is more easily explained by example than by definition. Our Lady of Perpetual Help is a devotional. Devotees gather around the image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help and pray a set novena prayer seeking Mary’s intercession. The hope is that Mary will pray to God on behalf of and with the devotees. In Peru, the devotion of Señor de Los Milagros leads millions of people to process in the streets and do acts of penance during the month of October. The Divine Mercy calls followers to do the Divine Mercy chaplet, and keep the novena for the nine days before Divine Mercy Sunday (the first Sunday after Easter), go to confession, and receive Holy Communion. These are all acts that show an individual’s and a community’s relationship to a particular character of the Catholic Faith.
So I think I’m going to go with Devotionals are to Catholic as Sports are to Athletics.
There are many people who are athletic. They are usually in good shape and healthy. But there are many different types of sports these athletes do. There are swimmers, runners, and football players. Bi-cyclists, baseball batters, and bowlers. All are athletes. The “flavor” of their particular sport provides color to the title that they bear as “athlete.” No one would say to a swimmer or a bicyclist, “you’re not an athlete.” (You might say something like that to a bowler, but that’s just rude. They have no one else who will accept them.) We even acknowledge that an athlete might have more than one sport s/he plays.
It is really the same in Catholicism, one can have a “flavor” to their faith by the devotion they feel most capable of performing. A Catholic may even have more than one devotion, or none at all. (By analogy, it is possible that someone can be athletic, and not have a particular sport that draws his/her concentration.)
It is all part of what the word “catholic” means. It means “universal.” It is common to all. There are many unique ways to experience that universality, but there should never be a situation in which one devotional diminishes the value of other devotions by its own self promotion. Unfortunately, this happens quite often, and it tarnishes the beauty of the Catholic Faith.
Just remember this simple analogous comparison.
One is to Many as Rome is to churches that house non-sectarian, mutually-gainful, and canonically-approved, religious devotions.
I am thankful to have visited two of them.