Eucharistic Adoration- Its Purpose and Meaning

We would wish all… to have Eucharistic Adoration appreciated and loved by all those around them. You have only to think of the long hours spent by St. John Vianney, at the beginning of his pastoral ministry, alone in his church before the Blessed Sacrament; of the outpouring of faith and love of this great soul at the feet of his Master, of the marvelous fruits of holiness he reaped for himself and for so many others from these fervent Eucharistic prayers. There is no doubt that a flood of grace would stream down upon your families and your country if, enlightened and sustained by the example of their priests, an ever greater number of souls were to learn a lesson on this point from saintly Cure of Ars.”

Pope John XXIII


To all, and particularly non-Catholic readers. I highly recommend taking some time to learn more about the practice of Eucharistic Adoration below. It is a very moving, quiet, and lovely experience, and something that I feel, as Catholics we should do more often than not. There is nothing quite like being able to be in the presence of our Lord and feeling him, along with others, in your midst. ~ God Bless! CJA

Eucharistic adoration
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Eucharistic Adoration

Papal documents
Mirae CaritatisDominicae CenaeMysterium FideiMediator DeiEcclesia de Eucharistia

Organizations and events
Congregation of the Blessed SacramentServants of the Blessed SacramentPerpetual AdorersTabernacle SocietiesEucharistic Congress

Notable individuals
St. FrancisPeter EymardJean VianneyMarie TamisierLeo Dupont

Eucharistic Meditators
Thérèse of LisieuxMaria CandidaConchita de ArmidaMaria Valtorta


The Eucharist displayed in amonstrance, flanked by candles being adored by a kneeling altar server.

Eucharistic adoration is a practice in the Roman Catholic Church, and in a few Anglican and Lutheranchurches, in which the Blessed Sacrament is exposed and adored by the faithful.[1][2]

Adoration is a sign of devotion to and worship of Jesus Christ, who is believed by Catholics to be present Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, under the appearance of the consecrated host, in the form of hosts or bread. As a devotion, Eucharistic adoration and meditation are more than merely looking at the Blessed Host, but are believed to be a continuation of what was celebrated in the Eucharist.[3] From a theological perspective, the adoration is a form of latria, based on the tenet of the presence of Christ in the Blessed Host.[4][5]

Christian meditation performed in the presence of the Eucharist outside of Mass is called Eucharistic meditation. It has been practiced by such as Peter Julian Eymard, Jean Vianney and Thérèse of Lisieux.[6][7][8][9][10] Authors such as the Venerable Concepcion Cabrera de Armida and Blessed Maria Candida of the Eucharist have produced large volumes of text based on their Eucharistic meditations.[11][12][13]

When the exposure and adoration of the Eucharist is constant (twenty-four hours a day), it is called Perpetual adoration. In a monastery orconvent, it is done by the resident monks or nuns and, in a parish, by volunteer parishioners since the 20th century.[14] In the opening prayer of the Perpetual chapel in St. Peter Basilica Pope John Paul II prayed for a perpetual adoration chapel in every parish in the world.[15] Pope Benedict XVI instituted perpetual adoration for the laity in each of the five sectors of the diocese of Rome.[16]

The practice and its context
[edit]
A lighted Monstrance at the monastery of Bidaurreta, Spain.

Eucharistic adoration may be performed both when the Eucharist is exposed for viewing, and when it is not.[17] In the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, the Eucharist is displayed in a monstrance, typically placed on an altar, at times with a light focused on it, or with candles flanking it. The exposition usually occurs in the context of a service of Benediction or similar service of devotions to the Blessed Sacrament.[1][2][18] Exposition also takes place in the context of “perpetual adoration”, where specific people attend the exposition for a certain period of time, 24 hours a day.[18]

The adoration may also take place when the Eucharist is not exposed but left in a ciborium, which is likewise placed on an altar or in an enclosedtabernacle so that the faithful may pray in its presence without the need for volunteers to be in constant attendance (as must be the case when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed).[2][19]

A typical Catholictabernacle.

Official Catholic teachings consider the exposition and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament an important practice which “stimulates the faithful to an awareness of the marvelous presence of Christ and is an invitation to spiritual communion with Him.”[18][20]

In many cases Eucharistic adoration is performed by each person for an uninterrupted hour known as the Holy Hour.[21] The inspiration for the Holy Hour is Matthew 26:40 when in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before his crucifixion, Jesus asks Peter: “So, could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?”.[22]

While psalms, readings and devotional music may be performed during Eucharistic adoration, in many Roman Catholic churches this is rarely done and silent contemplation and reflection is the focus of adoration.[17] Pope John Paul II would spend many hours in silent Eucharistic adoration and stated that the practice provides contact with the “very wellspring of grace”.[23][24]

Ever since the Protestant Reformation, Protestants[25][26] have criticized Eucharistic adoration, some considering it a form of idolatry. Adoration may be seen as the abrogation of the command to adore God alone, as commanded in Leviticus, but see Biblical law in Christianity. Those who see the matter this way, see the adoration of any other objects, including the sacred instruments of Christ’s Grace, as idolatry. Catholics contend that it cannot be idolatry because Christ, whole and entire, is present in the Eucharist.
History [edit]
Early History [edit]

While the keeping of the Blessed Sacrament outside of Mass seems to have been part of the Eucharistic Christian practice from the beginnings (both Justin Martyr and Tertullianrefer to it), the practice of adoration began somewhat later.[19]

One of the first possible references to reserving the Blessed Sacrament for adoration is found in a life of St. Basil (who died in 379). Basil is said to have divided the Eucharistic Bread into three parts when he celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the monastery. One part he consumed, the second part he gave to the monks, and the third he placed in a golden dove suspended over the altar.[27] It is more likely, however, that this separate portion was simply for the purpose of reserving the sacrament for distribution in contexts in which a communicant could not attend the Divine Liturgy, which is a standard practice throughout the ancient churches, even those who do not practice extra-liturgical Eucharistic adoration.

In Eastern Christianity, the sort of extra-liturgical adoration which developed in the West has never been part of the Eastern liturgy which St. Basil celebrated, but a liturgy for adoration does exist, involving psalms and placing a covered diskos with the Sacred Species on the altar. This is befitting the Eastern custom of veiling those things deemed sacred from human eyes.[28]
Middle Ages [edit]

Stained glasswindow of St. Francis.

The Franciscan archives credit Saint Francis of Assisi (who died in 1226) for starting Eucharistic Adoration in Italy. This process then spread from Umbria to other parts of Italy by the Franciscans.[29][30] Francis had a deep devotion to the Eucharist and Saint Bonaventure commented that Francis would be swept in ecstasy after receiving Communion. For Francis the adoration of the Eucharist amounted to “seeing Christ”.[31]

The theological basis for the adoration was prepared in the 11th century by Pope Gregory VII, who was instrumental in affirming the tenet that Christ is present in the Blessed Host; In 1965 the confession of belief that Gregory imposed on Berengarius was quoted in Pope Paul VI’s historic encyclicalMysterium Fidei:[4]

“I believe in my heart and openly profess that the bread and wine that are placed on the altar are, through the mystery of the sacred prayer and the words of the Redeemer, substantially changed into the true and proper and lifegiving flesh and blood of Jesus Christ our Lord, and that after the consecration they are the true body of Christ”[32]

This profession of faith began a “Eucharistic Renaissance” in the churches of Europe.[4] As of the eleventh century in The Western Church devotions began to focus on the Eucharistic gifts as the objective presence of the risen Christ and the Host began to be elevated during the liturgy for the purpose of adoration.[4]

The lay practice of adoration formally began in Avignon, France on September 11, 1226. To celebrate and give thanks for the victory over the Albigensians in the later battles of the Albigensian Crusade, King Louis VIII asked that the sacrament be placed on display at the Chapel of the Holy Cross.[33] The overwhelming number of adorers brought the local bishop, Pierre de Corbie, to suggest that the exposition be continued indefinitely. With the permission ofPope Honorius III, the idea was ratified and the adoration continued there practically uninterrupted until the chaos of the French Revolution halted it from 1792.

In the thirteenth century the Feast of Corpus Christi was instituted. From this point devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, both within and outside the Mass, became central in the piety of Western Christians.
16-18th centuries [edit]

In the 16th century, the Protestant Reformation was challenging various issues with respect to the Eucharist and the Council of Trent responded to them via specific affirmations of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist and the theological basis for Eucharistic adoration. The Trent declaration was of the most significant theological component of Eucharistic doctrine since the apostolic age.[4] The statement included the following:

The other sacraments do not have the power of sanctifying until someone makes use of them, but in the Eucharist the very Author of sanctity is present before the Sacrament is used. For before the apostles received the Eucharist from the hands of our Lord, He told them that it was His Body that He was giving them.

The council then declared Eucharistic adoration as a form of latria:

“The only-begotten Son of God is to be adored in the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist with the worship of “latria”, including external worship. The Sacrament, therefore, is to be honored with extraordinary festive celebrations (and) solemnly carried from place to place in processions according to the praiseworthy universal rite and custom of the holy Church. The Sacrament is to be publicly exposed for the people’s adoration.”

Following the Council of Trent, figures such as Saints Charles Borromeo and Alain de Solminihac promoted Eucharistic devotion and adoration.[34] As part of the simplification of Church interiors, and to emphasize the importance of the Blessed Sacrament, Charles Borromeo initiated the practice of placing the tabernacle at a higher, central location in the main altar. As Eucharistic adoration and Benediction became more widespread during the 17th century, the altar came to be seen as the “home of the Blessed Sacrament” where it would be adored.[35]

A common early practice of adoration known as Quarantore (literary forty hours) started in the 16th century. It is an exercise of devotion in which continuous prayer is made for forty hours before the exposed Blessed Sacrament. This practice started in Milan in the 1530s and 1540s by Capuchins such as Giuseppe da Fermo who promoted long periods of adoration. From Northern Italy it was carried to elsewhere in Europe by the Capuchins and Jesuits.[36][37]

The practice of the perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament started in Paris on March 25, 1654 in the Benedictine society formed for that purpose by Mother Mechtilde of the Blessed Sacrament.[38]

In the 18th century, large numbers of people were drawn to quiet adoration of the Eucharist and priests such as Alphonsus Liguori encouraged the practice.[39] He wrote a book onVisits to the Blessed Sacrament and he explained that a visit to the Blessed Sacrament is the “practice of loving Jesus Christ”, since friends who love each other visit regularly. A model for the love of Eucharist at this time in Rome was Saint Benedict Joseph Labre a homeless beggar and Franciscan tertiary who spent many hours wrapped in silent ecstasy as he adored the Blessed Sacrament, at times in the sacrament-chapel of St. Peter’s Basilica, and became known as the “saint of the Forty Hours“.[39]
19th and 20th centuries [edit]

St. Peter Julian Eymard

During the French Revolution, the persecution of Catholics hindered the practice of Eucharistic adoration. However, the beginning of the 19th century witnessed a strong emphasis on Eucharistic piety, devotions and adorations. It may be said that at the beginning of the 19th century no Catholic saint can be found who did not place Eucharistic piety at the center of their spirituality.[39]

By 1829, the efforts of the Confraternity of Penitents-Gris brought Eucharistic adoration back in France.[27] Twenty years later, the Venerable Leo Dupontinitiated the nightly adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in Tours in 1849, from where it spread within France.[40] Saint Anthony Mary Claret, the confessor toIsabella II of Spain and the founder of the Claretians, was also a fervent promoter of Eucharistic devotion and adoration and introduced the practice to Cuba, where he was sent as Archbishop.[41]

The VenerableLeo Dupont

The adoration of the Eucharist within France grew in this period and there were interactions between Catholic figures who were enthusiastic about spreading the Eucharist e.g. Leo Dupont, Saint Jean Vianney and Saint Peter Julian Eymard, who in 1858 formed the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament.[42]

Also in 1858, Eymard (also known as the Apostle of the Eucharist) and sister Marguerite Guillot formed the Servants of the Blessed Sacrament which now maintains houses on several continents where continuous Eucharistic adoration takes place.[43] Interestingly, this time period in France saw the growth of a parallel Catholic devotion, namely the Devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus which was started in 1844 in Tours by Sister Marie of St Peter, was promoted by Leo Dupont and was approved by Pope Leo XIII in 1885.

The first informally organized Eucharistic Congress took place in 1874, through the efforts of Marie-MartheTamisier of Tours, France.[44] In 1881 Pope Leo XIIIapproved the first formal Eucharistic Congress which was organized by Louis-Gaston de Ségur in Lille France and was attended by few adherents.[45] The 1905 congress took place in Rome and Pope Pius X presided over it.[44]

The practice of prolonged Eucharistic adoration also spread to the United States in the 19th century and Saint John Neumann the Archbishop of Philadelphiastated Forty Hours adorations there, where it continues to date.[46]


A simple adoration chapel in the abbey at Saint-Benoît-du-Lac, Quebec.

In Catholic teachings, at the moment of Consecration the elements (or “gifts” as they are termed for liturgical purposes) are changed in substance (Transubstantiation – as opposed to ‘transformation’ wherein a change in physical form occurs) into the actual Body and Blood of Christ. Catholic doctrine holds that the elements are not only spiritually changed, but rather, their substances are actually (substantially) changed into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ. In the doctrine of Real Presence, at the point of Consecration, the act that takes place is a double miracle: 1) that Christ is present in a physical form and 2) that the bread and wine have truly, substantially become Jesus’ Body and Blood. Because Roman Catholics believe that Christ is truly present (Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity) in the Eucharist, the reserved sacrament serves as a focal point of adoration. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (item 1377) states that: “The Eucharistic presence of Christ begins at the moment of the consecration and endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsist.”[51][52] The official Raccolta book provides specific indulgences for Eucharistic adoration during the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.[21]

Prolonged Eucharistic adoration is one of the distinguishing features of Roman Catholicism and is credited with the calling of saints and the bringing of converts to the Catholic Church. Saint Faustina Kowalska stated that she was called to religious service while attending the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament at age seven.[53] Two notable examples of conversion are Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton and Blessed John Henry Newman, both having converted from Anglicanism following Eucharistic adoration.[39]

The practice of a “daily Holy Hour” of adoration has been encouraged in the Catholic tradition, for instance Mother Teresa of Calcutta had a Holy Hour each day and all members of her Missionaries of Charity followed her example.[54][55]

Since the Middle Ages the practice of Eucharistic adoration outside Mass has been encouraged by the popes.[56]

In the middle of the Second Vatican Council, on September 3, 1965, a few days before opening the fourth session, Pope Paul VI issued the Encyclical Mysterium Fidei whereby he urged daily Mass and communion and said that “In the course of the day the faithful should not omit to visit the Blessed Sacrament, which according to the liturgical laws must be kept in the churches with great reverence in a most honorable location. Such visits are a proof of gratitude, an expression of love, an acknowledgment of the Lord’s presence.” “The daily adoration or visit to the Blessed Sacrament is the practice which is the fountainhead of all devotional works,” St. Pius X used to say.

In Dominicae Cenae Pope John Paul II stated:

The Church and the world have a great need of Eucharistic worship. Jesus waits for us in this sacrament of love. Let us be generous with our time in going to meet Him in adoration and in contemplation that is full of faith.[57]

And in Ecclesia de Eucharistia John Paul II stated:

The worship of the Eucharist outside of the Mass is of inestimable value for the life of the Church…. It is the responsibility of Pastors to encourage, also by their personal witness, the practice of Eucharistic adoration, and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.[58]

From his early years, the Eucharist had a central place in the theology of Joseph Ratzinger and in his role as Pope Benedict XVI as well as in his book God Is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life he strongly encouraged Eucharistic adoration.[59][60]
Catholic prayers to the Blessed Sacrament [edit]

The Handbook of Prayer by Fr. Charles Belmonte said that a simple way of doing the visit to the Blessed Sacrament is to pray 3 Our Fathers, 3 Hail Marys and 3 Glory Bes, and ended with a Spiritual Communion, as for example, “I wish, Lord, to receive You with the purity, humility and devotion, with which Your Most Holy Mother received You, with the spirit and fervor of the saints.”

Through the centuries, saints have also composed prayers for making visits to the Blessed Sacrament.

Short Visit to the Blessed Sacrament By Blessed John Henry NewmanI place myself in the presence of Him, in whose Incarnate Presence I am before I place myself there.I adore You, O my Savior, present here as God and Man, in Soul and Body, in true Flesh and Blood.I acknowledge and confess that I kneel before the Sacred Humanity, which was conceived in Mary’s womb, and lay in Mary’s bosom; which grew up to man’s estate, and by the Sea of Galilee called the Twelve, wrought miracles, and spoke words of wisdom and peace; which in due season hung on the cross, lay in the tomb, rose from the dead, and now reigns in heaven.I praise and bless, and give myself wholly to Him, Who is the true Bread of my soul, and my everlasting joy.

Before the Blessed Sacrament Prayer from the Fátima ChildrenO most Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, I adore You profoundly. I offer You the Most Precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifferences by which He is offended. By the infinite merits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg the conversion of sinners.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s