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Novenas and Devotions During Mass

ROME, AUG. 30, 2007 (Zenit) - Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: I have seen novenas prayed together by the congregation, led by the priest directly after the Gospel of a weekday Mass. Is this correct? -- C.H., Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Q: I was wondering if it is appropriate to insert the Chaplet of Divine Mercy into the liturgy? Our parish recited this after the homily on Divine Mercy Sunday, led by our pastor. It seemed as if a beautiful, but optional, devotion was forced on a captive congregation. -- L.S., Hutchinson, Kansas

A: This topic referred to in these two questions is dealt with in the December 2001 document "Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy," published by the Congregation for Divine Worship.

No. 13 of this document states: "The objective difference between pious exercises and devotional practices should always be clear in expressions of worship. Hence, the formulae proper to pious exercises should not be commingled with the liturgical actions. Acts of devotion and piety are external to the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, and of the other sacraments.

"On the one hand, a superimposing of pious and devotional practices on the Liturgy so as to differentiate their language, rhythm, course, and theological emphasis from those of the corresponding liturgical action, must be avoided, while any form of competition with or opposition to the liturgical actions, where such exists, must also be resolved. Thus, precedence must always be given to Sunday, Solemnities, and to the liturgical seasons and days.

"Since, on the other [hand], pious practices must conserve their proper style, simplicity and language, attempts to impose forms of 'liturgical celebration' on them are always to be avoided."

Therefore it is incorrect to mingle any devotional exercise such as a novena or non-liturgical litanies within the context of the Mass; this mixing respects neither the nature of the Eucharistic celebration nor the essence of the pious exercise. Novenas or non-liturgical litanies may, however, be recited immediately before or after Mass.

Some readers ask if devotions may be carried out during Eucharistic adoration. The above-mentioned directory suggests in No. 165: "Gradually, the faithful should be encouraged not to do other devotional exercises during exposition of the Blessed Sacrament." It adds, however: "Given the close relationship between Christ and Our Lady, the rosary can always be of assistance in giving prayer a Christological orientation, since it contains meditation of the Incarnation and the Redemption."

Although the rosary is the only devotion specifically mentioned, it is possible that other devotions that can likewise be given a Christological orientation. These include novenas in preparation for Christmas and other feasts, which could be used as vocal prayers and acclamations immediately before Benediction.

This would not be the case for a novena or devotion to a particular saint.

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