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Eucharistic Adoration: Reviving An Ancient Tradition | Valerie Schmalz
| October 3, 2005
"The Church draws her life from the Eucharist." - Opening sentence
of Ecclesia de Eucharistia, Pope John Paul IIs encyclical
on the Eucharist
FLORRISANT, Missouri | For ten years, at about 3 a.m. twice a week, Delphie
Russell would close down BJs Tavern, her familys restaurant
and bar in this suburb of St. Louis, and pop into St. Ferdinand Catholic
Church for an hour or two of Eucharistic adoration.
"It really was perfect for me," Mrs. Russell said. "If
I had to work, I was out of the bar by 2:30 and I could always do the
3 a.m. I did Mondays and Thursdays. Because we owned a saloon, I never
went to bed until the saloon closed, whether I went to work or not."
St. Ferdinands has had perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament
in the convent
chapel next door for 23 years, with thousands of people through the years
committing to spend an hour or more a week keeping Our Lord company, said
Ann Linkul, St. Ferdinands coordinator of adoration. It all began
when two parishioners, Ed and Blanche Rowles attended a Eucharistic Congress
in Philadelphia more than 25 years ago, Mrs. Rowles recalled.
"Archbishop Fulton Sheen was there and he gave this powerful homily
on the benefits of making a Holy Hour. He sold my husband so much that
on his own he got permission from our pastor," got a key to the church,
and began spending an hour in adoration before the 6 a.m. Mass each day,
she said. Sheen, who made a promise at his ordination to spend an hour
a day in a Holy Hour, was a strong advocate of Eucharistic adoration.
In 1982, when the Rowles pastor gave them permission to see if they
could muster interest for perpetual adoration at St. Ferdinands,
650 people signed up, Mrs. Rowles said.
St. Ferdinand is part of the Archdiocese
of St. Louis, which is remarkable for experiencing a surge in Eucharistic
Adoration that now includes almost every church in the diocese, according
to George Knollmeyer, a member of the archdiocesan committee on Eucharistic
Eucharistic adoration is a long-standing Catholic tradition that fell
into disuse in most quarters after Vatican II despite the councils
emphasis on the Eucharist as the "source and summit of life"
(Lumen Gentium 11; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church,
1324) in its discussions and writings.
During the first part of the twentieth century, it was common for Catholics,
young and old, on their way home from work or school, en route to the
grocery store or a sports practice, to "stop in for a visit"
to the Blessed Sacrament in their local church. Most times the Eucharist
was not exposed, but a red candlethen, as nowshowed the Presence
in the tabernacle.
With a rise in crime, more closed churches, an increasingly hurried and
harried society, and a different approach to Mass and the Eucharist, the
practice drifted away.
However, Eucharistic adoration is returning around the country, says a
priest who for the past sixteen years has helped parishes set it up. Father
Robert Goedert, O.P. works with Chicago-based The Real Presence Association,
an organization devoted to spreading the practice of quiet time before
the exposed Eucharist on the altar. "Im booked now through
December" in places from Texas to California and Colorado, Father
Goedert told IgnatiusInsight.com.
Father Rob Panke, who works with young adults in Washington, D.C., agrees
that adoration is showing up in niches around the country, including in
his hometown of Scarsdale, N.Y. where his mother has successfully established
"Adoration is making a comeback. I think it is just the desire of
the Lord," said Father Panke, founder of a monthly young adults adoration
group Christ in the City [http://www.usccb.org/generationchrist/maniatis.shtml]
at St. Patricks Church in Washington, D.C, and director of priest
vocations for the D.C. archdiocese.
Father Panke said his group, founded about two years ago, now has 300
people on its list, with 125 attending at the most recent second Thursday.
The group has branched out, helping others, going on hikes and even pilgrimages.
"Its really popular. People really come," Father Panke
said. "I do believe special graces are given to those who have a
devotion to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. It makes all our hearts
a little softer and many graces are won."
"The basis for all Eucharistic devotion is the fact that Christ in
the Blessed Sacrament is the Son of God in human form," wrote the
John Hardon, S.J., founder of The Real Presence Association. Visiting
with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, exposed or within the Tabernacle,
is an opportunity for grace, Fr. Hardon writes: "Provided we approach
the Real Presence with believing love, Christ will perform wonders of
His grace in our lives."
adoration began in some form early in Church history but it was clearly
promoted by a succession of popes beginning in the Middle Ages, including
Pope Urban IV who established the Feast of Corpus Christi in the 13th
century and Pope Pope Clement VIII who in 1592 instituted 40 Hours Devotion.
In present times, Pope Paul VI issued a doctrinal analysis of the Eucharist
in his 1965 encyclical Mysterium
Fidei in 1965 and in 2003 Pope John Paul II published Ecclesia
De Eucharistia, which will be the basis of much of the discussion
at the October 2-23, 2005 Bishops Synod in Rome.
The 11th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops
will have as its topic "The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life
and Mission of the Church." Among the topics included in Instrumentum
Laboris, issued in preparation for the Synod, is that of Eucharist
Adoration, which it states belongs both within the Mass and also outside
John L. Allen, Jr., reporter for the National Catholic Reporter,
notes that a 1993 Gallup poll found only thirty percent of Catholics believe
they are receiving the body and blood of Christ in communion.
"Many Vatican officials, bishops and liturgical activists believe
that in the reforms that followed the Second Vatican Council (1962-65),
which tended to emphasize the role of the worshipping community and the
dimension of the Mass as a meal, this core teaching has been to some extent
eclipsed," wrote Allen in a recent edition of his popular The
Word from Rome column (September 30, 2005).
Going to Mass comes first, says Father Panke, "Adoration flows from
the sacrifice of the Mass, thats where we get the Eucharistthrough
the sacrifice of the Mass."
Real Presences Father Goedert says many parishes can manage a certain
number of hours of adoration rather than Perpetual adoration. The key
is having accessible times, Father Goedert said. For instance, many parishes
will try to have it only during the daya time that doesnt
work for most working people or parents with small children.
"Any pastor will tell you, once they get adoration going, it definitely
increases attendance, weekdays and Sundays," Father Goedert said.
"Some people who have a problem with adoration say it will take people
away from Mass. Thats nonsense. All the facts show that people who
start going to adoration start going to Mass more and. Theres no
competition. Its the same Lord."
Father Panke agrees: "I think what can intimidate pastors is Perpetual
adoration. I am a firm believer in starting small; start with one hour
Many say vocations and Mass attendance can increase with adoration.
"All of those fellows who have entered the seminaries in the last
five yearsI would be willing to say a huge number have told me they
found their vocation through Eucharistic adoration," Father Goedert
said. "Because they are there alone with the Lord, there are no distractions.
Its a very personal visit with the Lord: somehow the Lord speaks
A devotion to the Blessed Sacrament underlies some cloistered religious
orders, including the Order of
Poor Clare Nuns of Perpetual Adoration, the Maronite Monks
of Adoration, and the Holy
Since 1995, a concerted push has been underway in the St. Louis Archdiocese,
begun by then-Archbishop Justin Rigali (now Cardinal
of Philadelphia and an elected representative to the Synod underway
in Rome) and continued by Archbishop
Raymond Burke, said Knollmeyer.
When it started in 1995, there were about nine parishes with Perpetual
adoration and "twenty or so with an organized approach to Eucharistic
adoration," Knollmeyer said. Now there are 23 Perpetual adoration
parishes and most of the archdioceses 200 parishes have organized
Adoration at some point during the week, he said.
St. Louis-based Covenant Network radio stations are dedicated to evangelizing
the Catholic faith "through the grace we receive from Our Lord in
the Blessed Sacrament," said Tony Holman, president of Covenant Network. The network
is dedicated to the Real Presence and includes sevens stations and five
translators from the Dakotas to Indiana, Missouri, and Illinois.
Instrumentum Laboris issued in advance of the Synod, the topic
of Eucharistic adoration is addressed as one of the ways to restore a
sense of Christs presence in the Eucharist to the faithful. Coming
on the heels of Pope John Paul IIs encyclical on the Eucharist,
it emphasizes the Eucharists centrality to the Church. The document
focuses particularly on how the faithful understand the Eucharist and
proper action in regard to it.
"The Eucharist is a priceless treasure: by not only celebrating it
but also by praying before it outside of Mass, we are enabled to make
contact with the very wellspring of grace," wrote Pope John Paul
II in Ecclesia de Eucharistia.
In that document, Pope John Paul II also noted that the liturgical reform
inaugurated by Vatican II "has greatly contributed to a more conscious,
active and fruitful participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar on
the part of the faithful."
He added, "In many places, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament
is also an important daily practice and becomes an inexhaustible source
. Unfortunately, alongside these lights, there are
also shadows. In some places the practice of Eucharistic adoration
has been almost completely abandoned."
John Paul II wrote that it was the responsibility of pastors to encourage
the practice of Eucharistic adoration "and exposition of the Blessed
Sacrament in particular."
In his writings as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI also emphasizes
the significance of Eucharistic adoration as part of the life of the Church.
In his book God Is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life, for
instance, Pope Benedict XVI says: "Only within the breathing space
of adoration can the Eucharistic celebration indeed be alive
and adoration do not stand side by side, or even in opposition, but are
Related IgnatiusInsight.com articles and columns:
and Purpose of the Year of the Eucharist | Carl E. Olson
Adoration: The Hour That Makes My Day | Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen
Source and Summit of Christian Spirituality | Mark Brumley
The Doctrine (and
the Defense) of the Eucharist | Carl E. Olson
Our Daily, Everlasting
Bread | Carl E. Olson
Forgive, For Eucharist's
Sake | Carl E. Olson
On Saying Mass (And Saying It Correctly) | James V. Schall, S. J.
The Mass of
Vatican II | Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J.
at the Feet of the Lord | Anthony E. Clark
The Biblical Roots
of the Mass | An Interview with Thomas J. Nash
Related Ignatius Press books and resources:
Eucharistic Texts and Prayers throughout Church History | Daniel
Is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life | Joseph Cardinal
Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist | Abbot Vonier
Splendid Eucharist: Reflections on Mass and Sacrament | Raymond
Hidden Manna: A Theology of the Eucharist | Fr. James T. O'Connor
Us Today: On the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist
| Fr. John Hardon, S.J.
Your Mind Wanders at Mass | Thomas Howard
Book: Eucharistic Adoration | Katherine M. Sotnik
the Presence of Our Lord (video) | Fr. Benedict Groeschel
Am the Living Bread: Discovering Jesus in the Eucharist (video)
Power of His Presence (video)
Children Adore (video) | Fr. Antoine Thomas
A Eucharistic Healing Album (CD) | Flynn Family
Divino Nino: Hymns to Our Eucharistic King (CD) | Poor Clare Nuns
of Perpetual Adoration
Valerie Schmalz is a writer for IgnatiusInsight.
She worked as a reporter and editor for The Associated Press, and in print
and broadcast media for ten years. She holds a BA in Government from University
of San Francisco and a Master of Science from the School of Foreign Service
at Georgetown University. She is the former director of Birthright of San
Francisco. Valerie and her wonderful husband have four children.
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