Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
October 25, 1999
Adoring Christ's real presence
Archbishop Thomas Collins has asked us to begin parish-based adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. And he has asked the Knights of Columbus and Catholic Women's League to promote this program of prayer and adoration.
It is hard to imagine a more fitting way to celebrate the Great Jubilee - the 2,000th anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ - than by adoring his presence in the Precious Body and Blood. Few beliefs are more central to our faith than the belief that during the Mass the bread and wine are completely transformed into Christ's Body and Blood. That event fulfills Jesus' promise at the Ascension that "I am with you always."
When we adore the Blessed Sacrament, we adore Jesus. When we carry the Blessed Sacrament into the streets in a Corpus Christi procession, we carry Jesus out into the wider society.
The adoration of the Blessed Sacrament was not a widespread practice in the Church until the 12th or 13th centuries. But the advent of that practice was key to the most fertile period of Church history - the 13th century - and it has transformed the lives of untold numbers of people since then. Eucharistic Adoration was central to the spirituality of Sts. Francis of Assisi and Thomas Aquinas who have had such a profound effect on the Church over the last 750 to 800 years.
It was also key to the conversion of the greatest American saint, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the founder of the Sisters of Charity. Mother Seton, while living in Italy, came to believe that the family with which she lived received great consolation which she lacked because of their belief that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist. She wrote to her sister of a Corpus Christi procession, saying "the other day in a moment of excessive distress I fell on my knees without thinking when the Blessed Sacrament passed by and cried in agony to God to bless me if he were there, that my whole soul desired only him."
Indeed, the lives of numerous saints in recent centuries have been marked by devotion to Christ's presence in the Blessed Sacrament. Our world today is so wounded and mangled that it can only be saved by the beauty of holy lives. Such holiness finds its true source in a burning awareness of and devotion to the sacred presence of Jesus Christ.
Archbishop Collins has also asked that our times of organized prayer before the Blessed Sacrament be for the intentions that many people respond to the call to the priesthood and religious life, and that family life be strengthened.
Prayer before the Blessed Sacrament has great healing power. More basic than that, it focuses our hearts on that which really matters - our relationship with Jesus Christ. A community focused on Jesus in our midst will be one which has healthy families and a full sense of personal vocation in its members.
In a 1994 letter on the International Eucharistic Congress in Seville, Spain, Pope John Paul asked that adoration of the Blessed Sacrament be made "a habitual practice in all Christian communities."
The pope continued: "This worship extends and prepares in the best possible way the meeting with Christ in the Sacrifice and Eucharistic Banquet. It is an expression of the whole Christian community's love and worship of its Lord.
"Priestly, religious and missionary vocations will stem from this meeting with Christ in the tabernacle, and will bring the light of the Gospel to the ends of the earth. . . .
"In the intimacy of the tabernacle, the values that must reign in homes will receive new strength to make the family a meeting place with God, a centre that radiates faith, a school of Christian life. In the Bread which came down from heaven, the family will be able to find the support that will keep it united in the face of today's threats and will preserve it as a bastion of life, steadfast against the culture of death."
Widespread adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is the key to the postmodern era in the life of our Church, one whose good effects cannot help but also affect the wider secular culture.
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