Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Kim A. Talbert

10/5/2012 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The activity of ritual can significantly enhance every facet of a person's life.

Mention the word "ritual" and people's reactions and responses are quite varied.  Many conjure up images of evil doings, magic practices and spells.  Some roll their eyes at religious rites performed without change and declare they are void of meaning.  Others, though, cling to the significance of ordered ceremonies, celebrations or individual acts that remain static.

Highlights

By Kim A. Talbert

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

10/5/2012 (2 years ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: power, ritual, routine, God, spirit, mind, body, Chaplet of Divine Mercy, prayer, rosary, grace


WASHINGTON,DC (the burningbeast.com) - Mention the word "ritual" and people's reactions and responses are quite varied.  Many conjure up images of evil doings, magic practices and spells.  Some roll their eyes at religious rites performed without change and declare they are void of meaning.  Others, though, cling to the significance of ordered ceremonies, celebrations or individual acts that remain static. 

What, then, is the true meaning of ritual?  How does it differ from routine? 

Ritual vs. Routine

Rituals and routines are similar in that they each are repetitive functions that provide a sense of order, structure and intention to produce an outcome.  

A routine is a course of action that is standard procedure and habitual in nature because it is performed on a regular basis and without much thought given to the action.  One can perform a daily routine and not be fully aware of the fact it is being performed. 

For example, every morning Jane sets the home alarm before she steps out the door and leaves for work.  Her routine is so habitual that she does it without thinking and sometimes arrives at work wondering if she set the alarm.  Jane's action is important-the alarm needs to be set-but the act itself can be performed regardless of her immediate awareness of the fact she's doing it.  Routine, therefore, can become a mundane task even though it yields something productive. 

In contrast, the very act of a ritual is rich in meaning.  Ritual requires one to prepare and focus on the event or activity, and to be fully aware.  Symbolism is laced throughout ritual, providing a deep sense of value.  While ritual is often solemn, sacred and rhythmic in nature, it is always thought-provoking.  It often provides a connection to others, such as a group of like-minded believers, or to God, or both.  That cohesiveness offers a sense of belonging, stability and safety.  Ritual is grounding to the human soul and helps one to stay focused on the belief that led to the action of the ritual in the first place. 

For example, John arises every morning at 5:00 a.m., pours himself a cup of coffee, picks up his rosary beads, then sits in the same chair on his back porch.  After drinking his coffee as he observes the stars, before the sun rises he prays for the needs of others, then himself, through the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.  John's actions are ritual because he prepares by planning to arise at the same time everyday and by setting the coffee pot to brew before he arises.  He anticipates his pre-dawn solitude, and he has considered others' needs before he prays.  His prayers bind him to God and to humanity through the rhythmic prayer, and the rosary beads help him to focus.  In John's case, even the coffee making and drinking are ritualistic and not routine because they are planned out and are an integral part of his process. 

However, if John arose and said some token prayers, all the while not focusing on them as he showered for work, then his early morning activity would be a routine and not a ritual. 

Routine is essential, though, because daily life requires it.  Sleep, arise, walk the dog, iron clothing, exercise, change diapers and feed the family are examples of routines in the daily grind that can become mindless.  Ritual, though, energizes the soul.  If the fast pace of life dictates a plethora of mindless routines, one's actions become monotonous and void of meaningful activity.

In the words of Henry Van Dyke:
"As long as habit and routine dictate the pattern of living, new dimensions of the soul will not emerge."

And Amos Bronson Alcott: "The less routine, the more life."

And solemn, sacred cohesiveness to others in this repetitious act of meaningful ritual is seen in this quote from Maggie Gallagher:

"For faithful Catholics, communion is not just a nice ritual: It is the body and blood of Jesus Christ, and the ultimate sign of our willingness to be incorporated into the church."

Benefits of Ritual

Ritual invokes balance to all three dimensions of humanity's life.  It can bring equilibrium to one's mind, body and spirit in the following ways: 

Mind:

  1. Focus clears the mind of needless clutter
  2. Calms mental stress
  3. Produces peace of mind
  4. Promotes discipline
  5. Provides sense of security

Body:

  1. Relaxes the body
  2. Rituals positively affect some or all of the senses, which calms the body. 

Consider the rituals of the Catholic Mass: a) hearing the prayers/music/bells, b) smelling incense and candles, c) seeing the crucifix, d) passing peace through touch, and e) tasting the Eucharist.)

Spirit:

  1. Strengthens devotion
  2. Perpetuates the faith/deep meaning behind the activity
  3. Develops connection to one's self, to others and to God
  4. Induces peace

Routine to Ritual

Creating rituals takes discipline and thought, and the hectic grind of daily routines can be one's excuse for not developing them.  But rituals don't have to be a new addition to life because those daily routines can be turned into rituals.  Routines have to be accomplished, so why not cultivate them into rituals?  For example, make dog walks a time for prayer.  Pray blessings into each article of clothing you iron.  Smile at those you pass on the trail during your morning run.  Say "I love you" at least once a day to your spouse.  Light a candle every night on the dinner table.  Be thankful for a new day of life with the first sip of morning coffee.  Infuse rituals into your routines and your life will be enriched.

Ritual Intentions

It could be said that some rituals are personal and therefore don't possess the element of cohesiveness.  After all, how can an individual's unique ritual that is practiced in private bind him to anyone else?

The answer lies in the other characteristics.  In those moments where the rich meaning, sacredness and solemnity of a ritual are being exercised, excluding cohesiveness contains an aspect of selfishness.  Every ritual can bind one to another in some way, even if it's a personal ritual. 

For example, John does not arise and just pray for the troubles in his life.  He prays for others, and he prays for their needs before his own.

And let's say Mary's ritual is to arise and savor a hot cup of a coffee with one teaspoon of sugar in it exactly three minutes after the machine stops brewing, then sit in the dark, sip it and plan her day before the family arises.  When her solemn time is over and after her spouse arises, she could pour a cup of coffee and take it to him.  Delivering it with a kiss and a smile would sweeten the ritual. 

John's and Mary's rituals are unique to themselves.  John, though connects himself to others and to God through prayer, and Mary could easily conclude her quiet time ritual by an act of kindness to another.

For many, grace before meals has become a litany of words to rush through-just a token effort of thanksgiving before diving into the meal.  But to truly consider what is being said and to embrace gratitude for the food is to remove the selfishness from the action and inject the sacred.  That binds one to the others around the table and to God. 

Religious rites, whatever they are, are not void of meaning.  Those that believe they are have separated themselves from the meaning of the activity.  Their disdain or boredom of the ritual often breeds an attitude of conceit because they think the ritual should be revised to fit their conceived idea of how it should be.  This perspective is an act of turning a ritual into a mundane routine that needs updating.  This, too, is selfishness, and it is disrespectful-not sacred-to attend a religious ritual and devalue it. 

To create and perform rituals only to benefit one's mind, body and spirit is selfish as well.  Whatever the ritual is, it is filled with deep meaning.  The very least one can do in the act of ritual is be grateful.  But that can be selfish as well.  Random gratefulness is one thing, but offering profound gratitude to God is another.  The activity of ritual can significantly enhance every facet of a person's life.  One's days will always be filled with routines, but the creation of new rituals or the infusion of life into existing ones can bring order and stability to one's mind, body and spirit.
-----
Kim A. Talbert is an award-winning nonfiction author, columnist, speaker and writing conference instructor. She is also the author of The Burning Beast, www.theburningbeast.com

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2015
Universal:
Scientists: That those involved in scientific research may serve the well-being of the whole human person.
Evangelization: Contribution of women: That the unique contribution of women to the life of the Church may be recognized always.


Rosaries, Crosses, Prayer Cards and more... by Catholic Shopping .com


Comments


More Living Faith

Unholy political positions in the Holy Land Watch

Image of

By Tony Magliano

As the minds and hearts of Christians throughout the world focus on the suffering, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus, we naturally think of the Holy Land. Throughout much of history, in the land where the world's savior taught human beings to love one another as ... continue reading


5 Disney movies you never knew had hidden religious messages Watch

Image of

By Hannah Raissa Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Disney movies are a well-known and well-loved part of most people's childhood. These stories talk and teach us things, like believing in ourselves and follow our dreams. Recently, the stories inspire courage and kindness, as well as forms of "true love." But viewers ... continue reading


5 excellent tips on how to read the Bible Watch

Image of

By Hannah Raissa Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Bible is one of the most popular published books ever written in the history of life, but also one of the hardest to read and understand. Unlike most books published today, the Bible contains a lot of statements that are full of dates, metaphors and written to ... continue reading


200 Christian teachers denied day off for Good Friday Watch

Image of The 2014-2015 school years are the first time in recent memory that officials scheduled classes during both Good Friday and the Jewish holidays.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A Rhode Island school district is being sued over the claim that 200 Christian teachers were denied requests to take Good Friday off from work. The teacher's union claims that the decision denies educators the two religious days that they are afforded in their ... continue reading


For the first time in over 150 years -- Blood of St. Januarius liquefies during Francis' visit to Naples Watch

Image of According to legend, Januarius was allegedly born in Benevento to a rich patrician family that traced its descent to the Caudini tribe of the Samnites.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

For the first time in over 150 years, the blood of St. Januarius liquefied in the presence of a pope this past weekend. The phenomenon occurred when Pope Francis visited Naples this past weekend. It was the first time the blood liquefied in the presence of a ... continue reading


Church to Canonize Mom and Dad of St Therese, Show the Holiness of Christian Marriage Watch

Image of Pictured: Louis and Zelie Martin, the Mom and Dad of St Therese
For those called to live their Christian life in a consecrated Christian marriage, it is in the domestic church where progress in the spiritual life finds its raw material. The question we face every day becomes whether we live Christian marriage and family as a Christian vocation by responding to grace.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Louis and Zelie married in France in 1858. They had nine children. Five entered a consecrated or religious life in the Church. We have 218 letters which were written by Zelie.  They record the naturally supernatural pattern of a very real, human and devout ... continue reading


Drinking the Chalice of the Lord: Facing Suffering, Struggle and Failure Watch

Image of All of those who bear the name Christian are invited to follow the path of Jesus' struggle, to walk along with Him on the way of His rejection. We too are invited to climb the mountain of His great saving act of unmerited selfless Divine love. Golgotha beckons.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

James was the son of Zebedee and brother of John. From faithful stock, we see in this encounter that some forms of zeal may indeed be genetic. In fact, the zeal in both of these brothers caused the Lord to name them the Sons of Thunder.(Mk 3:14-17) However, human ... continue reading


7 endangering myths Christians believe about other Christians Watch

Image of

By Hannah Raissa Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Disheartening isn't it? But it has been observed that Christians are divided among themselves. This is not what God wanted, as expressed by the writings in the Scriptures. However, there are some issues between the believers that makes them not united as they should ... continue reading


Josephs Way: Joseph, Husband of Mary, Model for Christian Men Watch

Image of The Dream of Joseph led to the response of a life given over to God

By Deacon Keith Fournier

In an age that has lost its way, because it has succumbed to the selfish pursuit of illusory pleasure, Joseph needs to be lifted up as a model for men who truly want to follow Jesus Christ. It is time for Christian men to follow his example, and become men again. ... continue reading


Pope tells Nigeria's bishops to form united front against terror group Boko Haram Watch

Image of In addition to addressing various issues, the Pope praised Nigeria, with a population of more than 170 million people, and has experienced strong economic growth.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

As the emerging African economic powerhouse of Nigeria takes to the polls, Pope Francis, in a stirring message, has urged the country's bishops to build a united front against the Boko Haram terrorist group. Pope Francis' comments came in a letter to the ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

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

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Isaiah 42:1-7
1 Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one in ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 27:1, 2, 3, 13-14
1 [Of David] Yahweh is my light and my salvation, ... Read More

Gospel, John 12:1-11
1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus went to ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for March 30th, 2015 Image

St. Peter Regulatus
March 30: Also Peter Regalado, Franciscan reformer. Peter was born at ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter