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March 5, 2019

What is Adoration?


Eucharistic Adoration: Traditional Liturgical

 

The Church draws her life from the Eucharist. This truth does not simply express a daily experience of faith, but recapitulates the heart of the mystery of the Church. In a variety of ways, she joyfully experiences the constant fulfillment of the promise: "And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age." (Mt 28:20) But in the Holy Eucharist, through the changing of bread and wine into the body and blood of the Lord, she rejoices in this presence with unique intensity.
            –Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, encyclical letter on the Eucharist and its relationship to the Church (2003)

Fifty or so years ago, many Catholic parishes had some kind of Eucharistic Adoration service on their weekly schedule. A time to spend in the real presence of Jesus Christ. At my parish, we would pray the rosary and hold Benediction on Sunday evenings, plus Novena and Benediction on Wednesday nights. We also held a monthly Holy Hour on First Friday evening, plus an annual Forty Hours devotion in the Fall. The real presence of Christ and these unique forms of prayer are some of the most beautiful aspects of the Catholic faith. And it was all part of our active parish life, and I have fond memories of serving these devotions as a young altar boy.

On their website, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops gives the following instruction:

The importance of Eucharistic Adoration is shown in the fact that the Church has a ritual that regulates it: the Rite of Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction. This is an extension of the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament which occurs in every Mass: "Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb." Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament flows from the sacrifice of the Mass and serves to deepen our hunger for Communion with Christ and the rest of the Church. The Rite concludes with the ordained minister blessing the faithful with the Blessed Sacrament.

Eucharistic Adoration seemed to diminish for a short while, but it has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years — thanks in part to curiosity and interest in the devotion by our young people. Other writers will reflect on contemporary Adoration in youth and young adult ministry, but in this blog, I want to share a few ideas on how to establish Adoration on the parish level.

As spoken in the 1989 film, Field of Dreams, "if you build it, they will come." If your parish is interested in having a regular Adoration service, if they are wanting time to spend with Jesus, the best way to begin is simply to begin. Schedule a day and time on your parish calendar, invite your congregation during the Sunday announcements, and post it in your parish website and bulletin. Offer them the opportunity to spend an hour with the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ. Trust me, people will come.

At first, it might be just a few people. But remember, Jesus said, "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." (Mt 18:20) Eucharistic Adoration is one of the great traditions of the Catholic Church. Word will get out. Invite your RCIA candidates as a way of introducing them to contemplative prayer. Let your youth minister know, so he or she can invite the teens. Even if they are already doing Adoration during Lifeteen or for XLT events, they need to know that Eucharistic Devotion, Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, is part of the everyday life of the parish, and that they are welcome to come and pray.

Organizing Adoration

Mike Prusynski is the Adoration ministry leader at my parish, Holy Trinity Church, in Beaverton, Oregon. He shares some simple and effective ministry resources and organizational ideas.

"We start with Benediction after First Friday 8:15 a.m., Mass in our side chapel, with about 75 people attending. Following what is on the inside back cover of the Today's Missal, we sing "O Salutaris" and "Tantum Ergo." The priest blesses the people with the monstrance, we pray the Divine Praises, and we sing "Holy God, We Praise Thy Name." About five to 10 people stay to adore for a short while, but it dwindles down to just a few adorers by 9:15 a.m., as people depart for work."

Parishioners sign up for the ministry of adorer — one who prays and ensures that there is always someone present in the chapel with the exposed Blessed Sacrament, the sacred host. This ministry continues through the night, except between 11:00 p.m. (when the consecrated host is returned to the tabernacle), and 4:30 a.m., when it is exposed again in the monstrance with assigned adorers.

Mike continues:

"Before First Saturday 8:15 a.m., Mass starts, the priest comes in, and we pray the Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary. Sometimes we pray the Divine Praises, then the priest blesses the people with the monstrance, reposes the Blessed Sacrament, and we begin Mass.
"My responsibilities have been to maintain an email list so I can send a reminder once a month, and arrange for substitute adorers when someone can't make their assigned slot. We move a book stand out to the chapel on First Fridays with Bibles and other reading material appropriate for Adoration. I make copies of the schedule which I post with a sign-in/sign-out sheet on the book stand."

You'll notice that our parish Adoration is built around the Mass, which bookends the service. Thus, Adoration leads us back to the celebration of the eucharistic liturgy. We also have a twice-monthly Holy Hour on First and Third Thursdays from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., in our chapel. It's led by our Deacon Brett Edmonson and consists of Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, songs of praise, the rosary, brief readings from Scripture or the writings of the saints, silent Adoration, intercessory prayer and Benediction.

"During Holy Hour intercessions, we pray together for the parish, the Church, our country, the world, those in need and more," says Deacon Brett. "This isn't a prayer experience where folks are looking primarily to 'get something out of it.' They're coming to give, and they do it consistently. I think that's really remarkable, especially in our culture.
"Most of the time, the fruits of our prayer together remain hidden from us. Though, I think everyone who attends could attest to ways that our prayer has worked powerfully from time to time in their life or in the life of someone for whom we've been praying. I'm sure that our prayers have helped contribute to the continuing positive energy of our parish community."

Conclusion

Adoration calls us to take a break from our busy lives and enter into quiet contemplation. The blessings are abundant — most especially the opportunity to spend time in the presence of our eucharistic Lord and deepen our relationship with him. And while it's true that we can walk into any Catholic church in the world and pray before the tabernacle at any time, there is something to be said about the eucharistic presence, the grace of joining together as the Body of Christ, all called to Eucharistic Adoration. Where two or three are gathered, indeed.

A future blog will discuss the custom of Perpetual Adoration as a form of prayer and its role in our Catholic faith.

Looking for an official guide to Adoration and Order of Service? See the Rite of Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction.

 

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Ken Canedo

Ken Canedo, music development specialist at OCP, serves as a pastoral musician at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Beaverton, Oregon. He is an accomplished liturgical composer and author of works such as Fish With Me and From Mountains High. Ken also hosts the popular liturgy podcast on ocp.org.