01 January 2009

Help Fr. Philip Pick a Devotion (UPDATED)

My students at the University of Dallas frequently heard me say, "I am orthodox but not very pious." By this I mean that I am "right believing" but not always as affectively aligned with God as I should be. This misalignment is most evident in the fact that I can rightly parse theology but often have difficulty reacting pastorally. Now, as I have written many, many times: "Truth is always pastoral!" Veritas in caritas. The veritas I can handle. The caritas is sometimes more of a problem.

My partial solution to this difficulty is to adopt a devotional practice that pushes me further into my affective relationship with God. So, I am resolved to start and persevere in a devotional practice that assists me in this.

I am familiar with all the common devotions: rosary, Eucharistic adoration, Sacred Heart, etc.

Tell me (and us) about a devotion you practice that might be a bit unusual but nonetheless spiritual beneficial.

It goes without saying (he says), that the practice should be consistent with Church teaching.

UPDATE: Wow. . .thanks for the outpouring of good suggestions and advice. . .I've decided to take a typically "Fr. Philip approach." I'm going to writing my own devotion! using traditional prayers. I'll post it when I'm done!


  1. I'll be interested in seeing what suggestions come up!

    the daily practice of formal devotions is not something I'm good at.

    I have an informal devotional prayer that I pray multiple times a day which helps me focus on God and His desires for my life...but nothing formal. (if you're interested, I'd be happy to share it privately)

    Sad to say hubby and I can't even get in a routine of praying the rosary each evening.

  2. I have recently started a not at all unusual devotion - meditating on the Seven Sorrows of Mary. For me it's very new, because I am not much of a devotional person either. But so far, I like it a lot (and Mary has promised that she will get whoever promotes this devotion into heaven, so in participating in it I'm helping the Dominican sister who taught it to me).

  3. I have a devotion to the Guardian Angels. Not in the New-Agey Chicken-Soup-For-The-Soul sense, but in the real Catholic sense.

    In a class this semester one of our profs told us that (maybe according to St. Thomas Aquinas?) our holy thoughts are often inspired by Angels.

    I also have a CD from Opus Angelorum that discusses developing your relationship with your Guardian Angel. One of the things that has struck me was that, while we know that God brought us into existance to fulfill a particular mission, so He also gave us an Angel especially chosen to help us fulfill that mission.

    I've also called upon my own Guardian Angel and the Angels of others to help in, say an event at work (in a Church), and they never fail I ask him to help me get to Confession, to Mass...whatever thing I need.

    I also have a devotion to the Infant of Prague, other things as well which have been helpful.

  4. The Divine Mercy chaplet.

  5. I don't know whether it counts as unusual, but have you considered the Chaplet of Divine Mercy? Since you're concerned about caritas, "Have mercy on us and on the whole world" seems relevant.

  6. Do the Stations of the Cross and the use of sacramentals like the medal of S. Benedict count as devotions, perhaps?

  7. Anonymous9:55 AM

    Daily Meditation on the Seven Sorrows of Mary.

    Makes one sensitive to sin as well as to the love of God and Mary for us.


    There are also great promises attached to this devotion:

    According to the visions of St. Bridget of Sweden (1303-1373)
    our Blessed Mother promises to grant seven graces to those who honor her and draw near to her and her Son every day by meditating on her dolors (sorrows) and entering into her grief.

    "I will grant peace to their families."

    "They will be enlightened about the divine Mysteries."

    "I will console them in their pains and will accompany them in their work."

    "I will give them as much as they ask for as long as it does not oppose the adorable will of my divine Son or the sanctification of their souls."

    "I will defend them in their spiritual battles with the infernal enemy and I will protect them at every instant of their lives."

    "I will visibly help them at the moment of their death-- they will see the face of their mother."

    "I have obtained this grace from my divine Son, that those who propagate this devotion to my tears and dolors will be taken directly from this earthly life to eternal happiness, since all their sins will be forgiven and my Son will be their eternal consolation and joy."


  8. -not necessarily
    "a bit unusual" but yes,
    "nonetheless spiritual beneficial"
    any of the ususal: rosary, divine mercy chaplet, BXVI's Jesus of Nazareth, etc. on a Shuffle, Nano, etc.

  9. Nocturnal Adoration. There is a National Nocturnal Adoration Society.
    The NAS members attend on the First Friday of each month. It starts with Holy Mass at 7:30 pm followed by Nocturnal Adoration.

  10. I love this novena to Saint Dominic:
    and I have prayed it often, even when I don't have any particular worries. It just seems to keep the peace in my heart. And that is very helpful when I am prone to frustration (about every five seconds).

    I also find writing prayers to be a very good prayer itself! Even if the resulting prayer sounds fairly ridiculous (and most of mine have), I find that in meditating upon whatever I am writing about and trying to find the important points to relay to others really drives them home for me.

    Additionally, learning about obscure saints (or blesseds, venerables etc.) is extremely helpful. Saint Kizito, Blessed Anuarite Nengapeta, and Blessed Bartolome Blanco Marquez are just a few examples of the lesser-known saints that have really helped me on my small and wayward journey. For some reason, learning about lesser-known saints seems more personal to me. Dunno why. It also helps me because these are models of who we are supposed to be: serving God faithfully in whatever way we can, but ultimately for the glory of God, with our name silent (or whispered) in the end.

    Another metaphor I often meditate upon during Mass is that of the vigil lamp: quietly witnessing to God all the while. Most of us would like to be the Easter candle, but not everyone can be. And its light is seasonal anyway. I know that's a strange thing to think about, but it helps me.

    I'd also like to echo the guardian angel devotion--knowing that someone is always beside me to either knock the sense into me (often) or knock the temptations out of me (quite often) is one of the most rewarding graces God ever gave me!

    If I think of more I will pass them along. Blessings to you Father.

  11. Fr. P,

    I'm afraid that we share this trait. I wonder if what you said about the intellectual aspect of the faith being attractive because it allows one to get close to God without having to get close to neighbors...

    Anyways, I was going to suggest the Divine Mercy chaplet too, but perhaps reading a daily devotional might also help, such as St. Faustina's diary itself. As it's written as a diary, it's not like a book that must be preferably read in chapters, so it suits well as a devotional too.

    May the Mother of God pray for us.

  12. Anonymous11:35 AM

    Certainly not unusual but definitely beneficial would be the Jesus Prayer


  13. fra. didymus11:40 AM

    Try this one:

    The Litany of Humility

    Also, I am a big proponent of the holy hour.

  14. As others have stated, I too pray the Divine Mercy chaplet, but whenever I seem to be waning in the caritas dept.(which is more often than I care to admit) I pray the Jesus Prayer. I know not very unusual, but it helps

  15. Fasting on bread and water on Wednesdays and Fridays when not pregnant, breastfeeding, or trying to conceive (which is pretty well never and probably not an issue for you). Does wonders for one's prayer life I am told, helps one focus on what is important, increases virtue (once you do it with humility) and decreases vice, opens a person to being open to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit and to follow through

  16. Evelyn2:13 PM

    What helped me have an affective relationship with God was a very affective, emotionally supportive spiritual director. Your SD post made the connection with this one for me. I tried devotions and that wasn't what did it for me, though Adoration is probably the closest thing.

  17. I have two novenas that I use. One is known as "Novena for the Holy Souls in Purgatory". I have a list of people who have died and I take them one by one, and pray for that person for 9 days. Yes, I never reach the bottom of the list and the list keeps growing, but I pray this way, anyway.
    The other is a Nine Month Novena in Honor of the Virgin of the Incarnation prayed each day from the Solemnity of the Annunciation to the Solemnity of the Nativity. This novena is offered for three intentions.
    These two novenas keep me centered, IMHO.

  18. For a long time I have been struggling to get really into Scripture: I was raised a Protestant of the read-the-Bible-without-ceasing variety, so I became fairly familiar with most of it, while, unhappily, effectively inoculating myself against its deeper meanings and suchlike. I would look for, in the Scriptures, nothing more than the portions of Catholic theology that I believed and fuel for "[p]olemics, explanations, [and] protests" in defence of my theological positions, in the words of Ven. Newman. Now that I can actually safely believe what the Bible says in plain English [or Latin]and be unafraid of it, well, there's so much more there, and I need to continue to [ sort of re]learn how to read Scripture and actually derive tangible benefit from it. This has been a lifelong struggle... and now, what often stopped me... is gone. Enter my intervening period of mental (and spiritual) retraining...

    Finally, quite recently, I discovered St. Thomas Aquinas's "Catena Aurea", a massive collection of glosses from the early Church Fathers when they wrote about the four Gospels, organized basically by verse. (The fact that the Fathers often seem to complete each other's thoughts is cool.) I've started with the portion covering the Gospel of John, reading it [for free, legally] online. Just a verse or a bit more per day, depending on how much material that the Angelic Doctor has pulled together. [For John 1:1, that was A LOT.]

    I think that this might help some people like me, who struggle/desire to delve deeper into Scripture, and need... well, a Bible commentary far beyond pretty much all else. I'm hoping for this to be a launchpad into 'productive' lectio divina, the one Catholic devotion so thoroughly Protestant-friendly on the service and yet, comparatively, so fruitless for them.

  19. If one is looking to let bloom the affective relationship with God, then common sense dictates:

    Devotion to the Holy Face.

    It's good to look into. I won't get into specifics here, but it entails Tuesday visits to the Blessed Sacrament to make reparation for the insults He has received; certain prayers; wearing of the Holy Face medal; contemplating/adoring the face of Jesus; spiritually "caressing" His wounded face, etc.

    Of course this devotion comes with many promises.

    A blessed New Year!

  20. Annie3:24 PM

    I think I'm kind of like you. What's helped me is to read lots of classic Christian fiction, you know, the classics - Graham Greene, Walker Percy, Shusako Endo, Ron Hansen, and all the others. It's happened countless times that I've read some of these works and been struck breathless and how gentle and how merciful and how compassionate God is and how broken our human nature is. Nothing but these books gets these truths across to me more powerfully. So maybe that would help? I don't know if it's a "devotion," but reading fiction slowly, like a devotional, and really thinking about it and journaling about it has helped me greatly in the area you mention. The same can be done with art, poems, music...let beauty lead you to truth and maybe that will leave you more room for the "caritas" to sneak in!

    As far as real "devotional" type things, I also really like repeating a phrase over and over again, like "gentle Jesus, master my rebellious heart." I connect it with my breath and breathe in the phrase and exhale my own stormy emotions...it's good for changing your disposition!

    Good luck!
    -Annie K

  21. Besides the "regular" one of the rosary...I do have a small devotion to my patron St. Lawrence. Only unusual in the sense that no one seems to know who St. Lawrence is, but it helped me in returning to the Church and helps me now.

    About St. Lawrence: http://saints.sqpn.com/saint-lawrence-of-rome/

  22. Daily recitation of the seven penitential Psalms.

  23. Since the "caritas" part is the problem you need to not worry so much about what devotion you might engage in and instead devote several hours each week to "people time." Not time teaching or preaching, but time listening.

    Spending time in a home for older people, for instance, does much more for the spiritual life than sometimes the same number of hours on your knees.

    Less focus on "self" is always a way to get closer to God... you can always say a rosary on the way to the home (that is, if the pesky Italians will stay out of your way)

    Happy a Happy New Year, Father and thank you for your blog and for being a priest!

  24. Anonymous8:02 PM

    12 year St. Brigid of Sweden prayers of the Sorrows of Jesus and Mary. Everyday for 12 years. I hope St. Paul approves in this his year since I think he said that he who preach nothing but Jesus crucified. John

  25. I'm trying to memorize the St Michael Chaplet myself. He is my patron from Confirmation and I need the protection in spiritual warfare.

  26. Anonymous1:32 AM

    why not embark on the spiritual exercises of st. ignatius?

    it doesn't let anyone off the hook and progress WILL be made.

  27. Anonymous9:40 AM

    You and many of the people who sent comments mentioned the rosary so I'll add one more. Recently when I was at the perpetual adoration chapel that I go to I found a little book titled "Apostle of the Rosary Bl. Bartolo Longo". He was a great promoter of devotion to the rosary and founded Our Lady of the Rosary Shrine in Pompeii. I remembered JPII mentioning his name when he announced the Year of the Rosary. It's published by New Hope Publications (www.newhope-ky.org) which is the apostolate of St. Martin De Porres Third Order Dominican Community in Kentucky. Rosary devotion certainly has Dominican connections. Thank you for sharing your insights with us, Father. Have a blessed new year.

  28. Anonymous9:45 AM

    I've found good things through the "prayer before the crucifix":

    Look down on me, O good and gentle Jesus, and impress on my heart the virtues of faith, hope and charity together with true repentance for my sins and firm purpose of amendment. At the same time I meditate on your five holy and glorious wounds, keeping in mind the words of the Psalmist 'They have pierced my hands and feet and I can count all my bones'.

    The meditation on our Lord's wounds has been most helpful to me.

  29. I like to pray the Angelus. Also, esp. at Lent, but through the year also, the Stations of the Cross by St. Alphonsus Liguori. My favorite part is at the end of each station: "I love Thee, Jesus my love, and I regret ever having offended Thee. Grant that I may love Thee always, and then do with me as Thou want."

  30. This comment has been removed by the author.

  31. Aspiring, send away! I've decided to write my own for now, but I'm always happy to hear from others.