Popular piety is a language that is composed of external signs and shared customs through which people express their religiosity. This devotion, especially that of Catholics, can include pilgrimages to sacred places, visits to sanctuaries, local worship of the Virgin and saints, the custom of kissing and touching sacred statues, venerating relics, reciting litanies, reserving holy saints and others besides. Confronted with the increasingly diffused participation in these customs in many parts of the world -a phenomenon that is provoked during times of crisis and pandemics-, Women Church World invites us to reflect on devotion as an expression of a people on their way and who thirst for God. In addition, this month, the magazine looks at the role women have played in encouraging this on a collective level and in their witnessing of it as a personal commitment to the common good. Therefore, popular devotion is not the poor or unfortunate substitute of the “true” religion, and should not be placed in opposition to a high-minded outlook, or that of official liturgical worship. Nor is it empty of content; on the contrary, as the fruit of an inculturated spirituality, it does not cease to transmit the content of faith in a symbolic manner. Undoubtedly, certain distortions have often bent popular piety to the logic of superstitious tendencies and we know that devotion in general, whether it is of an individual or collective as it may be, is in danger of sometimes turning into idolatry, dependence, or mythification. However, if popular piety is enlightened by sacred scripture and animated by liturgical life, it transmits a very important evangelizing force for the Church and consequently for the world. This fact has been recalled by the Popes of the post-conciliar period, from Pope Montini to Pope Bergoglio. Furthermore, to deny this would be like disavowing the work of the Holy Spirit who, through individual or collective devotion, leads us on paths of rediscovery to the origins and radicality of the Christian message, favoring its witness. The devotion to the recitation of the Rosary, if not reduced to repetitive chanting or a superstitious practice, becomes a contemplative prayer that helps us to read our personal and universal history in terms of faith and thus converts us more deeply to Gospel values. Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, if freed from emotional intimism, also invites us to venerate what is essential in Christian life, namely charity, and to put it into practice.
Francesca Bugliani Knox