I remember from long ago, how Catholics were criticized as being ritualistic. We have memorized the lines and actions of Masses and novenas in observance of the prescribed rites. Because of this 'automation' we are dismissed for lacking sincerity and mindfulness when praying and worshipping. Moreover, they look at the traditions as holdovers of Roman paganism and this was something Jesus explicitly wanted to abolish.
With that in mind, some had broken away from Catholicism and set up their own groups. They started out not prescribing any set list of prayers and actions. They preferred to be spontaneous and prayed from the heart. They would 'go with the flow' and sing and pray. That was how a lot of these break-away groups started, in the 80's and well into the 90's.
Some of them remain up to this time. However, I have observed that for a lot of these groups, they have started to institutionalize their worship services. And though most of their prayers remain spontaneous, spoken by their heads and ministers, the worship activity itself has taken on form and structure, followed regularly by the members. I look at these and think that they have evolved their own rites and rituals.
I believe that rituals, institutionalized forms and activities, naturally 'come into being' in any organization. Even the most amorphous of organizations would eventually establish some regular, structured meeting, if only to be more efficient with its use of time and resources. In the readings of Friday and Saturday, the Lord God himself was prescribing the rituals to be observed by the Jews for the year, in much detail.
I didn't think Jesus was out to abolish these. He observed the rites of the Jews. He instructed his followers to follow them but not their example (of hypocrisy). He knew the need for these. And ultimately, the Last Supper was a similar prescription - "Do this in memory of me." But He did not just say "Do this." He added "..in memory of me", emphasizing the need to be "mindful" of the reason for the ritual, of the spirit behind it. This, for me, is another great example of what He meant by saying "I did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it."
Our formula prayers, one of which Jesus himself taught us, direct us to focus on the best way to express ourselves to our God. These were never meant to replace personal prayer, in my opinion. These were written by inspired writers to express their loving relationship with God and with the Saints. But we find such beauty in the prose, such eloquence and relevance that we could not help but adopt these as our own, to articulate our own personal relationship.
Yet, I do agree that there is a need to 'reintroduce' mindfulness in our observances. By carefully 'minding' the words in the prayers and novenas, you would delightfully come across terms that have not been in 'general circulation'. "Lamentation" "Sorrow" "banished children of Eve" "Clement" "Begotten" "Beseech" Re-discovering these terms and trying to use them in everyday language is quite a mental exercise. "I am sorrowful." "I have such a clement boss." "I beseeched my partner to watch the Madonna concert with me. " Hihihi These always make me smile.
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