Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Kim A. Talbert

10/5/2012 (1 year 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.

Article Highlights

By Kim A. Talbert

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

10/5/2012 (1 year 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'


2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for April 2014
Ecology and Justice:
That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick: That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.



Comments


More Living Faith

John's Paul II's Doctor: I don't know how he survived the shooting Watch

Image of Pope John Paul II miraculously recovered from assassination attempt. After his recovery, he forgave his would-be killer, visiting him in prison.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The doctor to Bl. Pope John Paul II has explained that he doesn't know how the assassin's bullet intended to kill him did not do so. He also talked about the Holy Father in his last days, as he worked amid failing health. "I don't know how he survived the shooting," ... continue reading


Pope Francis calls for your 'prayer and action' to end global hunger Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis helped launch a worldwide movement to end hunger through prayer and action. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Catholic Online with Your Catholic Voice Foundation is participating, along vwith Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities USA and the ... continue reading


Coptic priest added as Pope Francis' second personal secretary Watch

Image of Some say that the appointment of a Coptic Catholic priest is a sign of  Pope Francis' commitment to dialogue with the Arab and Muslim world.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Coptic Catholic priest Yoannis Lahzi Gaid has been personally chosen by Pope Francis as his second personal secretary. Lahzi Gaid is currently working in the first section of the Vatican Secretariat of State and is also one of the "translators" who reads the ... continue reading


From an Ancient Easter Homily: Jesus Christ, the Source of Resurrection and Life Watch

Image of

By An Ancient Anonymous Preacher

Thus the passion of our Savior is the salvation of mankind. The reason why he desired to die for us was that he wanted us who believe in him to live for ever. In the fullness of time it was his will to become what we are, so that we might inherit the eternity he ... continue reading


TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH: Pope Francis delivers powerful Easter message Watch

Image of Pope Francis enters with his candle symbolizing the light of Christ.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis urged Catholics to share their faith "to the ends of the Earth" during a baptism ceremony at St. Peter's Basilica. The solemn ceremony reminds us that we are called to serve amid the joy of the resurrection. The most enduring call of Christ is for us to ... continue reading


Rome already crushed with pilgrims for historic canonization of Pope John Paul II and John XXIII Watch

Image of Hundreds of thousands packed into Rome for the beatification of Pope John Paul II. This time, the numbers will be far greater.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Rome is well-packed with throngs of pilgrims who have begun a week's long vigil awaiting the most historic canonization in world history. Next Sunday, Popes John Paul II and John XXIII will be canonized by Pope Emeritus Benedict and Pope Francis. ROME, ITALY (Catholic ... continue reading


BREAKING THE RULES or IS HE? Pope Francis washes women's feet and those of undetermined religion Watch

Image of This year, Francis arrived at a center for the disabled and elderly in Rome. Francis kneeled down, washed, dried and kissed the feet of a dozen people, some in wheelchairs, other with grossly swollen and disfigured feet.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis has shown little regard for rules in regards to his papacy. The latest controversy now surrounds his washing the feet of 12 disabled and elderly people, some of who were women and non-Catholics. The pre-Easter ritual, Pope Francis is designed to show ... continue reading


'Priestly joy is a priceless treasure,' Pope Francis says Watch

Image of The pope, presiding over the first of two Holy Thursday liturgies, blessed the oils that will be used in the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, ordination and the anointing of the sick.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

If a priest wants to overcome moments of sadness, exhaustion and boredom, in addition to discovering his true identity, he must head for the exit sign, going outside himself to be with God and his people, Pope Francis said during the Chrism Mass at St. Peter's ... continue reading


Who's ready for the most historic canonization in modern history?

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Are you ready for the canonization of Pope John Paul II? Vatican officials are busy preparing for the historic canonization of Popes John Paul II and John XXIII. As they prepare, it's time for use to get ready as well. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - on April 27, a ... continue reading


Pope Francis encourages people to kiss crucifix and recite simple prayer Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis is encouraging people this holy week to pick up a crucifix, kiss it and recite the simple prayer: "Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Lord." He wishes to remind others that Christ's passion "isn't the happy ending of a beautiful fairytale, it isn't 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, Acts 3:11-26
11 Everyone came running towards them in great ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 8:2, 5, 6-7, 8-9
2 even through the mouths of children, or of babes in ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 24:35-48
35 Then they told their story of what had happened on ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for April 24th, 2014 Image

St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen
April 24: Franciscan Capuchin martyr. He was born Mark Rey is Sigmaringen, ... 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