Occasionally throughout the year I will receive an inquiry from the Holy See about one or other aspect of Catholic life in our diocese. Those who assist the pope in his pastoral care for the universal church do their best to give him an accurate picture of the faith and practice of Catholics around the world on an ongoing basis. Every few years, each bishop is asked to report to the pope personally on the life of the diocese. Several months ago I was asked to submit a brief report on the practice of Eucharistic adoration in our diocese. I held on to a copy of the report to remind myself to speak with you about this blessing of Catholic devotion when I had the chance to do so.
We are blessed to have many churches and chapels across our diocese where Eucharistic adoration is offered on a regular basis. Of course, the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in the tabernacle in our churches, and Catholics are encouraged to visit the church to pray privately before the Eucharistic Lord whenever they can make the time. When we speak of Eucharistic adoration, we normally refer to a more formal period of time during which the Eucharist is exposed in the monstrance on the altar. Depending on the local situation, adoration may be scheduled from one to seven days a week, and from one to 24 hours a day. In some communities, parishes or groups of parishes are able to sponsor "perpetual" adoration, and someone is praying before the exposed Blessed Sacrament during every hour of the week, day and night.
By adoring the Lord, outside of the celebration of Mass, we express our belief that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharistic sacrament. We have a duty to adore Jesus Christ because he is the Son of God. We are able to express our gratitude to him for making himself so accessible to us in our churches. We are able to express our love for him in a personal way, in return for the love he expresses by the power of his cross and resurrection.
I encourage you to find a place nearby where Eucharistic adoration is offered and to make time in your week to visit and pray to the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. If this is not already scheduled in your parish, you could put together a group to help organize a period of adoration. Don't be afraid to think small at first. One day a week is a good start and will provide the opportunity for parishioners to become acquainted with the blessing of eucharistic adoration. You can continue to invite more to share this valuable experience.
It is often said that there are large numbers of Catholics who do not hold to the belief in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. We know that clear catechesis on this truth is needed. Our Catholic faith is also reinforced in other ways. To spend time in the presence of the Eucharistic Lord deepens our appreciation for this mystery. Perhaps you could invite someone to come with you to adoration, where the Lord could reveal his loving presence to them in a quiet way. Often those who witness others praying before and adoring the Blessed Sacrament understand that there is something there that they wish to learn more about.
Until I was 5 years old, our family lived in a neighborhood in north Saint Louis where you could walk to everything, to the grocery store, to the barber and to church. Whenever my mother walked with her young children in tow to do an errand or visit a neighbor, the walk would include a visit to St. Edward's Church to say a prayer. It was in the aisle of that church that I learned to genuflect as a preschooler. In my imagination, I can still see and smell that church. It is often difficult to know the exact moment when we come to believe that something is true. I am sure I began to believe in the presence of the Lord in the Eucharist during those visits. I have believed it ever since.
If you are traveling this summer with your children or grandchildren, plan a few minutes to stop at a church along the way just to make a visit besides going to Mass. You will find these few quiet moments refreshing, with no noise and no need to spend money. This is a great way to teach children that there is someone, Jesus, inside our churches, who loves and cares for them. Faith comes through hearing. It also comes through watching adults in quiet prayer in the presence of a personal Lord and Savior.
Printed with permission from the Catholic Times, newspaper for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois.