Popular Piety and Mary

“I urge you to retain an appreciation for popular piety, which is different in every culture yet always remains very similar, for the human heart is ultimately one and the same. Certainly, popular piety tends towards the irrational, and can at times be somewhat superficial. Yet it would be quite wrong to dismiss it. Through that piety, the faith has entered human hearts and become part of the common patrimony of sentiments and customs, shaping the life and emotions of the community. Popular piety is thus one of the Church’s great treasures. The faith has taken on flesh and blood. Certainly popular piety always needs to be purified and refocused, yet it is worthy of our love and it truly makes us into the “People of God”.”

P. Benedict XVI to Seminarians. 18 October 2010 – Feast of St Luke the Evangelist


As we celebrate this month of May, walking in a particular way with Mary, the Mother of God, a reminder of some of the pious Marian practices of the faithful recommended by the Magisterium (It is worth going to the link to read the whole text which explains more in detail these beautiful devotions:

1.  Prayerfully Hearing the Word of God – The Council’s call for the “sacred celebration of the word of God” at significant moments throughout the Liturgical Year, can easily find useful application in devotional exercises made in honour of the Mother of the Word Incarnate.

2.  Angelus Domini – the traditional form used by the faithful to commemorate the holy annunciation of the angel Gabriel to Mary. It is used three times daily: at dawn, mid-day and at dusk. It is a recollection of the salvific event in which the Word became flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, through the power of the Holy Spirit in accordance with the salvific plan of the Father.

3.  Regina Coeli – By disposition of Benedict XIV (2 April 1742), the Angelus is replaced with the antiphon Regina Coeli during paschaltide. This antiphon, probably dating from the tenth or eleventh century(233), happily conjoins the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word (quem meruisti portare) with the Paschal event (resurrexit sicut dixit). The ecclesial community addresses this antiphon to Mary for the Resurrection of her Son. It adverts to, and depends on, the invitation to joy addressed by Gabriel to the Lord’s humble servant who was called to become the Mother of the saving Messiah (Ave, gratia plena).

As with the Angelus, the recitation of the Regina Coeli could sometimes take a solemn form by singing the antiphon and proclaiming the Gospel of the resurrection.

4.  The Rosary The Rosary, or Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is one of the most excellent prayers to the Mother of God. Thus, “the Roman Pontiffs have repeatedly exhorted the faithful to the frequent recitation of this biblically inspired prayer which is centred on contemplation of the salvific events of Christ’s life, and their close association with the his Virgin Mother. The value and efficacy of this prayer have often been attested by saintly Bishops and those advanced in holiness of life”(235).

The Rosary is essentially a contemplative prayer, which requires “tranquillity of rhythm or even a mental lingering which encourages the faithful to meditate on the mysteries of the Lord’s life”(236). Its use is expressly recommended in the formation and spiritual life of clerics and religious(237).

5. The Blessing for Rosary Beads – indicates the Church’s esteem for the Rosary. This rite emphasises the community nature of the Rosary. In the rite, the blessing of rosary beads is followed by the blessing of those who meditate on the mysteries of the life, death and resurrection of Our Lord so as to “establish a perfect harmony between prayer and life”. As indicated in the Benedictionale, Rosary beads can be blessed publicly, on occasions such as a pilgrimage to a Marian shrine, a feast of Our Lady, especially that of the Holy Rosary, and at the end of the month of October.

“In recommending the value and beauty of the Rosary to the faithful, care should be taken to avoid discrediting other forms of prayer, or of overlooking the existence of a diversity of other Marian chaplets which have also been approved by the Church“.

6.  Litanies of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Litanies are to be found among the prayers to the Blessed Virgin recommended by the Magisterium. These consist in a long series of invocations of Our Lady, which follow in a uniform rhythm, thereby creating a stream of prayer characterized by insistent praise and supplication. The invocations, generally very short, have two parts: the first of praise (Virgo clemens), the other of supplication (Ora pro nobis)…Following the prescription of Leo XIII that the recitation of the Rosary should be concluded by the Litany of Loreto during the month of October, the false impression has arisen among some of the faithful that the Litany is in some way an appendix to the Rosary. The Litanies are independent acts of worship. They are important acts of homage to the Blessed Virgin Mary, or as processional elements, or form part of a celebration of the Word of God or of other acts of worship.

7.  Consecration and Entrustment to Mary – The history of Marian devotion contains many examples of personal or collective acts of  “consecration or entrustment to the Blessed Virgin Mary” oblatio, servitus, commendatio, dedicatio). They are reflected in the prayer manuals and statutes of many associations where the formulas and prayers of consecration, or its remembrance, are used.

Seen in the light of Christ’s words (cf. John 19, 25-27), the act of consecration is a conscious recognition of the singular role of Mary in the Mystery of Christ and of the Church, of the universal and exemplary importance of her witness to the Gospel, of trust in her intercession, and of the efficacy of her patronage, of the many maternal functions she has, since she is a true mother in the order of grace to each and every one of her children.

8. The Brown Scapular and other Scapulars – The history of Marian piety also includes “devotion” to various scapulars, the most common of which is devotion to the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Its use is truly universal and, undoubtedly, its is one of those pious practices which the Council described as “recommended by the Magisterium throughout the centuries”.

The Scapular of Mount Carmel is a reduced form of the religious habit of the Order of the Friars of the Blessed Virgin of Mount Carmel. Its use is very diffuse and often independent of the life and spirituality of the Carmelite family.

The Scapular is an external sign of the filial relationship established between the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother and Queen of Mount Carmel, and the faithful who entrust themselves totally to her protection, who have recourse to her maternal intercession, who are mindful of the primacy of the spiritual life and the need for prayer.

9.  Medals – The faithful like to wear medals bearing effigies of the Blessed Virgin Mary. These are a witness of faith and a sign of veneration of the Holy Mother of God, as well as of trust in her maternal protection.

The Church blesses such objects of Marian devotion in the belief that “they help to remind the faithful of the love of God, and to increase trust in the Blessed Virgin Mary”. The Church also points out that devotion to the Mother of Christ also requires “a coherent witness of life”.

Like all medals and objects of cult, the Miraculous Medal is never to be regarded as a talisman or lead to any form of blind credulity(260). The promise of Our Lady that “those who were the medal will receive great graces”, requires a humble and tenacious commitment to the Christian message, faithful and persevering prayer, and a good Christian life.

10.  The “Akathistos” Hymn – In the Byzantine tradition, one of the oldest and most revered expressions of Marian devotion is the hymn “Akathistos“—meaning the hymn sung while standing. It is a literary and theological masterpiece, encapsulating in the form of a prayer, the universally held Marian belief of the primitive Church. The hymn is inspired by the Scriptures, the doctrine defined by the Councils of Nicea (325), Ephesus (431), and Chalcedon (451), and reflects the Greek fathers of the fourth and fifth centuries. It is solemnly celebrated in the Eastern Liturgy on the Fifth Saturday of Lent. The hymn is also sung on many other liturgical occasions and is recommended for the use of the clergy and faithful.

All the above taken from Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy published by Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. It is a wonderful document that expresses other elements of pious devotion within the Church.


This post was linked at New Advent under the heading, ’10 popular Marian devotions for the month of May…’

Also linked:

St John Church – Middletown, CT (Lot’s of Catholic info there!)

St John, Open the Door

The Times of India


Related post: Three Reasons for Mary

A Catholic Mom in Hawaii: Month of May – Divine Mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary


8 thoughts on “Popular Piety and Mary

  1. Thank you for tis post . I esp. was blessed by the last one ,The “Akathistos” Hymn , as a recent convert Mary has been a sticking point for me , but reading this beautiful hymn just has truly helped me come to a great app. of Our Lady

    Prayer for us who is the Ark made golden by the Spirit, inexhaustible Treasury of Life.

  2. The “Hail Mary” makes no sense whatsoever. She doesn’t have anyone in her womb anymore. You’d have to ask her to her face (while she was pregnant with Yeshua) for it to make sense. Yeshua, Son of the Living God, open their ears that they may hear. AMEN

    • Addison, let me explain:

      ‘Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.”

      In Luke 1:28, the angel Gabriel comes to Mary and says, “Hail, favored one! the Lord is with you.” He says these words to her BEFORE the Spirit of the Lord comes upon her. She is blessed, and the Lord is with her already in a particular way because she is chosen by God to be His mother. It is for this that she is called “blessed”.

      “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.”

      These words come from the scene of the visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth, Luke 1:42. It is true, when Elizabeth proclaimed these words, Mary was pregnant with the Son of God.

      However, if I were to follow your line of thinking, just because Mary is no longer pregnant, you are implying that the ‘fruit of her womb’ – Jesus, the Son of God – no longer exists. Of course, we know Jesus exists – yesterday, today, and forever – and thus, the fruit of Mary’s womb, still blessed.

      The fact that she continues to be blessed through the ages was foretold in Luke 1:48: “Behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.”

      Mary continues to play a role in the life of Christians as an intercessor. Just as she interceded at the wedding feast of Cana (John 2:1-12) on behalf of the wedding couple who were in need of wine, she continues to intercede for us before her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, the second half of the Hail Mary prayer: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.”


      May the Lord bless you, and may all of us continue to grow in openness to His Word ‘that we may hear’. Amen.

  3. […] 1. Prayerfully Hearing the Word of God – The Council’s call for the “sacred celebration of the word of God” at significant moments throughout the Liturgical Year, can easily find useful application in devotional exercises made in honour of the Mother of the Word Incarnate.….more […]

  4. Sister Lisa – Thanks for reminding us about these Marian devotions. We too often forget the importance of honoring the Blessed Mother.

    Ad Jesum Per Mariam!

    In Christ,

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