Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Only Devotional You Really Need

There's a big stack of review copies of recently published Catholic books here in the house. Close to a third of these are devotionals. Some are for a season, such as Lent or Advent. Others are for any time of the year. I'm sure you've seen them.

Typically, you get a page or two for each  that includes a reading, some commentary and reflection questions on the reading (lectio divina is quite the trend these days),  and a prayer. The readings can be from the Church Fathers, from one particular saint (there are  scores  of these), from one spiritual classic (broken down into easy to digest paragraphs and perhaps updated to modern English), from the writings of the  Pope, from a famous non-canonized author,  or from the Bible.

There are lots of devotionals directed at Catholic women or specifically, Catholic mothers. There are lots that are gender neutral.. I've yet to see any for Catholic men or fathers. Realities of the market, I guess.

I always find these to be very attractive little books.  I happily review them. I leave the very best ones on my nightstand, or at my desk, with the intention of using them daily.

But I never do. At least, not after the first week or so. Viewed with optimism, I should see such books as a real bargain: A Year With Padre Pio will last me for three, at least. But usually pessimism prevails. Seeing that book gathering dust-- the bookmark on a date from six weeks back-- I'm thinking, Lazy twit. You can't even read one paragraph a day from this good spiritual book.  
So today, I packed up some of these wonderful, unused devotionals into a box, to be given to a book-loving, homeschooling mother of 8 who lives down the road. Sure, she will have time to read them!
Maybe I'm just spreading the contagion of inadequacy around.

Box packed and shut, I sat down to do the Office of Readings. Great reading from St. Francis de Sales about how one's personal devotion has to fit with one's state in life. Then it dawned on me.

 I was reading from the writings of a saint! And had just read a psalm and a page of Deuteronomy.
And went back over psalm 68 to find the verse that says make a highway for him who rides on the clouds, and thought  for a few  seconds  about Our Lord's ascension into heaven.
A shorter version of this  process is repeated several more  times per day around here.

Maybe I wasn't drawn to all those nice devotional books, not because of laziness, but because I'm already satiated after a day of drinking fully from the best devotional fountain  there is.  A devotional that comes to us straight from the mouth of God, and handed to us by Christ, Who then invites us to pray it with Him.

Compared to that, Daily Holiness Hints for Catholic Gals or a year with St. Anybody just pales.


  1. Daria, I agree. Devotionals are nice enough in their place but I tend to pick them up and put them down. They don't satisfy the same way. I do keep couple around and seem to drift to them every once in a while but I'm not sure if it's because they are useful or out of a sense of obligation as in since I have them I should use them.

  2. I feel the same Daria...I have grown to love the Office..With devotionals I get bored and just want to go directly to the Scriptures and the saints!

    I'm a Benedictine Oblate trying to discern whether to get the 4 volume Office or go to the traditional
    Monastic Diurnal. I've been using the 4 week Psalter for a few years now and feel ready for something more.

    I'm so glad to have found your site.

    Blessings and +

  3. Caroline, I'm glad to have a Benedictine following this site. In fact, I'm looking for a good Benedictine priest or nun to go to for advice on a book I'm writing. There's lots of Benedictines in my diocese, but they are of the modernist/feminist variety, so I'm not inclined to go to them for advice. I don't know much about the monastic diurnal, except what I've read on this Catholic Answers thread:
    I gather that the diurnal uses the pre-Vatican II calendar, right? If so, It would be a good thing for someone who mostly attends the EF mass, since then the seasons and feasts would be in sync. But not so much for someone who attends Ordinary form mass every day. I'd want all my liturgy to match. Also, if I am understanding this correctly, one would be missing the Office of Readings when using the diurnal? But perhaps you could supplement with the LOTH Office of Readings, or else get Matins from the old breviary online.
    Best wishes with your discernment. If you decide to go with the 4-volume LOTH, I'd buy a used copy. There are plans afoot for a revised LOTH with a revision of the psalms, new collects, and other revisions. It will probably take a few years, but it's nice to know it's going to happen eventually.

  4. Ah...Thanks for that info about the 4 Volume LOH, Daria. I was wondering about that. I'm blessed to have a mentor from St Vincent Archabbey ( my home away from home : ) helping me through the discernment of it all.
    I understand about the issues with the modernist Benedictines...I have had my share of struggles..but finally have found good solid home and a wonderful Benedictine priest who has been very understanding.

    Here's a site you might be interested in...It's all about the traditional Benedictine office

    Thanks for your input.
    Blessings and +