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Catholic Dictionary




A form of superstition that tries to achieve a certain effect by the use of unsuitable means. Implicit in vain observance is the belief that there are hidden preternatural forces at work in the world which dispense with the need of using ordinary, natural, or supernatural means for obtaining a desired effect. Vain observance also implies the expectation of an infallible result whenever certain words are said or actions performed. There is only a shade of difference between vain observance and divination. In both cases reliance on the evil spirit in involved. But vain observance, unlike divination, is not concerned with obtaining knowledge of the future or of the occult. Its focus is on obtaining some external results, such as making a successful business deal or recovering one's health.