Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

During the Middle Ages the public functions of the Church and the popular devotions of the people were intimately connected. The laity assisted at the daily psalmody, the sacrifice of the Mass, the numerous processions, and were quite familiar with the liturgy. Those few religious practices outside of official services, e.g. the Rosary (a substitute for the 150 Psalms) originated in the liturgy. Later, however, especially since the sixteenth century, popular devotion followed its own channels; unliturgical practices like the Stations of the Cross, the Quarant 'Ore , various litanies and rosaries ( coronae ), prevailed everywhere; novenas and series of Sundays and week-days in honour of particular saints or mysteries were instituted. Entire months of the year were given over to special devotions. Following is a list of the more common devotions with the indulgences attached:


The Holy Name of Jesus (feast of the Holy Name , second Sunday after Epiphany ); indulgences, one hundred days each day if the devotion is made privately, three hundred days each day, if the devotion be in a public church or chapel, plenary indulgence for daily assistance at the public functions, under the usual conditions ( Leo XIII , "Brief", 21 Dec., 1901; "Acta S. Sedis", XXXIV, 425).


St. Joseph (feast, 19 March); indulgences, three hundred days daily for those who privately or publicly perform same pious practice in honour of St. Joseph, during the month, a plenary indulgence on any day of the month under the usual conditions ( Pius IX, "Rescript Congr. Indulg.", 27 April, 1865). This month of devotions may commence in February and be concluded 19 March ( Pius IX, 18 July, 1877). March can be replaced by another month in case of legitimate impediment (Raccolta, 404). The practice of a triduum before the feast of St. Joseph has been recommended by Leo XIII (Encycl. "Quamquam pluries", 15 August, 1889).


The Blessed Virgin Mary . The May devotion in its present form originated at Rome where Father Latomia of the Roman College of the Society of Jesus, to counteract infidelity and immorality among the students, made a vow at the end of the eighteenth century to devote the month of May to Mary. From Rome the practice spread to the other Jesuit colleges and thence to nearly every Catholic church of the Latin rite (Albers, "Bluethenkranze", IV, 531 sq.). This practice is the oldest instance of a devotion extending over an entire month. Indulgences, three hundred days each day, by assisting at a public function or performing the devotion in private, plenary indulgence on any day of the month or on one of the first eight days of June under the usual conditions ( Pius VII, 21 March, 1815, for ten years; 18 June, 1822 in perpetuum ).


The Sacred Heart. This devotion, long privately practised, was approved by Pius IX, 8 May, 1873 (Rescr. auth., n. 409), and urgently recommended by Leo XIII in a letter addressed by the Cardinal Prefect S.R.C. to all the bishops, 21 July, 1899. Indulgences : (a) seven years and seven quarantines each day for performing the devotion publicly or privately; (b) if the devotion is practised daily in private, or if a person assists at least ten times at a public function, a plenary indulgence on any day in June or from 1-8 July (Decr. Urbis et orbis, 30 May, 1902); (c) the indulgence toties quoties on the thirtieth of June or the last Sunday of June (26 Jan., 1908) in those churches where the month of June is celebrated solemnly. Pius X (8 Aug., 1906) urged a daily sermon, or at least for eight days in the form of a mission (26 Jan., 1908); (d) to those priests, who preach the sermons at the solemn functions in June in honour of the Sacred Heart and to the rectors of the churches where these functions are held, the privilege of the Gregorian Altar on the thirtieth of June ( Pius X, 8 Aug., 1906); (e) plenary indulgence for each Communion in June and to those who promote the solemn celebration of the month of June ("Acta Pontificia", IV, 388, 8 Aug., 1906).


The Precious Blood (feast of the Precious Blood ; first Sunday of July). This devotion was propagated by Bl. Caspar Buffalo (d. at Rome, 28 Dec., 1837), founder of the Congregation of the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ. Indulgences, for the public devotion: seven years and seven quarantines each day; plenary indulgence on any day in July or 1-8 August, after having assisted eight times at a public function under the usual conditions ; if the devotion be held privately three hundred days each day with plenary indulgence on 31 July, or 1-8 of August ( Pius IX, 4 June, 1850). For this practice any other month or any period of thirty days during the year may be chosen (Raccolta, 178).


The Seven Dolours of the Blessed Virgin Mary (feast of the Seven Dolours, third Sunday in September); indulgences, three hundred days each day and the devotions may be performed in public or private; plenary indulgence on any day of September or 1-8 October under the usual conditions ( Leo XIII, "Raccolta", 27 Jan., 1888, 232).


The Holy Rosary ( feast of the Holy Rosary, first Sunday in October). Leo XIII personally instituted this practice in an Encyclical (1 Sept., 1883) in which he admonished the faithful to dedicate the month of October to the Queen of the Holy Rosary in order to obtain through her intercession the grace that God may console and defend His Church in her sufferings, and for nineteen years he published an encyclical on this subject. By the decree of the Congregation of Rites (20 Aug., 1885; 26 Aug., 1886; 2 Sept., 1887) he ordained that every year during the entire month of October, including the first and second of November, in every cathedral and parochial church, and in all other churches and chapels which are dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, five decades of the Rosary and the Litany of Loreto are to be recited, in the morning during Mass or in the afternoon whilst the Blessed Sacrament is exposed, and by the encyclical letter of 15 August, 1889, a prayer in honour of St. Joseph was added. Indulgences (S. C. Indulg., 23 July, 1898): (a) seven years and seven quarantines every day for the public or private recitation of five decades; (b) plenary indulgence on the feast of the Holy Rosary or during the octave for those who during the entire octave recite daily five decades and fulfil the other usual conditions ; (c) plenary indulgence on any other day of the month for those who, after the octave of the feast, recite for at least ten days five decades ("Raccolta", 354; Albers, "Bluethenkränze", III, 730 sq.). Also in October there are devotions in honour of St. Francis of Assisi (feast, 4 Oct.); indulgences, three hundred days each day by assisting at the public devotions in honour of St. Francis in a church or public oratory ; plenary indulgence on the feast of St. Francis or during the octave (11 June, 1883, for ten years; 29 Feb., 1904, in perpetuum ; "Acta Minorum", 1904, 106). Any other month may be selected instead of October.


The Holy Souls in Purgatory (2 Nov., Commem. of all the Faithful Departed); indulgences, seven years and seven quarantines each day; plenary indulgence on any day of month under the usual conditions ( Leo XIII , 17 Jan., 1888). Popular devotion has also selected other mysteries and has dedicated January to the Holy Childhood and the hidden life of Jesus according to the Gospel of the first Sunday after Epiphany ; March, to the Holy Family, on account of the feast of St. Joseph and the Annunciation (25 March); August, to the Maternal Heart of Mary (feast on the Sunday after twenty-second of August); October, to the Holy Angels (feast, 2 Oct.); December, to the Immaculate Conception (feast, 8 Dec.). or to the Holy Child in the stable at Bethlehem (25 Dec.). These practices, however, are not formally approved by the Church, nor enriched with indulgences.

These devotions, of course, vary with conditions in different countries. Though there is a wide variety, constantly changing, the prayers more commonly used are the litanies of the Holy Name, Sacred Heart, St. Joseph, the Blessed Virgin, the indulgenced prayers of the Raccolta, the rosary of the Dominicans. For the May and June devotions, a short sermon or instruction usually follows, with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament concluding the services.

More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed between 1907 and 1912 in fifteen hard copy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ephesians 6:10-20
10 Finally, grow strong in the Lord, with the strength of his ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 144:1, 2, 9-10
1 [Of David] Blessed be Yahweh, my rock, who trains my hands for war and ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 13:31-35
31 Just at this time some Pharisees came up. 'Go away,' they said. 'Leave ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 27th, 2016 Image

St. Frumentius
October 27: Called "Abuna" or "the fa¬≠ther' of Ethiopia, ... Read More