Roman Catholic devotions

Roman Catholic devotions
For devotions in the Eastern Catholic Churches, refer to the articles on the individual Churches or the corresponding Orthodox Churches.
Over 100 million Catholics follow the devotion to Divine Mercy[1]

A Roman Catholic devotion is a gift (total or partial) of oneself, or one's activities to God. It is a willingness and desire to dedicate oneself to serve God; either in terms of prayers or in terms of a set of pious acts such as the adoration of God or the veneration of the saints or the Virgin Mary.[2][3]

Roman Catholic devotions are "external practices of piety" which are not part of the official liturgy of the Catholic Church but are part of the popular spiritual practices of Catholics.[4][5] Catholic devotions do not become part of liturgical worship, even if they are performed within a Catholic church, in a group, in the presence of a priest.[6] The Congregation for Divine Worship at the Vatican publishes a Directory of devotions and pious practices.[7]

Devotion to saints, with the Virgin Mary as the most prominent example, is a key characteristic of Roman Catholicism.[8] Catholic devotions have various forms, ranging from formalized, multi-day prayers such as Novenas [9] to activities which do not involve any prayers, such as Eucharistic adoration outside Mass,[10] the wearing of scapulars,[4] the veneration of the saints, and even horticultural practices such as maintaining a Mary garden.[9]

Common examples of Catholic devotions include the Rosary, the Stations of the Cross, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Holy Face of Jesus, the various scapulars, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Seven Sorrows of Mary, Novenas to various saints, pilgrimages and devotions to the Blessed Sacrament, and the veneration of saintly images, etc.


Context and background

Part of a series of articles on
Roman Catholic
Devotions to Christ

Christ Hagia Sofia.jpg

Holy Face
Sacred Heart
Divine Mercy
Eucharistic adoration
Holy Name
Holy Hour
Acts of Reparation
Holy Wounds
Rosary of Holy Wounds
Stations of the Cross
Precious Blood
Infant of Prague

Prayers to Jesus
Anima ChristiShoulder WoundMorning offering • Sacred Heart prayer • Sacred Heart Consecration • You are Christ • Vianney's prayer • Perboyre's prayer • Montfort's prayerCrucifix prayer

While the Catholic Church considers the liturgy as central to the life and mission of the Church and encourages Catholics to participate in it as often as possible, it also acknowledges the objective nature of the liturgy and also encourages the cultivation of pious acts and personal devotions; the constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, item 12 stating: "The spiritual life, however, is not limited solely to participation in the liturgy".[11][12]

Building on the Gospel of Matthew 6:6, which encourages private prayer, the Church thus encourages an "interior life" of prayer and devotion and the development of a personal relationship with God, as well as with the Blessed Virgin Mary, the angels and the saints.[11] The constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, item 13 states:

Popular devotions of the Christian people are to be highly commended, provided they accord with the laws and norms of the Church, above all when they are ordered by the Apostolic See.[12]

It should be noted that Catholics worship only God and the Holy Trinity. The three level hierarchy of latria, hyperdulia and dulia (which were discussed by both Saints Augustine and Thomas Aquinas) determines the appropriate type of worship and veneration for different situations.[13][14][15] The term latria (from the Greek λατρεία, latreia) is used for worship, adoration and reverence directed only to the Holy Trinity.[16][17] Dulia is the kind of honor given to the communion of saints, with the exception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is honored with hyperdulia. Thus hyperdulia is below latria and above dulia.[13][14][15]

Several factors shape the effects of devotional practice, e.g. a strong emotional appeal, a simplicity of form which puts them within the reach of all, the association with many others engaged in the same practices and their derivation from the example of others considered to lead a holy life.[4]

Since the Middle Ages, popes have encouraged devotions such as Eucharistic Adoration outside of Mass, the Rosary and the Stations of the Cross. However, the position of the Church with respect to the primacy of liturgy over specific devotions has always been maintained.[11][18] On the other hand, pious devotions have influenced some important parts of the Catholic calendar such as the feast of Corpus Christi which arose after petitions by those following the devotion; or various Marian feasts that gradually appeared with the growth of devotions.[11]

In the Catholic tradition a wide range of devotions have been practiced, from the Holy Trinity to specific saints ranging from Saint Joseph to Saint Francis Xavier. Catholic devotions can form the basis of major community events e.g. the statue of our Our Lady of Zapopan attracts over one million pilgrims on October 12 each year as the statue travels through the streets moving from one Cathedral to another.[19][20]

However, various unapproved, yet at times prevalent acts such as the promotion of chain letters that contain prayers or the belief that the use of a statue of Saint Joseph can speed up the sale of a house have been discouraged as non-pious, superstitious and against Catholic values. In general, acts and beliefs that aim at the manipulation of divine power for specific gainful purposes are always condemned as contrary to Catholic devotional practices.[11]

Devotions to the Holy Trinity

The Novena to the Holy Trinity is a Novena which may include the Glory Be to the Father prayer, as well as other prayers, although the other prayers may vary.[21]

The Feast of the Holy Trinity is a devotional day celebrated on the first Sunday after Pentecost and honors the three Persons of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.[22]

Devotions involving Acts of Reparation to The Holy Trinity often involve the 20th century apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, which have been approved by the Holy See.[23][24]

Devotions to Jesus

Secondo Pia's negative of the image on the Shroud of Turin, used in the devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus.

Several widespread devotions in the Catholic tradition relate directly to Jesus Christ. Official Catholic teachings consider Eucharistic adoration an important practice which "stimulates the faithful to an awareness of the marvelous presence of Christ and is an invitation to spiritual communion with Him."[25][26] In many cases Eucharistic adoration is performed by each person for an uninterrupted hour known as the Holy Hour.[27] The inspiration for the Holy Hour is Matthew 26:40 when in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before his crucifixion, Jesus asks Peter: "So, could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?".[28]

Some devotions have the form of Acts of Reparation to Jesus Christ for the sufferings and insults that Jesus endured during His Passion or for the sin of blasphemy, e.g. the Golden Arrow Prayer.[29] Devotions involving the Sacred Heart of Jesus first appeared in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, but most current devotions are attributed to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647–1690).[30] In the Roman Catholic tradition, the Sacred Heart has been closely associated with Acts of Reparation to Jesus Christ.[31]

The devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus dates back to Sister Marie of St. Peter in 1843 who reported visions of Jesus and Mary in which she was urged to spread the devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus, in reparation for the many insults Jesus suffered in His Passion. This resulted in The Golden Arrow Holy Face Devotion (Prayer).[32] Sister Maria Pierina de Micheli further promoted the devotion based on the image from Secondo Pia's photograph of the Shroud of Turin. In 1958, Pope Pius XII approved of the devotion and the Holy Face medal and confirmed the Feast of the Holy Face of Jesus as Shrove Tuesday (the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday) for all Roman Catholics.[33][34]

Other devotions include the Divine Mercy based on the visions of Saint Faustina Kowalska, known as the "Apostle of Mercy",[29][35] and First Friday devotions which are related to devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.[36][37] and the Chaplet of the Five Wounds.

Marian devotions

Emblem of the Papacy.svg

A series of articles on
Roman Catholic
Virgin Mary - Diego Velazquez.jpg

General articles
MariologyVeneration of the Blessed VirginHistory of MariologyMariology of the saintsMariology of the popesEncyclicalsMarian Societies

RosaryScapularImmaculate Heart • Seven Joys • Seven Sorrows • First SaturdaysActs of Reparation • Hearts of Jesus & Mary • Consecration to Mary

Dogmas and Doctrines

Mother of God • Perpetual virginityImmaculate ConceptionAssumptionMother of the ChurchMediatrixCo-Redemptrix

Expressions of devotion
ArtHymnsMusic • Architecture

Key Marian apparitions
(approved or worthy of belief)
GuadalupeMiraculous Medal
La SaletteLourdesPontmainLausBanneuxBeauraingFátimaAkita

A wide range of Marian devotions are practiced by Roman Catholics and the Catechism of the Catholic Church item 971 states: "The Church's devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship."[38] In 1993 Pope John Paul II encouraged priests to foster devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary.[39]

Some beliefs about Marian devotions have been asserted by the saints and theologians, but have not been dogmatically approved by the Church. An example is the belief that Marian devotions are a sign of predestination, supported by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, Saint Bonaventure, and Saint Alphonsus Ligouri as well as R. Garrigou-Lagrange.[40][41][42][43]

In his Apostlic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, Pope John Paul II emphasized the importance of Marian devotions by quoting Saint Louis de Montfort:

Since Mary is of all creatures the one most conformed to Jesus Christ, it follows that among all devotions that which most consecrates and conforms a soul to our Lord is devotion to Mary, his Holy Mother, and that the more a soul is consecrated to her the more will it be consecrated to Jesus Christ.[44]

Roman Catholic teachings and traditions includes specific devotions as Acts of Reparation to the Virgin Mary for insults that she suffers. The Raccolta Catholic prayer book (approved by a Decree of 1854, and published by the Holy See in 1898) includes a number of such prayers.[29][45][46]

Devotions to the Immaculate Heart of Mary date back to St. Bernard and in the 17th century Saint Jean Eudes obtained the approbation and the first book on the devotion to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary.[47][48][49] However, the 1830 reported vision of Saint Catherine Labouré which introduced the Miraculous Medal depicting the thorn-crowned Heart of Jesus and the pierced Heart of Mary had a significant impact on the devotion. Pope Pius XII consecrated the human race to the Immaculate Heart on December 8, 1942.[50][51][52][53][54][55][56]

Other doctrine-based devotions include the Immaculate Conception which was declared a dogma in 1854.[57][58][59] The definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception by Pope Pius IX is viewed as a key example of the use of sensus fidelium generated by Marian devotions which couples with the views of the Magisterium rather than pure reliance on Scripture and Tradition.[59] In the 20th century Saint Maximillian Kolbe encouraged consecration to the Immaculata, partly relying on the 1858 messages of Our Lady of Lourdes.[60][61][62]

Among the many Roman Catholic prayers and devotions, Rosary devotions and spirituality are among the most prominent, and most often recited prayers. The rosary is widely emphasized in Roman Catholic teachings, e.g. Saint Louis de Montfort's widely read book The Secret of the Rosary discusses the religious and mystical views on the rosary from multiple perspectives.[63]

Although the Scapular may have initially started as a Christocentric devotion, by the end of the Middle Ages it had taken on a distinct Marian tone, to the extent that the Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages called it "one of the main Marian devotions of Christendom".[64]

Rosary and scapular devotions have been supported, encouraged and linked by a number of Catholic figures such as popes, saints and cardinals and specific promises and indulgences have been associated with them.[65][66][67] The Rosary and the devotional scapular continue to be encouraged together as key Marian devotions in the 21st century.[68][69][70][71][72][73][74][75]

A number of devotions involve Marian Apparitions, e.g. major and approved apparitions such as Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Fatima or Our Lady of Akita as well as a multitude of regional devotions across the continents from Our Lady of Good Health in India to Our Lady of Licheń in Poland.[76][77][78][79]

Other Marian devotions include The Five First Saturdays, Seven Joys of Mary and Seven Sorrows of Mary.

Devotions to saints

In Catholic teachings, saints in Heaven have lasting links with humanity which can provide an abundance of good for the faithful.[80] The Catechism of the Catholic Church (item 957) states:

"It is not merely by the title of example that we cherish the memory of those in heaven; we seek, rather, that by this devotion to the exercise of fraternal charity the union of the whole Church in the Spirit may be strengthened. Exactly as Christian communion among our fellow pilgrims brings us closer to Christ, so our communion with the saints joins us to Christ."[81]

Devotions to saints may involve specific prayers, or acts such as the naming of children, schools or children after them.[80] Some devotions seek the intercession of saints, submitting specific petitions to them.[80]

Devotions to Saint Joseph include the Novena to Saint Joseph and the Prayer to Saint Joseph, as well as the Cord of St. Joseph. Saint Joseph's Medal is a sacramental introduced in 1971 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Saint Joseph being declared the patron of the universal church.[82] Saint Joseph's scapular was approved by Pope Leo XIII in 1893.[82] A number of local devotions and customs to Saint Joseph exist around the world, e.g. Alpine regions, Josephstragen (German for carrying Saint Joseph) takes place on the 9 days before Christmas. A statute of Saint Joseph is carried between 9 homes, and on the first day one boy prays to him, on the second day two boys pray, until 9 boys pray the 9th day. The statue is then placed near a manger in the town church on Christmas Eve.[83]

Devotions to Saint Michael involve specific prayers and novenas to him, hymns such as Te Splendor as well as the Scapular of St. Michael the Archangel and the Chaplet of Saint Michael. The Prayer to Saint Michael is also a popular prayer, composed by Pope Leo XIII.[84][85]

Devotions to Saint George are also widely practiced by Catholics, given that he is one of the most popular saints in Christianity.[86] These devotions and churches built in his honor date to the 6th century.[87]

A wide range of other devotions to saints exist, e.g. Novena of Grace is addressed to Saint Francis Xavier, while the Cord of St. Francis is associated with Francis of Assisi.

Other devotional practices

A wide range of other devotional practices can be found among Catholics. An example is the use of a Home Altar. This practice dates back to the early Christians who used to pray in their homes even before churches were built for public worship. In a Home Altar, a cross usually hangs on the wall, and images of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin and saints may be displayed, along with a copy of the Bible or other devotional literature.[88]

Catholic devotional practices are so wide ranging at the local level that that Catholics in one part of the world may be totally unaware of the local devotional practices in another corner of the world. For instance, devotions to, and the retablos depicting Santa Eduviges (Hedwig of Poland) in Mexico are virtually unknown to other Catholics, and she remains relatively unknown outside Poland.[89] In fact, despite having Spanish influences at their origin, many of the devotions practiced in Mexico are now quite distinct from those practiced in Spain.[89]

See also


  1. ^ Am With You Always by Benedict Groeschel 2010 ISBN 9781586172572 page 548
  2. ^ Christ, the Ideal of the Priest by Abbot Columba Marmion 2006 ISBN 0852446578 page 332
  3. ^ Ann Ball, 2003 Encyclopedia of Catholic Devotions and Practices ISBN 087973910X page 168 [1]
  4. ^ a b c Catholic encyclopedia on Popular Devotions
  5. ^ Catholic cults and devotions by Michael P. Carroll 1989 ISBN 0773506934 page 7 [2]
  6. ^ Catholic encyclopedia on Liturgical chant
  7. ^ Vatican web site: Directory of Devotions December 2001.
  8. ^ Catholic Customs and Traditions: by Greg Dues 1993 ISBN 0896225151 page 106
  9. ^ a b Ann Ball, 2003 Encyclopedia of Catholic Devotions and Practices ISBN 087973910X page 341
  10. ^ Ann Ball, 2003 Encyclopedia of Catholic Devotions and Practices ISBN 087973910X page 11
  11. ^ a b c d e Rev Neil J. Roy, in Encyclopedia of Catholic Devotions and Practices by Ann Ball, 2003 ISBN 087973910X pages 1-16
  12. ^ a b Vatican web site Sacrosanctum Concilium
  13. ^ a b Summa Theologiae: Volume 41, Virtues of Justice in the Human Community by Thomas Aquinas and T. C. O'Brien 2006 ISBN 052102949X pages 40-45
  14. ^ a b Summa Theologica, Volume 3 by Thomas Aquinas 2007 ISBN 1602065586 page1633
  15. ^ a b A Dictionary of the Bible: Volume III by James Hastings 2004 ISBN 1410217264 page 291
  16. ^ Catholic beliefs and traditions by John F. O'Grady 2002 ISBN 0809140470 page 145
  17. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia
  18. ^ Vatican Directory of Devotions item 11.
  19. ^ Images of power: iconography, culture and state in Latin America by William Rowe ISBN 1571815333 page 271
  20. ^ Fodor's Mexico 1996 ISBN 0679032495 page 242
  21. ^ Ann Ball, 2003 Encyclopedia of Catholic Devotions and Practices ISBN 0-87973-910-X page 392
  22. ^ Anniversaries and holidays by Bernard Trawicky, Ruth Wilhelme Gregory 2000 ISBN 0838906958 page 225
  23. ^ Our Lady of Fatima
  24. ^ Story of Fatima
  25. ^ Peter Stravinskas, 1998, Our Sunday Visitor's Catholic Encyclopedia, OSV Press ISBN 0879736690 page 409
  26. ^ Sacred Congregation of Rites, INSTRUCTION ON EUCHARISTIC WORSHIP item 60
  27. ^ The Raccolta by Joseph P. Christopher 2003 ISBN 0970652666 pages 107-108
  28. ^ Peter Stravinskas, 1998, Our Sunday Visitor's Catholic Encyclopedia, OSV Press ISBN 0879736690 page 498
  29. ^ a b c Ann Ball, 2003 Encyclopedia of Catholic Devotions and Practices ISBN 087973910X
  30. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia
  31. ^ Miserentissimus Redemptor Encyclical of Pope Pius XI
  32. ^ Catholic Tradition
  33. ^ Joan Carroll Cruz, OCDS. Saintly Men of Modern Times. (2003) ISBN 1931709777
  34. ^ Holy Face Devotion
  35. ^ Alan Butler and Paul Burns, 2005, Butler's Lives of the Saints, Burns and Oats ISBN 0860123839 page 251
  36. ^ Peter Stravinskas, 1998, OSV's Catholic Encyclopedia, OSV Press ISBN 0879736690 page 428
  37. ^ Roman Catholic worship: Trent to today by James F. White 2003 ISBN 0814661947 page 35
  38. ^ Catechism at the Vatican website
  39. ^ Priests Must Foster Devotion to Mary at the Vatican website
  40. ^ The Blessed Virgin Mary in England by Brother Anthony Josemaria 2008 ISBN 0595500749 pages pages 401-403
  41. ^ Life of Blessed John Gabriel Perboyre, Priest of the Congregation of the Mission by M. Antoine Fiat ISBN 1115293338page 56
  42. ^ Saint Alphonsus Liguori, The Glories of Mary, 1868, ISBN 0764806645 page 139
  43. ^ McNally, Terrence, What Every Catholic Should Know about Mary ISBN 1441510516 pages 144-147
  44. ^ Vatican web site: Rosarium Virginis Mariae
  45. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia
  46. ^ Joseph P. Christopher et al., 2003 The Raccolta St Athanasius Press ISBN 978-0970652669
  47. ^ Roman Catholic worship: Trent to today by James F. White 2003 ISBN 0-8146-6194-7 page 34
  48. ^ From Trent to Vatican II: historical and theological investigations by Raymond F. Bulman, Frederick J. Parrella 2006 ISBN 0-19-517807-6 page 182
  49. ^ Praying with the saints by Woodeene Koenig-Bricker 2001 ISBN 0-8294-1755-9 page 134
  50. ^ Saints and feasts of the liturgical year by Joseph N. Tylenda 2003 ISBN 0-87840-399-X page 118
  51. ^ Peter Stravinskas, 2002, Catholic Dictionary, OSV Press ISBN 978-0-87973-390-2 page 485
  52. ^ Mary's Immaculate Heart by John F. Murphy 2007 ISBN 1-4067-3409-8 pages 59-60
  53. ^ Heart of the Redeemer by Timothy Terrance O'Donnell, 1992 ISBN 0-89870-396-4 page 272
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  56. ^ Sacred Heart of Jesus by Stephen J. Binz 2006 ISBN 1-58595-597-3 page 97
  57. ^ Mary's Immaculate Heart by John F. Murphy 2007 ISBN 1406734098 pages 59-60
  58. ^ Roman Catholic worship: Trent to today by James F. White 2003 ISBN 0814661947 page 34
  59. ^ a b "Agenzia Fides - Congregazione per l'Evangelizzazione dei Popoli". Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  60. ^ Miravalle, Mark Introduction to Mary 1993, ISBN 9781882972067, pages 156-163
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  62. ^ Encyclopedia of Catholicism by Frank K. Flinn, J. Gordon Melton 2007 ISBN 081605455X pages 409-410
  63. ^ Saint Louis de Montfort "Secret of the Rosary" ISBN 978-0895550569
  64. ^ Andre Vauchez, 2001, Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages, Fitzroy Dearborn Press ISBN 9781579582821 page 1314
  65. ^ Vatican website for Pope Paul VI's Apostolic Constitution Indulgentiarum Doctrina [4]
  66. ^ Thomas Petrisko, 2000, Inside Heaven and Hell, St. Andrews Press ISBN 9781891903236 page 105
  67. ^ Pope John Paul II, 1996, Gift And Mystery, Doubleday Books ISBN 9780385409667 page 28
  68. ^ Zenit News 2008 Cardinal Urges Devotion to Rosary and Scapular
  69. ^ Thomas W. Petrisk, 1998, The Fatima Prophecies, St. Andrews Press, ISBN 9781891903304 page 345
  70. ^ Lucia Santos, 1976, Fatima in Lucia's Own Words, Ravengate Press ISBN 0911218106
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  72. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia
  73. ^ EWTN on the History of the Brown Scapular [5]
  74. ^ Henry Charles Lea, 2002, A History of Auricular Confession and Indulgences in the Latin Church, Adamant Media Corp. ISBN 1402161085 page 498
  75. ^ Mark Forster, 2001, Catholic Revival in the Age of the Baroque Cambridge Univ Press ISBN 0521780446 page 145
  76. ^ The Hindu Newspaper
  77. ^ Vatican website: John Paul II at Lichen
  78. ^ Moved by Mary: The Power of Pilgrimage in the Modern World by Anna-Karina Hermkens, Willy Jansen 2009 ISBN 0754667898 page 217
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  81. ^ Vatican website: Catechism of the Church, item 957
  82. ^ a b Ann Ball, 2003 Encyclopedia of Catholic Devotions and Practices ISBN 087973910X pages 576-577
  83. ^ Ann Ball, 2003 Encyclopedia of Catholic Devotions and Practices ISBN 087973910X page 275
  84. ^ Ann Ball, 2003, Encyclopedia of Catholic Devotions and Practices OSV Press ISBN 087973910X page 520
  85. ^ Raccolta Manual of Indulgences Published by St Athanasius Press, 2003 ISBN 0-9706526-6-6 page 340
  86. ^ Christian Roy, 2005, Traditional Festivals ISBN 978-1-57607-089-5 page 408
  87. ^ Frank Trombley Hellenic religion and Christianization Published by BRILL, 1994 ISBN 90-04-09691-4 page 345
  88. ^ A Catholic Book of Hours and Other Devotions by William G. Storey 2007 ISBN 0829425845 pages xiii to xi
  89. ^ a b Art and faith in Mexico by Charles Muir Lovell 2001 ISBN 0826323243 pages 43-44

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