I'm currently reading "Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way," by Blessed John Paul II. He wrote this with the intended audience of his bishops. Men that govern and serve diocese around the world--leaders of the Church. He goes into minute detail over several traditions, symbolic practices, artifacts and customs within the Church--all that seem to have had profound emotional meaning to him.
I can sense his deep respect and connection to these rituals, but his most poignant commentary is when he deflects from the official churchiness of something and just communicates universally on the calling to be a leader in the Church, the expectations of a leader, the qualities of a person whose aim is to guide his congregation to salvation and even those outside of his congregation--those who have yet to accept Christ--into the loving and just arms of God.
Having once been a student of the Catholic religion, I have first hand experience with the traditions and customs that come with being a Catholic, even as simple as genuflecting before entering your pew and when to appropriately make the sign of the cross, when to stand, kneel, sit, etc, and I've observed and studied the traditions and symbolic acts of the priests, the nuns, the arch-bishops, and even the pope himself!
Our lives as Catholics are like carefully choreographed dances--each move a symbolic act of some ancient milestone in our faith that we must routinely perform lest we forget the significance of those early revelations and veer off the righteous path toward damnation.
What's my point?!?!?!
My point, I suppose, is that God's love is our only salvation. That regardless of what tradition we may practice, when we feel deeply the love of God--enough to allow it to penetrate our every cell so that it transforms us into people who love others no matter what--then whether I genuflect, or cross myself, or celebrate the Eucharist every Sunday or practice any other routine, tradition, or custom that inevitably creeps into all churches (because we as humans crave routine and familiarity) we are universally saved through Christ's blood. BECAUSE I am now completely convinced that not a single Christian denomination can have the full, complete, and perfect expression of faith. Because we as people are not full, complete, and perfect practitioners of faith. Because we as humans are incapable of knowing the fullness of truth without the Spirit's revelation.
I find that once upon a time had someone criticized Catholicism for its customs I would have lashed out with my defensive guns ablaze. (And to be honest, I do still find myself defending this religion wholeheartedly from attack stemming from ignorance and intolerance--even from other Christians.) But having stepped away these several years, I can see how and why these ancient rituals seem archaic, redundant, and unnecessary to others who do not feel the profound emotional and spiritual connection within these acts as many Catholics and especially the clergy of Catholicism feel. Reading this book just shows me further how God can use any number of expressions to tie souls to Himself, to connect man with His eternal Spirit, to enable His people to experience and feel His presence.
Regardless if we find them unnecessary, it is clear that John Paul II respected these symbols of his succession of the apostle Peter. He loved the Lord, and he loved the Lord's people. So in the end, regardless of his routines, he was a holy and blessed man, worthy of respect and a cherished model of Christian living.