Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 8, 2003
Find mother Mary to rediscover your faith
By FR. RON ROLHEISER, omi
What the devotional life adds to the essentials is the romantic, emotional fire.
That's the danger inherent in all romance. It's very power to inflame the heart makes it a powerful narcotic that easily becomes an end in itself. Romance easily becomes unbridled, unglued, disorienting. We know that. But we also know its power to transform lives. It can change everything in 15 seconds.
Christ, the Word and the Eucharist are the essentials within our faith, but just as the main course in a meal doesn't make a complete meal, so too the essentials of our faith don't necessarily satisfy all our faith needs, particularly in terms of the heart. What the devotional life adds to the essentials is the romantic, emotional fire.
And that's more necessary than we think. Eric Mascall, a Protestant theologian, commenting on the place of the devotional within the liturgical and theological, suggests the danger in opting for essentials alone is that "we end up on a diet of antiseptics, safe from food-poisoning, but in danger of suffering from malnutrition." He's right. To give an example:
Today liturgists and theologians are almost universally opposed to having eulogies at funerals. The funeral liturgy, they contend, is complete of itself and the eulogy is an unneeded, inept distraction. They're right, in a way. The funeral liturgy is complete of itself, theologically. But that doesn't mean it's complete humanly. It's not.
The normal congregation at a funeral isn't composed of people whose faith and emotional lives are so mature and integrated that the latter is fed and satisfied through the former. They want and need more than the essentials of faith and liturgy, particularly on that day. They need another kind of ritual, a devotional one that speaks more directly to them (however lengthy and in bad taste those eulogies sometimes are). We don't live on essentials alone.
In terms of our prayer lives, this has been handled largely by devotions and, among devotions, the ones to Mary, the mother of Jesus, have had the privileged place, especially among the poor. In Marian devotions, the faith takes on a special relationship to the poor.
In a manner of speaking, Marian devotions are the mysticism of the poor. In relating to her, countless people, without the benefit of professional training in theology or liturgy have wonderfully appropriated to themselves deep, essential truths about God's person, presence, compassion and providence. They know and taste God's love through their relationship to Mary.
Many years ago, when I was an 18-year-old novice, a pious old priest gave us a talk. He shared how a young man had come to him complaining that he'd lost his faith. The old priest had simply told him: "You've lost your faith because you've lost your mother, Mary."
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