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In this other field she assumes to herself no final responsibility, except in the merely negative manner which we have indicated.She approves in the name of doctrine; she permits in the name of liberty; but she commands nothing except that toleration and respect which she has herself manifested, and she refuses to take up that burden of individual responsibility which many are too ready to fling on to her shoulders at every turn of the spiritual life.
We have already noticed that devotional practices do not all stand on the same footing.
But he is not forced to take up the special devotion to the Sacred Heart or to the Five Wounds or to the Precious Blood.
At the same time, any child of the Church who would set up his private opinion in opposition to that of the whole body would, in the words of the writer I have quoted, do so “under pain of becoming a boor in his religious community.” He would, moreover, be depriving himself of a means of furtherance in the Christian life, of the efficacy of which, in view of the strong approbation of the Church, there can be no doubt.
But beyond these, there is the very large class of practices that go under the general name of Catholic devotions.
Not essentially necessary to the spiritual life of a Catholic, as are the sacraments, nor of such universal efficacy in the promotion of the essentials of a practical Catholic life as are the precepts of the Church, devotions are, nevertheless, of greater or lesser utility as helps to true devotion.
The attitude of the Church herself toward these devotional practices is somewhat different from her attitude in matters of faith.
Of both she is, of course, the supreme judge; but, in the nature of things, her judgments in doctrinal matters must more often be strict and peremptory than in the matter of devotions.
Catholic devotions are intended to meet these needs, both common and individual.
Thus it is that we find in the Church so great a variety of devotional practices, some of a more-or-less universal character, coextensive almost with the Church herself, as satisfying wants that are felt by all or by the greater part of the faithful; while others are of less extension as appealing to certain souls only.
There are some that experience has proved to be so generally helpful to a fuller and more fruitful Catholic life that they have obtained almost universal acceptance among the faithful and have been encouraged and promoted far and wide by the Church, who has put her seal upon them in an unmistakable manner.
Such are the well-known devotion of the Rosary, the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, various practices in honor of the sacred humanity of our Divine Lord, others in commemoration of the various mysteries of His life and Passion.
and their place in the religious system of which they form a part.