April 20-26, 2006
VOL 125 NO. 15
By Connie Cissell/ SUN editor
Can You Find an Hour to Spend with Him?
The gift of the Eucharist is something not instituted by any followers of Jesus but instead something given to all humankind by Jesus himself. The Last Supper was the setting chosen by Jesus in which to provide — throughout all time — the gift of His Body and His Blood. It is through this gift that Catholics believe the fulfillment of Jesus’ words,
“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.”
When these words are taken into consideration, Eucharistic adoration is indeed a compelling practice. When one is spending time before the Blessed Sacrament, either exposed or in the tabernacle, one is spending time with Jesus himself. Maybe that explains the special benefits that many say come to those who practice the devotion.
Saints throughout history have exalted the Eucharist — St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Peter Julian Eymard to name a few. Blessed Mother Teresa instructed her sisters to practice adoration of the Blessed Sacrament daily. In fact, there are religious orders whose entire ministry is to venerate the Blessed Sacrament.
Reserving a special place for the Eucharist is recorded very early in Christianity. Especially when under attack, early hermits or monks would hide the Eucharist or sometimes wear it in a pouch on their person as they traveled. The EWTN Web site, www.ewtn.com, states that St. Basil (who died in 379) divided the Eucharist into three parts when he celebrated Mass at his monastery: one part he consumed, the second part he gave to the monks and the third part he placed in a golden dove suspended over the altar. All the rich history and tradition is available for reflection. Why, then, aren’t all the doors of all the churches unlocked for this beautiful gift so freely given? Why aren’t all the faithful lining up to “spend one hour” with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament?
One could argue that belief in the teaching of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist has become a tenet of the faith that has declined in the U.S. There is, however, a revival of veneration of this central element of Catholicism, the Eucharist, underway in many churches. Today, people can actually sign up for virtual Eucharistic adoration on the Internet.
In the Diocese of Syracuse, Bishop James Moynihan is embarking on a mission to promote the devotion of Eucharistic adoration throughout the diocese. He will be highlighting its significance by gathering with parishioners in each region for Mass, Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, a half hour for private prayer and Benediction. The bishop’s first visit is at 10 a.m. on April 29 at St. Francis Xavier Church in Marcellus. His hope is that people will be praying for vocations in front of the Blessed Sacrament. While working in the Rochester Diocese alongside Bishop Fulton Sheen, Bishop Moynihan said he observed the bishop’s dedication to Holy Hour practice before the Blessed Sacrament. “He was faithful to it every day,” Bishop Moynihan remembered.
Bishop Moynihan said he hopes that the people of the diocese will spend at least 20 minutes at a time in front of the Blessed Sacrament and while his hope is that they will pray for an increase in vocations to the priesthood and religious life, he said he knows those who practice the devotion will realize personal benefits as well. “An increase in personal holiness will be the result,” Bishop Moynihan said.
Ron Stott is a devotee of the practice of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. He practiced the devotion on and off for 20 years, but over the last two years has become convinced of the benefits it brings to his life and the lives of those he comes into contact with. Stott is responsible for bringing seven monstrances (which hold the Sacred Host during adoration) back from Rome after they were blessed by either Pope John Paul II or Pope Benedict XVI. All but one of the monstrances are being used in this diocese. His dream is to form something he calls “Guardians of the Eucharist.”
“An individual would commit to adoration at least once a week, participate in the Eucharist at least once a week and help to promote an understanding of Catholic teaching on the Eucharist,” Stott explained. “We have to let people know that something wonderful happens when we go to Our Lord in adoration.” Stott said that Christ specifically chose bread and wine because they enable Him to complete His promise to be with humankind always. “No Christian doubts He’s Our Lord and Savior, that he died on the cross for our sins — past, present and future,” Stott said. “Jesus realizes in our lives we need extra help. We need something only Jesus can give. We need spiritual food. He wants us to love our neighbor, but to live like Him we need His grace in our lives.”
God’s unconditional love is hard to fathom, Stott said. Most people find it difficult to believe that God could love them no matter what they did in the past or do in the future, he said. “When He loves you unconditionally what He is really doing is allowing you to love others unconditionally,” he said.
Through devotion to Eucharistic adoration, Stott said he finds himself being more patient. “Ask my wife,” he laughed. Stott said he is more compassionate and looks for ways to give of himself because he feels that is exactly what God wants of him. He cited Pope Benedict’s first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, (“God is Love”). In the encyclical, which can be found in its entirety on www.vatican.va, Pope Benedict defines various types of love. The pope says that the faithful can find God’s love in the Eucharist and that they should let themselves be embraced by God’s love. And, Pope Benedict wrote, God calls all people into relationship with Him.
That relationship with God is what some of the young people of the diocese are seeking these days. The Eucharistic adoration room at a recent youth rally at St. Matthew’s Church in East Syracuse was so filled with young people that there was no room to sit. At St. Joseph’s Church in Oneida, Father Edmund Castronovo has instituted perpetual Eucharistic adoration. The youth group in his parish attends adoration together once a month. A core group of 10 of the young people go every Saturday night.
Ellen Breckenridge is in charge of the youth group at St. Joseph’s. “Imagine,” she said, “teenagers spending their Saturday nights at church. It’s hard to believe, but that’s what they’re doing.” Breckenridge describes the young people as “full of the light of Christ” and said they have boldness and courage in their faith. Eucharistic adoration has touched her family especially, she said. Her two teenage daughters go with the youth group once a month and go every Saturday night. She observes her own Holy Hour once a week, as does her husband. When speaking about the benefits she has found personally, Breckenridge laughed, “Well, like I told my sister, either someone is putting prozac in my orange juice in the morning, or it’s the adoration. I’m just so full of joy,” she said.
Andrew Herter, a 17-year-old senior at Holy Cross Academy in Oneida, is a member of St. Joseph’s youth group. He said he has been attending Eucharistic adoration for a year and a half and it has made a tremendous difference in his life. “Throughout the week I can get kind of down and by the end of the week my prayer time is slipping,” Andrew admitted. “But, once I go to Holy Hour on Saturday it renews my spiritual strength. My prayer life is better afterwards. I love going on Saturdays because then Mass is the next day and it [adoration] prepares me for the Mass. It’s an amazing experience.”
To get started on adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, one needs an open church to go to and an open mind to bring to it, said one devotee. While sitting or kneeling before the tabernacle or a monstrance, some people pray the psalms, some meditate on Scripture, some read about the lives of saints and pray with that saint, some pray the rosary, some have a conversation with Jesus and others simply sit in silence with the Lord.
St. Peter Julian Eymard, who founded a religious order based on devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, advised, “Go to the good Lord very simply, with the surrender of a small child. Tell the good Lord what you are thinking, what you want, what is upsetting you. Oh! How happy we become when we discover this interior conversation with our Lord. We carry our treasure [with us] everywhere. He becomes the center of our heart and life.”
Editor’s note: The “Happenings” section of The Catholic SUN lists churches offering Eucharistic adoration by county, or ask the pastor or parish council members about beginning this devotion at your church.