Part IV-A.Other Devotions Not Strictly Liturgical Warmely Recommended
172. In order that the errors and inaccuracies, mentioned above, may be more easily
removed from the Church, and that the faithful following safer norms may be able to use
more fruitfully the liturgical apostolate, We have deemed it opportune, Venerable
Brethren, to add some practical applications of the doctrine which We have explained.
173. When dealing with genuine and solid piety We stated that there could be no real
opposition between the sacred liturgy and other religious practices, provided they be kept
within legitimate bounds and performed for a legitimate purpose. In fact, there are
certain exercises of piety which the Church recommends very much to clergy and religious.
174. It is Our wish also that the faithful, as well, should take part in these practices.
The chief of these are: meditation on spiritual things, diligent examination of
conscience, enclosed retreats, visits to the blessed sacrament, and those special prayers
in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary among which the rosary, as all know, has pride of
175. From these multiple forms of piety, the inspiration and action of the Holy Spirit
cannot be absent. Their purpose is, in various ways, to attract and direct our souls to
God, purifying them from their sins, encouraging them to practice virtue and, finally,
stimulating them to advance along the path of sincere piety by accustoming them to
meditate on the eternal truths and disposing them better to contemplate the mysteries of
the human and divine natures of Christ. Besides, since they develop a deeper spiritual
life of the faithful, they prepare them to take part in sacred public functions with
greater fruit, and they lessen the danger of liturgical prayers becoming an empty
176. In keeping with your pastoral solicitude, Venerable Brethren, do not cease to
recommend and encourage these exercises of piety from which the faithful, entrusted to
your care, cannot but derive salutary fruit. Above all, do not allow--as some do, who are
deceived under the pretext of restoring the liturgy or who idly claim that only liturgical
rites are of any real value and dignity--that churches be closed during the hours not
appointed for public functions, as has already happened in some places: where the
adoration of the august sacrament and visits to our Lord in the tabernacles are neglected;
where confession of devotion is discouraged; and devotion to the Virgin Mother of God, a
sign of "predestination" according to the opinion of holy men, is so neglected,
especially among the young, as to fade away and gradually vanish. Such conduct most
harmful to Christian piety is like poisonous fruit, growing on the infected branches of a
healthy tree, which must be cut off so that the life-giving sap of the tree may bring
forth only the best fruit.
177. Since the opinions expressed by some about frequent confession are completely foreign
to the spirit of Christ and His Immaculate Spouse and are also most dangerous to the
spiritual life, let Us call to mind what with sorrow We wrote about this point in the
encyclical on the Mystical Body. We urgently insist once more that what We expounded in
very serious words be proposed by you for the serious consideration and dutiful obedience
of your flock, especially to students for the priesthood and young clergy.
178. Take special care that as many as possible, not only of the clergy but of the laity
and especially those in religious organizations and in the ranks of Catholic Action, take
part in monthly days of recollection and in retreats of longer duration made with a view
to growing in virtue. As We have previously stated, such spiritual exercises are most
useful and even necessary to instill into souls solid virtue, and to strengthen them in
sanctity so as to be able to derive from the sacred liturgy more efficacious and abundant
179. As regards the different methods employed in these exercises, it is perfectly clear
to all that in the Church on earth, no less in the Church in heaven, there are many
mansions, and that asceticism cannot be the
monopoly of anyone. It is the same spirit who breatheth where He will, and who with differing gifts and in different
ways enlightens and guides souls to sanctity. Let their freedom and the supernatural
action of the Holy Spirit be so sacrosanct that no one presume to disturb or stifle them
for any reason whatsoever.
180. However, it is well known that the spiritual exercise according to the method and
norms of St. Ignatius have been fully approved and earnestly recommended by Our
predecessors on account of their admirable efficacy. We, too, for the same reason have
approved and commended them and willingly do We repeat this now.
181. Any inspiration to follow and practice extraordinary exercises of piety must most
certainly come from the Father of Lights, from whom every good and perfect gift descends; and, of course, the criterion of this will be
the effectiveness of these exercises in making the divine cult loved and spread daily ever
more widely, and in making the faithful approach the sacraments with more longing desire,
and in obtaining for all things holy due respect and honor. If on the contrary, they are
an obstacle to principles and norms of divine worship, or if they oppose or hinder them,
one must surely conclude that they are not in keeping with prudence and enlightened zeal.
182. There are, besides, other exercises of piety which, although not strictly belonging
to the sacred liturgy, are, nevertheless, of special import and dignity, and may be
considered in a certain way to be an addition to the liturgical cult; they have been
approved and praised over and over again by the Apostolic See and by the bishops. Among
these are the prayers usually said during the month of May in honor of the Blessed Virgin
Mother of God, or during the month of June to the most Sacred Heart of Jesus: also novenas
and triduums, stations of the cross and other similar practices.
183. These devotions make us partakers in a salutary manner of the liturgical cult,
because they urge the faithful to go frequently to the sacrament of penance, to attend
Mass and receive communion with devotion, and, as well, encourage them to meditate on the
mysteries of our redemption and imitate the example of the saints.
184. Hence, he would do something very wrong and dangerous who would dare to take on
himself to reform all these exercises of piety and reduce them completely to the methods
and norms of liturgical rites. However, it is necessary that the spirit of the sacred
liturgy and its directives should exercise such a salutary influence on them that nothing
improper be introduced nor anything unworthy of the dignity of the house of God or
detrimental to the sacred functions or opposed to solid piety.
185. Take care then, Venerable Brethren, that this true and solid piety increases daily
and more under your guidance and bears more abundant fruit. Above all, do not cease to
inculcate into the minds of all that progress in the Christian life does not consist in
the multiplicity and variety of prayers and exercises of piety, but rather in their
helpfulness towards spiritual progress of the faithful and constant growth of the Church
universal. For the eternal Father "chose us in Him [Christ] before the foundation of
the world that we should be holy and unspotted in His sight." All our prayers, then, and all our religious
practices should aim at directing our spiritual energies towards attaining this most noble
and lofty end.