At A Time Of Aridity, Bishops Are Urged Not To Quash But To Promote Adoration
By Michael H. Brown
I understand the need to revere the Eucharist. No doubt about that. The Presence of Christ is not to be treated with indifference -- and certainly not disrespect. It must be carefully guarded.
But in church after church, diocese after diocese, new regulations are all but eliminating a key Eucharistic devotion: Exposition and Adoration of Jesus in that large Host known as the Blessed Sacrament.
It is not so much fresh regulations as promulgations -- and interpretations -- of them.
The pattern is baffling. Dozens if not hundreds of parish churches or chapels have had to end Exposition because of rules that tighten the circumstances under which the Host is exposed -- usually setting down firm regulations necessitating the presence of at least two people.
This sounds holy enough: who wants to insult the Lord? I wish every such chapel was full. But is it really respecting Him to dispense with a devotion altogether because there are times when only one person is present? Most recently, I saw the case of a church that has 24-hour Adoration -- and a person assigned to every hour, seven days a week, every week of the year -- but will have to discontinue it because a diocesan liturgical committee now wants two people present at all times when there is Exposition.
As a result, the Host will no longer be exposed seven days a week, but instead will be "reposed" inside a tabernacle, except for the first Friday of the month. That's a drastic difference.
And such is perplexing at a time when it seems what we need to be doing is encouraging private devotions and also at a time when vocations are necessary and are often linked to churches that have perpetual Adoration.
When the Host is exposed in Adoration, it does something to a church -- and I have witnessed this countless times whether or not there is a person there every single minute. I have felt the grace walking into an Adoration chapel that was empty, except for the Host. I have felt that grace permeate the vicinity, and to me this is an indication that Christ may not feel quite so "alone" as one may imagine, and perhaps is lonelier inside a dark tabernacle.
If He is so distraught over periods when no one is there, why is there such grace? This should not be allowed for extended periods of time; when He is exposed, there should be someone there. Definitely. But we have to strike a balance. In one diocese, the bishop told me he would like to see just one central place with Adoration -- for the entire diocese. In the old days (pre-Vatican II), Catholics were used to stopping into many churches and finding the Host exposed. Somehow, this slipped away from us, with so much else.
I know this is controversial and that there are regulations made by bishops, who are reasonable men deserving of our respect and obedience. Indeed, a bishop requiring two adorers is only following the "rubrics" as set forth by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which seems inclined to limit Adoration to religious communities. Two people? That's a safety mechanism in case one can't show.
"Because perpetual exposition is a devotional practice of a religious community or a pious association, it should normally take place in a chapel of that religious community or association," state the bishops in one document. "If for some good reason perpetual exposition must take place in a parish church, it should be in a chapel distinct from the body of the church so as not to interfere with the normal activities of the parish or its daily liturgical celebrations."
That language seems a bit peeved ("if perpetual Adoration must take place"), and somewhat different in tone than the views of Pope John Paul II -- who sounded more intent on spreading the devotion than regulating it and in his encyclical "Ecclesia de Eucharistia" stated that "the worship of the Eucharist outside of the Mass is of inestimable value for the life of the Church" and is "an inexhaustible source of holiness."
The Pope added that "the abandonment or ignorance of this worship, as has happened in some places, especially outside of Italy, is a grave loss which, above all, compromises the ecclesial identity itself."
Okay, one adorer, but two? It's in the American rules. And when it's in the rules, we obey them.
But what about case after case of priests who resist all attempts by parishioners to even establish the devotion?
It seems the case here again, with this matter, as with other matters, that the attitude toward Adoration has disintegrated since Vatican Two, which as in so many other instances made statements that could be taken two different ways. Its call for reverence of the Eucharist seems to have found an interpretation in restricting how much Christ is exposed, to the point, in many churches, of elimination.
"Groups authorized to have perpetual exposition are bound to follow all the liturgical norms given in Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist outside Mass, nos. 82-100," state the bishops. "Under no circumstances may perpetual exposition take place during the Easter Triduum. There should always be a sufficient number of people present for Eucharistic Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament exposed (see HCWEOM, no. 88). Every effort should be made to ensure that there should be at least two people present. There must absolutely never be periods when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed and there is no one present for Adoration. It may prove necessary to expose the Blessed Sacrament for Adoration only at stated times when members of the faithful are present."
One can understand the concern about respect -- no one wants the Adoration chapel to become a center for socializing -- and one can also comprehend the danger that someone may enter the chapel and deface the Host, or steal it. They are legitimate concerns. Perhaps one reason for the tightening is that Eucharistic Exposition and benediction are no longer technically considered devotions, but rather are a part of the Church's official liturgy. The bishops are not unreasonable men. No doubt, there are other reasons as well.
But the need for grace in this time of extreme aridity outweighs it.
While maintaining proper restrictions, the attitude must be one of promoting the devotion.
"The abandonment of Eucharistic Adoration, or ignorance of its importance, is a grave loss that compromises the very identity of the Church," said Bishop Luca Brandolini of Sora-Aquino-Pontecorvo, the president of the Italian Center of Liturgical Action, in commenting on John Paul II's encyclical, which "exhorts the pastors not only to give personal witness, but also to encourage and promote the different forms of Eucharistic worship, also to maintain alive and to increase a 'tradition' that has produced fruits of holiness in the Church."
That attitude was conveyed among the propositions of a synod last year and also in new Eucharistic rules set forth in 2004 that urged promotion of Eucharistic Adoration, which the synod called "a sign of the times," and encouraged pastors to keep local churches open to favor the practice.
"The form of Adoration in which one or two members of the community take turns before the Blessed Sacrament is also to be maintained and is highly commended," said the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship in a 1973 document entitled Eucharistiae Sacramentum. "Through it, in accordance with the nature of the institute as approved by the Church, the worshipers adore Christ the Lord in the sacrament and pray to him in the name of the entire community and Church."
One or two.
If you need to, visit here for Adoration. Here are the prayers.
And here is the history:
The practice of Adoration began in Avignon, France -- during a time of severe crisis in the Church.
To celebrate and give thanks for the victory over the heretical Albigensians, King Louis VII asked that the sacrament be placed on display at the Chapel of the Holy Cross. The overwhelming number of adorers brought the local bishop, Pierre de Corbie, to suggest that the exposition be continued indefinitely.
That, it seems, is how it all started.
The date was 1226 -- September 11.
Noted a commentator: "If one accepts the Papal teachings of Paul VI and John Paul II as authoritative in interpreting the Council, one must accept that the perpetuation of Eucharistic devotion outside of Mass is entirely founded in the renewal intended by the Second Vatican Council. One cannot, therefore, legitimately discourage Eucharist devotion on the basis of the Second Vatican Council's teachings; for the documents themselves are clear, the Eucharist is source and summit of our spiritual life as Catholics."
themselves are clear, the Eucharist is source and summit of our spiritual life as Catholics."
[above left, Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament]
Return to Spiritdaily.comReturn to archive page You are at www.spiritdaily.org