Friday, April 7, 2017

Theology of Devotions in 1955

[214] There is a distinction even in popular parlance between "devotion" and "devotions." "Devotion" is a thing in every way good: the total religious elan directly towards God. "Devotions" are things in many ways bad: means which have a way of substituting themselves as ends, devices that can delude the practitioner into a false security, sweets much beloved by children and old ladies which can too easily introduce an excess of sugar into one's spiritual bloodstream. And so on. Valuable, therefore, beyond measure are Fr. Curran's solid and alert presentation of the theology of "devotion" and the discussion of "devotions" by Bertaud-Rayez. The distinction, of course, that exists between the two is that between the first interior act of the (infused) virtue of religion and its external manifestations, and the authors bring it out admirably. But here one distinguishes in order to unite. External manifestation has meaning only to the extent that it is expressive of the interior, and the organization and concretizing of the spiritual life which devotions effect are good, and not bad, solely to the degree that they result from (and, reciprocally, sustain and intensify) that interior elemental act of religion. Hence the importance of doctrinal instruction over devotional [215] practice, as has been increasingly appreciated of late; for the first feeds devotion. Take care of devotion, and devotions take care of themselves.


Source: Elmer O'Brien, S.J., "Ascetical and Mystical Theology, 1954–1955," Theological Studies 17, no. 2 (1956): 214–215.

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