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THERE is in the Church an abundance and a rich variety of what we call
devotions--practices that express our respect, affection and veneration
for the chosen friends of God. These devotions we should be careful not
to confound with a thing very differently known as devotion--to God
Himself. This latter is the soul, the very essence of religion; the
former are sometimes irreverently spoken of as "frills."

Objectively speaking, these devotions find their justification in the
dogma of the Communion of Saints, according to which we believe that
the blessed in heaven are able and disposed to help the unfortunate
here below. Subjectively they are based on human nature itself. In our
self-conscious weakness and unworthiness, we choose instinctively to
approach the throne of God through His tried and faithful friends
rather than to hazard ourselves alone and helpless in His presence.

Devotion, as all know, is only another name for charity towards God,
piety, holiness, that is, a condition of soul resulting from, and at
the same time, conducive to, fidelity to God's law and the dictates of
one's conscience. It consists in a proper understanding of our
relations to God--creatures of the Creator, paupers, sinners and
children in the presence of a Benefactor, Judge and Father; and in
sympathies and sentiments aroused in us by, and corresponding with,
these convictions. In other words, one is devoted to a friend when one
knows him well, is true as steel to him, and basks in the sunshine of a
love that requites that fidelity. Towards God, this is devotion.

Devotions differ in pertaining, not directly, but indirectly through
the creature to God. No one but sees at once that devotion, in a
certain degree is binding upon all men; a positive want of it is
nothing short of impiety. But devotions have not the dignity of
entering into the essence of God-worship. They are not constituent
parts of that flower that grows in God's garden of the soul--charity;
they are rather the scent and fragrance that linger around its petals
and betoken its genuine quality. They are of counsel, so to speak, as
opposed to the precept of charity and devotion. They are outside all
commandment, and are taken up with a view of doing something more than
escaping perdition "quasi per ignem."

For human nature is rarely satisfied with what is rigorously
sufficient. It does not relish living perpetually on the ragged edge of
a scant, uncertain meagerness. People want enough and plenty, abundance
and variety. If there are many avenues that lead to God's throne, they
want to use them. If there are many outlets for their intense fervor
and abundant generosity, they will have them. Devotions answer these

Impossible to enumerate all the different practices that are in vogue
in the Church and go under the name of devotions. Legion is the number
of saints that have their following of devotees. Some are universal,
are praised and invoked the world over; others have a local niche and
are all unknown beyond the confines of a province or nation. Some are
invoked in all needs and distresses; St. Blase, on the other hand is
credited with a special power for curing throats, St. Anthony, for
finding lost things, etc. Honor is paid them on account of their
proximity to God. To invoke them is as much an honor to them as an
advantage to us.

If certain individuals do not like this kind of a thing, they are under
no sort of an obligation to practise it. If they can get to heaven
without the assistance of the saints, then let them do so, by all
means; only let them be sure to get there. No one finds devotions
repugnant but those who are ignorant of their real character and
meaning. If they are fortunate enough to make this discovery, they
then, like nearly all converts, become enthusiastic devotees, finding
in their devotions new beauties, and new advantages every day.

And it is a poor Catholic that leaves devotions entirely alone, and a
rare one. He may not feel inclined to enlist the favor of this or that
particular saint, but he usually has a rosary hidden away somewhere in
his vest pocket and a scapular around his neck, or in his pocket, as a
last extreme. If he scorns even this, then the chances are that he is
Catholic only in name, for the tree of faith is such a fertile one that
it rarely fails to yield fruit and flowers of exquisite fragrance.

Oh! of course the lives of all the saints are not history in the
strictest sense of the word. But what has that to do with the Communion
of Saints? If simplicity and naivete have woven around some names an
unlikely tale, a fable or a myth, it requires some effort to see how
that could affect their standing with God, or their disposition to help
us in our needs.

Devotions are not based on historical facts, although in certain facts,
events or happenings, real or alleged, they may have been furnished
with occasions for coming into existence. The authenticity of these
facts is not guaranteed by the doctrinal authority of the Church, but
she may, and does, approve the devotions that spring therefrom.
Independently of the truth of private and individual revelations,
visions and miracles, which she investigates as to their probability,
she makes sure that there is nothing contrary to the deposit of faith
and to morals, and then she gives these devotions the stamp of her
approval as a security to the faithful who wish to practise them. A
Catholic or non-Catholic may think what he likes concerning the
apparitions of the Virgin at Lourdes; if he is dense enough, he may
refuse to believe that miracles have been performed there. But he
cannot deny that the homage offered to Our Lady at Lourdes, and known
as devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes, is in keeping with religious
worship as practised by the Church and in consonance with reason
enlightened by faith, and so with all other devotions.

A vase of flowers, a lamp, a. burning candle before the statue of a
saint is a prayer whose silence is more eloquent than all the sounds
that ever came from the lips of man. It is love that puts it there,
love that tells it to dispense its sweet perfume or shed its mellow
rays, and love that speaks by this touching symbolism to God through a
favorite saint.


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