Catholics throughout history have called members to special devotions for various focal points of God’s attributes. The Sacred Heart of Jesus, for example, gives us an image of love. We use it to make a connection with the reason for His suffering and death. Someone who has trouble contemplating abstract ideas might find this useful to give them a better understanding of love and mercy.
Some devotions are a set of prayers (like the rosary) that we pray on a regular basis. They’re useful for those who have a hard time finding words to communicate with Christ. We contemplate the messages behind the prayers while saying them, thus turning our prayers into a meaningful dialog filled with thought and words.
And finally, there are devotions to saint, who led exemplary lives. These are especially helpful to those who face tribulations not thoroughly addressed in the Bible or in Church literature. Saint Francis of Assisi, for example, might help us through financial struggles as we contemplate his love for Christ and his life of poverty.
Think of it as ‘spiritual dressing’. It adds flavor to our meditations. Some people have trouble contemplating the characteristics of Christ and His Church. Special devotions create a visual or mental plain, where we can come to understand (as far as our minds will allow) the depth of Christ. In some ways, they simplify something complex. In other ways, they take simple concepts and branch them out into subjects worthy of our attention.
Devotions aren’t enforced by the Church. Instead, they’re offered as a gift. There to help us build our relationship with Christ…and in some cases, rediscover it.