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Handbook for Mortals : Finding Meaning

Religious Rituals -- A Sampler


Most denominations include prayer. Prayer can be formal, recited or read by an individual such as a member of the clergy or congregation, or informal, created spontaneously to give thanks or praise or for specific needs. For some people, meditation and silence are forms of prayer.


Many religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, have a form of confession. Christians, including Catholics, usually make private confessions to a clergy member, while Jews and Muslims may confess sins to family or in ritual prayers. All who confess do so with the expectation of forgiveness.


Christians often partake of bread and wine as a ritual remembrance of Jesus' death and resurrection. The Eucharist, as it is often called, is meant to nourish one's soul. Communion is usually given by a clergy member or lay minister.


Priests and ministers in many faiths bless the sick by anointing them with sacred oils, often touching them on the forehead, hands, or diseased part of the body. Once called "the last rites," Roman Catholics now receive "the sacrament of the sick," in which communion, confession, and anointing occur. This sacrament, which is considered to be a healing one for the soul, can be received several times during an illness.

Religious Items

For many people, items such as icons, statues, rosaries, medallions, prayer beads, and prayer wheels offer a comforting connection to their beliefs.

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