Log in

Catholic devotions

Catholic devotions arise out of the intersection of personal faith, culture and the Gospel, responding to the spiritual needs of the culture in which they take shape. They are practiced by praying certain prayers at specific intervals, wearing certain items or performing specific actions with intention. Here are some common Catholic devotions.
St. Joseph 
“St. Joseph is always there for me,” said Sister of St. Joseph Shirley Davis of Rutland, a former principal of Mount St. Joseph Academy there. Even before she joined the religious order that bears his name, she looked forward to being St. Joseph’s sister.
“’Ite Ad Joseph,’ (‘Go to Joseph’) is a great starting place for any need,” she said. “Joseph was quite a man in his time. His humility, fidelity, willingness to put up with hardships, etc. are very praiseworthy. I suspect that Jesus and His Mother will give Joseph whatever he asks. I like a sure thing.”
Now a foster grandparent in Rutland, Sister David often meditates on a special prayer to St. Joseph, foster father of Jesus. “I look to him now to help me to know what to say and how to say the right words to touch the hearts and minds of the high school students with whom I am privileged to be each day,” she said.
She prays that foster children be connected to the loving, kind and firm foster parents and grandparents that they need and that these foster parents and foster grandparents will love them and enable them to grow.
And, “As St. Joseph was with his family of Jesus and Mary refugees themselves, I invoke St. Joseph to care for the many refugees in our world today,” she said.
The Divine Mercy
The message of The Divine Mercy is that God loves every one, even the greatest sinners. He wants us to recognize that His mercy is greater than our sins, so that we will call upon Him with trust, receive His mercy and let it flow through us to others so all will come to share His joy.
Kathleen Grange of St. Sylvester Parish in Graniteville began her devotion to The Divine Mercy in 1996 when her parish priest gave her a copy of "Divine Mercy in My Soul,” the diary of St. Faustina, with his hand-written note on the inside cover: "May this book of Divine Mercy be for you a source of many spiritual blessings."
As part of her devotion, she recites the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, participates in Mercy Sunday devotions, has a Divine Mercy image in her home and joins a prayer circle at which participants pray for those in need, belongs to The Divine Mercy Cenacle to study St. Faustina's diary in conjunction with sacred scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church and practices the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
“The Divine Mercy message is more than a devotion; it is a way of life,” Grange said. “My faith has deepened as I have a better understanding of the role of trust, forgiveness and mercy in my daily life, where my faith must be put into action. We all need healing from the ‘merciful physician,’ and as we have received mercy, so we are to extend mercy to others.”
St. Anne
Generations of the Racine Family have been devoted to St. Anne.
Dr. Celine Racine Paquette has had a devotion to St. Anne since childhood: Her parents took the family to St. Anne’s Shrine in Isle LaMotte and to The Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré in Quebec.
Her ancestor, Etienne Racine, who arrived in Quebec from Normandy in 1634, gave some of his farmland for the first chapel at St. Anne de Beaupre.
“I pray daily to St. Anne as I am reminded that she is the mother of Mary and grandmother of Jesus. I love the pictures and statues where she is presented with Mary on her lap. I see a mother who is teaching her child. This is very inspiring to me,” said Racine, who was married at St. Anne’s Shrine and served on its board.
She described St. Anne as maternal, kind, loving, understanding and compassionate.
A parishioner of St. Mary Church in Champlain, N.Y., she takes people to the shrine every year and introduces them to the “lovely space,” she said.
The devotion to St. Anne was brought to the United States and Canada by the first missionaries of North America who came from France. Today, there are hundreds of churches and shrines dedicated to her in the United States and Canada, where she is one of the most popular and beloved saints.
The Feast of St. Anne is celebrated on July 26.
Our Lady of Czestochowa
Our Lady of Czestochowa is the symbol of Polish national unity.
Also know as the Black Madonna, it is an icon of the Madonna and Christ Child, which, according to legend, was created by St. Luke the Evangelist on a tabletop made by St. Joseph and Jesus. Housed in various places through the centuries, the icon is now enshrined and venerated at the Monastery of Jasna Góra in Częstochowa, Poland.
In a 1430 attack on the monastery, a Hussite soldier in an act of sacrilege slashed at the icon with his sword twice. As he raised it a third time, he was struck by lightening, and his companions in fear threw the icon into a fire. The icon was badly damaged and charred, but in spite of attempts by artisans to repair it, the slash marks continue to show and the image remains black and charred as a sign of Mary identifying with the suffering of Poland.
In 1656, King Jan Casimir declared Our Lady of Częstochowa "Queen of Poland" and made the city the spiritual capital of the nation in gratitude for the miraculous defense at Czestochowa of Poland outnumbered by the forces of Sweden and her allies.
Kolo, Poland, native Father Andrew Bednarowicz, administrator of Our Lady of the Valley Parish in Bethel and Rochester, has a strong devotion to Our Lady of Czestochowa. “She has a special place as ‘mother of priests,’” he said.
He prays to Our Lady of Czestochowa each day and said devotion to her is universal.
He has visited the shrine in Czestochowa several times, including as a Catholic school teacher on pilgrimage with students to pray in thanksgiving and for blessings for their future.
“It is a special chapel” where the icon is located, he said. “It is a wonderful moment when a [golden panel] opens and the icon is displayed. It is a [unique] ritual.”
Our Lady of Ephesus
On Aug. 15, 1994 – the Feast of the Assumption -- Our Lady of Ephesus House of Prayer in Jamaica was formed to provide facilities for the spiritual growth of individuals through reflection and prayer. Born of a devotion to Our Lady of Ephesus, the property grew to include a replica of the place in Turkey where tradition holds the disciple John took the Blessed Mother to live with him after Jesus was crucified and from where Our Lady was taken, body and soul, into heaven.
Mary Tarinelli, the director of the house of prayer who has lead numerous pilgrimages to Ephesus, attributed her devotion to her parents’ devotion to Our Lady of Ephesus and to their examples.
Part of the way she lives out that devotion is “by trying to imitate the same experiences as one has when visiting Mary’s House in Ephesus,” she said. That, for example, includes “welcoming everyone who comes to visit as we think Our Blessed Mother would if she were living here today,” she added. “Personally I feel my devotion to Our Lady of Ephesus teaches me what humility and patience are. Spiritually it has brought me much closer to her son.”
Tarinelli was instrumental in the creation of an oratory in honor of Our Lady of Ephesus at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.
The Blessed Mother
The Marian devotion of Charles F. Turner, a parishioner of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Stowe, was nurtured by the practice of a family rosary as a teen, and it increased with a pilgrimage to Medjugorje in 1989. With that, he learned of Father Stefano Gobbi. He founded the worldwide Catholic movement, the Marian Movement of Priests, following an interior locution that he reported in 1972 at the shrine of Our Lady of Fatima.[
Turner broadened his studies to “The Mystical City of God” by Venerable Mary of Agreda to whom the Blessed Virgin dictated her life story. Another mystic, the Venerable Anne Catherine Emmerich also attracted his interest with the descriptions of her visions of the life of Christ as recorded in “The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The Angelus is a prayer he tries to pray daily, joining with family members when they are present. He prays the rosary frequently. “I have completed a series of evening sessions based on the book ‘Hail Holy Queen’ by Scott Hahn and presented at St. Monica Parish in Barre,” he said, noting that a head of the Blessed Virgin, molded in Carrera marble from Michelangelo’s Pieta, has been the most prominent piece of artwork in his home for about 40 years.
Writing short pieces about the life of Christ, the Holy Family and the early Church is the way he refreshes himself on what he has learned through the mystics.
Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary
Kathleen Murphy of St. John the Baptist Church in North Bennington is the media specialist at The School of Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales in Bennington. She has a special devotion to the Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary.
The 33-day consecration prepares participants to focus on the message, “He must increase; I must decrease” (Jn 3:30). “One finds happiness and peace through dependence on God and not feeling like we are the ones in control,” Murphy said. “The result is that Mary can intercede, understand and prioritize our prayer requests.”
St. Louis de Montfort's book, “True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary,” is a book that helps one decide if he or she is ready for the consecration, she explained. One begins with a series morning and evening prayers and fasting in preparation for 33 days prior to a Marian feast day. “The first week we examine our humility and willingness to give up material things that have a hold on us. The second week we ask the Holy Spirit to help us better understand Mary, and the third week we better understand Christ,” she said. “On the day of consecration you fast and/or gives alms, go to confession and Mass with the intention of giving yourself to Jesus by the hands of Mary and finally pray the words of the consecration.”
The devotion enhances her spiritual and daily life. “My prayer is to relinquish the need to be the one in control, entrust God and Mary to help with tough decisions which brings great peace,” she said. “It also provides some structure and reminders to keep a strong prayer life. I pray the rosary everyday; reduce self and desires of the material world; and consider what is God asking of me, not me of God.”
Murphy wears a wristband with a Marian symbol and the words, "Mother I love you" and "Mother help me," which is an outward sign of her devotion.
The Sacred Heart of Jesus
The devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is an ancient devotion in the Church that spread after Jesus appeared to St. Margaret Mary Alocoque and asked her to spread the devotion to His Most Sacred Heart. Jesus asked those who wanted to honor His Most Sacred Heart to “receive Communion on the First Fridays for nine consecutive months” with the intention of making reparation for sins committed against His Most Sacred Heart. He promised those who practiced this devotion would not die in His disfavor or without having received the sacraments.
“This devotion led me to desire to receive Jesus in the Eucharist with as much love and gratitude as possible and spend time before Mass preparing to receive Him and after Mass thanking God for the gift of the Eucharist,” said Robert Murphy, a seminarian for the Diocese of Burlington.
This devotion has helped him grow in love for the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which allowed him to grow closer to God and better experience His mercy in his life.
“I have also learned the importance of showing reverence, gratitude and love in prayer and especially at the Sacrifice of the Mass to make reparation for the ‘sacrilege, contempt, indifference and ingratitude’ that Jesus suffers from those who do not receive the Eucharist with the love and devotion He deserves,” he said. “This devotion emphasizes the necessity of regularly going to confession, avoiding grave sin and honoring the Eucharistic fast of at least one hour before receiving the Eucharist because the Church has given us these minimum requirements to avoid contributing to the offense against Our Lord.”
Our Lady of Knock
Our Lady of Knock was seen by 15 residents of Knock, a poor, small town in County Mayo, Ireland, on Aug. 21, 1879, outside of the Church of St. John the Baptist. St. Joseph and St. John the Evangelist accompanied her; there was also an altar with a lamb and cross on it. In this apparition the Blessed Virgin appeared to all present but remained silent. A prayer to Our Lady of Knock includes the words, “Our Lady of Knock, Queen of Ireland, you gave hope to your people in a time of distress and comforted them in sorrow.”
Our Lady of La Salette
Two children, Maximin Giraud and Mélanie Calvat, reported seeing "a beautiful lady" weeping bitterly on the mountain of La Salette in the French Alps in 1846. Through the children she gave her message of reconciliation to the world and insisted that this message be made known to all her people. She was crying, and around her neck was a crucifix, with a hammer and pincers on either side. The hammer symbolizes the sins of humanity that put the nails into the hands of Jesus; the pincers symbolize the good actions people do that remove the nails from Jesus' hands. 
Our Lady of Lourdes
Our Lady of Lourdes is the title used for the Blessed Mother as she appeared to St. Bernadette Soubirous in Lourdes, France, in 1858. During one of her appearances, Mary told Bernadette to pray for the conversion of sinners. Bernadette asked her who she was, and Mary replied, "I am the Immaculate Conception."
Mary, Undoer of Knots
St. Irenaeus wrote: “The knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by the obedience of Mary; what the virgin Eve bound by her unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosened by her faith.” Inspired by the saint, an unknown artist painted a picture of Mary Undoer of Knots, and since 1700, it has been venerated in the Church of St. Peter in Perlack, Germany. The devotion is more than 300 years old and is not based on an apparition of the Virgin Mary to a person or persons.
Infant of Prague
“The more you honor me, the more I will bless you." This is the promise of the Infant of Prague as heard by Cyril of the Mother of God, a 17th-Century Carmelite in Prague. The statue is of Spanish origin. It became the traditional practice of the shrine in Prague where it was kept to dress it several times each year in the appropriate liturgical color. Replica statues hold in the left hand a sphere representing the world; the right hand is raised in blessing.
St. Jude Novena
St. Jude is the patron saint of hopeless causes and one of Jesus’ original 12 apostles. After his death, many turned to him for his intercession in prayer. Jesus inspired the devotion to St. Jude for St. Bridget of Sweden when he directed her in a vision to turn to St. Jude with great faith and confidence. A novena is a 9-day period of private or public prayer to obtain special graces, to implore special favors or to make special petitions. Each day special prayers are recited. (The word “novena” is derived from the Latin "novem,” which means “nine.”) One prayer asks St. Jude to “pray for me, that I may finally receive the consolations and the succor of Heaven in all my necessities, tribulations and sufferings.”
Forty Hours
The Forty Hours Devotion is a special 40-hour period of continuous prayer before the Blessed Sacrament in solemn exposition. The devotion has been traced back to Milan in about 1530. By 1550, St. Philip Neri and St. Ignatius Loyola had instituted it especially for the reparation of sin. Vatican II upheld and encouraged the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament outside of Mass. St. John Neumann was a strong promoter of the Forty Hours Devotion for the spiritual growth of parishes and individuals.
Miraculous medal
The Miraculous Medal was created in response to a request from the Blessed Virgin Mary to St. Catherine Labouré in 1830 in Paris. Catherine saw Our Lady standing on a globe with dazzling rays of light streaming from her outstretched hands. Framing her was the inscription: “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.” Mary asked Catherine to have a medal struck upon this model and said “those who wear it will receive great graces, especially if they wear it around the neck.”
Guardian angel
Many people include the Guardian Angel Prayer in their morning prayers: “Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God's love commits me here, ever this day be at my side to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen.” The Feast of the Guardian Angels, Oct. 2, is a day to celebrate the Catholic Church's teaching that each person is assigned an angel to help protect and guide him or her through life.
Novena To St. Peregrine
St. Peregrine was known for his preaching, penances and counsel in the confessional. He was cured of cancer after he received a vision of Christ on the cross reaching out His hand to touch his cancerous leg. He died in 1345 and was canonized in 1726.  He is the patron of cancer patients and has been called "The Mighty" and the "The Wonder-Worker” because of the miracles he has obtained from God.
St. Francis of Assisi
St. Francis of Assisi is the founder of the Franciscan Order. He was born at Assisi in Umbria in 1181. He gave up a life of luxury for a life devoted to Christianity after reportedly hearing the voice of God commanding him to rebuild the Church and live in poverty. He is the patron saint of animals and the environment.
St. Gianna Beretta Molla
A pediatrician, working mother and loving wife, St. Gianna was an example of lay sanctity. Born in Italy in 1922, she was pregnant with her fourth child, when a painful fibroma developed in her uterus. She chose surgery to remove the fibroma, the option with the best chance to save the life of her unborn child–even though it was the option that put her own life the most at risk. She told her doctors, “If you must decide between me and the child, do not hesitate: choose the child – I insist on it.  Save her.” Seven days later on April 28, 1962, she died at the age of 39. Among her last words were, “Jesus, I love you.”

-- Originally published in the Summer 2017 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine
Subscribe to this RSS feed
Bishop's Fund Annual Appeal