Ah, the Raccolta. Published from 1807 to 1950, this indispensable book is the best-kept secret of Catholic folk magic. I've been known to reach for it on many occasions: on feast days, in times of stress, during Mass, after the death of a family member. If I have one piece of advice for you, this book would be it. It's short for Raccolta delle orazioni e pie opere per le quali sono sono concedute dai Sommi Pontefici le SS. Indulgenze--that is, "Collection of Prayers and Good Works for Which the Popes Have Granted Holy Indulgences". As the title suggests, it's a treasury of prayers which before Vatican II were believed to have particular merit. After Vatican II, the Church cut down on the number of prayers held in such high regard. But many believe the contents of the Raccolta remain effective.
The Raccolta contains more than just the standard short prayers you would find on the back of a santino or holy card. It also describes novenas, hymns, and ejaculations--that is, short prayers which are said throughout the day to keep the mind focused on piety and to consecrate one's daily life. Some of the prayers are only "valid" if spoken in front of a particular image or on a particular day of the liturgical year. These instructions reflect what Andrew Greeley refers to as the "Catholic imagination":
Catholics live in an enchanted world, a world of statues and holy water, stained glass and votive candles, saints and religious medals, rosary beads and holy pictures. But these Catholic paraphernalia are mere hints of a deeper and more pervasive religious sensibility which inclines Catholics to see the Holy lurking in creation. As Catholics, we find our houses and our world haunted by a sense that the objects, events, and persons of daily life are revelations of grace….
This special Catholic imagination can appropriately be called sacramental. It sees created reality as a ‘sacrament,’ that is, a revelation of the presence of God.
Unfortunately, many of the saints included in the book are of the less popular sort. (I hope by saying so I haven't offended any devotees of St. Homobonus.) Conversely, many of our favorite folk saints are not included. Nevertheless, there are some beautiful prayers in the Raccolta in honor of the Madonna, including the Mater Dolorsa, and the souls in Purgatory.
You might use the Raccolta to:
- Pray for your deceased relatives
- Prepare your own soul for the journey to the underworld
- Perform bibliomancy, for example, to find a prayer that will be particularly helpful to you in that moment
- Perform a devotion to a saint, such as St. Joseph or St. Anthony
- Pray a novena, for example, one of the five novenas to the Madonna in preparation for her feast days
You can read the Raccolta online for free: