Devotion to the Blessed Sacrament

There are a number of Devotions, once part of every parish, that, for various reasons have become ‘unfashionable’. Once, Benediction was a ‘regular’ (in my parish – Wednesday afternoons) and 40 hours Devotion, once a year. This was in the pre-conciliar days, and certainly there where more priests per parish. If your parish has either of these Devotions – regularly – then you are indeed fortunate.

On a positive note there is a thirst for these devotions and Benediction, Adoration and Quarant Ore are becoming more widespread.

I pray that you will have the opportunity to worship Our Blessed Lord in the Most Holy Sacrament.

Eucharistic Devotions
Benediction; Forty Hours Devotion

By Fr. John P. Grigus, OFM Conv

A number of rites and devotions focus on the Eucharist. They help us to become closer to Jesus and to desire to celebrate the Eucharistic liturgy. Examples include Benediction and Forty Hours Devotion. During these periods of adoration, the Blessed Sacrament is exposed on the altar in a monstrance, a special vessel in which the Eucharist can be viewed and adored.

Benediction
In this eucharistic ceremony the priest or deacon places the Blessed Sacrament in a monstrance. The assembly usually sings a hymn of praise (sometimes “O Salutaris Hostia,” written by Thomas Aquinas). A time of silent prayer follows. Special devotions or Scripture readings are often part of the service. Typically the service ends with a hymn of adoration—often part of the “Pange Lingua” by Aquinas—and then the priest blesses the assembly by making the Sign of the Cross over them with the monstrance.

The practice of exposition and benediction began in the Middle Ages. People did not receive communion very often, so adoration of the Blessed Sacrament was they way in which they connected with Jesus in the Eucharist. The feast of Corpus Christi, or the Body and Blood of Christ, began during this time. On that feast day the Eucharist was placed in a monstrance and carried in procession. Eventually a custom arose in Germany of keeping the Eucharist exposed to view for a certain period of time in church. In France and elsewhere it became the custom to gather in church after work to sing songs to Mary. Over time the two services merged: songs and chanted prayers accompanied the period when the Eucharist was exposed.

Forty Hours Devotion
This is a special period of continuous prayer during which the Eucharist is exposed in a monstrance for adoration. The devotion begins with a Mass followed by continuous adoration over a 40-hour period, and it ends with a Mass and benediction. In the Bible the number 40 is associated with a sacred period of time: the rain at the time of the flood of Noah lasted 40 days and nights, and the Hebrews wandered in the desert for 40 years on the way to the Promised Land. Jesus fasted for 40 days before beginning his public ministry. The devotion was promoted by both Saint Philip Neri and Saint Ignatius of Loyola in the 1500s. In the United States, Saint John Neumann (1811-1860), bishop of Philadelphia, helped spread the devotion.

The Importance of Eucharistic Devotions
Although the Mass is central to Catholic life, devotions to the Eucharist are also important. Through them we can adore Jesus, pray in his presence, express our sorrow for sin, and experience a oneness with him that leads us to participate in the Mass.

HOW TO MAKE A HOLY HOUR
The essence of our call to conversion continues to be reflected in the words which God spoke to his people of old through Moses: “Be holy, for I, the LORD your God, am holy” (Lev 19:2). And in his encyclical letter on the Eucharist issued in 1965 and entitled, Mystery of Faith, Paul VI said that “The most efficacious way of growing in holiness is time spent with Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament.” The fruit of this belief has been attested to by many in recent times through the practice of opening chapels of adoration in parishes so that ordinary, common folks can spend at least an hour a week (a “holy hour”) before the Eucharist presence of Our Lord reposed in a tabernacle or exposed on an altar.

One resistance to making a commitment to such a “holy hour” is a fear, present especially within those who are not used to spending regular quiet time in prayer, of not knowing what to do during that hour.

The following are suggestions adapted from a Marytown publication on how one may go about arranging one’s “holy hour” in such a way as to make it more spiritually meaningful and fruitful.

The first suggestion is: DIVIDE THE HOLY HOUR into four 15minute periods. It is essential to take sufficient time to really visualize the purpose in each period. Do not proceed till you have made that particular purpose clear and definite. The second suggestion is: for that first 15 minute period dedicate it to a REALIZATION OF WHO IS PRESENT in the Holy Eucharist. Think of the marvel of this great reality: Christ, the God-Man, is truly present in his divinity as well as his humanity, body and soul. Even substantially present: not just the presence of God but the presence of God as the God-Man via the substance of bread and wine changed into the Body and Blood of Christ. Think of it until there is in your soul a response of wonder (“is it possible?” “How can that be?” and yet “it is true”) and admiration (how wonderful: Jesus is really, truly present here!).

Make use of some familiar prayers and songs of adoration usually found in any church missalette to reflect more deeply on that presence, such as “Down in Adoration Falling …”, “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name,” the “Holy, Holy, Holy” of the Mass, “Now Praise We All Our God,” or any Benediction hymn. Read the words slowly, with great, deep understanding, making them express the sentiments of your own heart.A suggestion for the second 15 minutes: devote the time to thoughts and prayers of THANKSGIVING to God as you grasp the wonder of who is present Really: God is with us! The Emmanuel of Christmas; Momentarily give some fresh thought to the fact: God is with us in this special, most remarkable way. Now let words of thanksgiving rise up in your soul, or just simply give thanks to God for his presence here in such a remarkable way. Thank God for the great Sacrament of the Priesthood and for vocations by which he perpetuates his presence in the Holy Eucharist.

In a parallel situation think of our Blessed Mother’s joy when she realized that Christ, the great Messiah, was present within her, conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. Realize how the same Jesus who was present there in Mary’s body is now here hidden under the form of bread. You might also take some time to recall and thank God for other special blessings and wonders of God: your family, vocation, gift life, opportunity to be in his Presence, special friends, etc. Thank him for his love for you, for his unfailing help in trials and difficulties.

A suggestion for the next 15 minutes: Dedicate this to PETITION.
First of all, ask Jesus here present in the Holy Eucharist for the grace that is dearest to him, the grace he wants most for you and others: the great blessing of redemption and eternal salvation. – Just think, for some time what that means … for you, for each member of your family, your friends, people of you neighborhood and parish, for all mankind.- Think of how marvelous that would be if all would be so blessed: to be in heaven for all eternity!

- Pray for that! Beg for it: the fulfillment of Christ’s greatest desire and the main reason for his coming, for which he is present here – “Come to me all you who labor and are burdened and I will refresh you” (Mt 11:28).

Pray for conversions. Pray for particular people, those who are away from the Church and the Sacraments. Pray for the sick and lonely, the discouraged, our youth, the unborn, our country, its leaders. Pray for our Holy Father, and for all priests and religious… Pray for vocations to complete the work of Christ. Pray for the grace to know the will of God always in your own life. Pray for peace, God’s peace in the hearts of all.

Dedicate the last 15 minutes of the Holy Hour to ATONEMENT.
Why atonement? A look into one’s own conscience and the conscience of the world gives the answer. A mere glance at headlines and you see insults, blasphemies, defiance thrown by man into the face of God, the injuries of man to man. Think of the sins of injustice that cry to heaven for vengeance, the sins against life, the slurs and insults against the virginity and Immaculate Conception of our Blessed Mother, the sins of disregard, of refusal to recognize and obey the Holy Father, Christ’s own spokesman and Vicar on earth.You might wish to express your thoughts of sorrow for all these sins. You may do so in your own words or make us of the liturgical words of the “Lord, have mercy,” the “Lamb of God” or the hymn “O Lord, I am not worthy.” You might pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, the Litanies of the Sacred Heart or of the Holy Name of Jesus. Also most appropriate is the Litany of our Blessed Mother, asking her under all her titles of honour and power to “pray for all of us.” The Litany of the Saints and the Prayer to Saint Michael could be expressive of the hopes in your heart.A slow, thoughtful saying of the Rosary would be very helpful during any phase of a Holy Hour. With our Blessed Mother and with Christ present there before you in the Holy Eucharist, recall and consider those events in his life. Ponder.

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3 Responses to Devotion to the Blessed Sacrament

  1. Brother Burrito says:

    Goodness me!

    What a fantastically consoling and useful post, this is. Fr Grigus is to be congratulated on his clarity and simplicity.

    As you may know, I am a Catholic revert, struggling hard against the waves and tides of secularity. This article appears to me as a glimpse of a rescuing beacon. It has been dawning on me for some time that my worldly worries are a serious distraction from more serious business: my right relationship to God. There is much good advice to help me in this post.

    Thanks to whoever it was who caused this article to be published.

  2. Gertrude says:

    Bless you Burro. There is, as I am sure you are finding out, great consolation in the Blessed Sacrament. Sometimes, (and as long as your Parish Church remains open in the day) just to sit and ‘be’ in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament in the Tabernacle, and have a quiet Holy Hour outside of these devotions, I have found, very calming and consoling when troubled.

  3. Sarah Anne says:

    Yes. I have been experiencing lot of stress and as a result I became too irritable, short tempered etc. So during my last confession, the preist adviced me to spend time before the Blessed Sacrament, to sit quietly, and try to silence my thoughts and worries. Even if it is just 5 minutes, he asked me to surrender to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. And I have experienced that beautiful peace and calm in my heart, that can come only through the Prince of Peace. Whenever possible, I make it a point to spend time at the chapel. I have learnt now to be more quiet, more collected and in peace with myself.

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