In the last decade there has been increasing interest and active participation in Eucharistic adoration. In the United States there are 500 parishes where there is perpetual adoration of the Blessed Eucharist - surely an inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Perpetual Eucharistic adoration means continuous, round-the-clock adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, day and night, seven days a week, with at least one person adoring for one of the 168 hours of the week. Each person undertakes the same hour every week; this Holy Hour of prayer is a recognition of the wondrous presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and a channel of great graces for individual souls, the Church, the whole world.
In 1986, an Australian living in the United States, Mr Owen Traynor, founded the Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration Association. The Holy Father presented Mr Traynor with a monstrance bearing the papal crest and thanked him for his work in promoting perpetual adoration, saying: "It is a grace for the Church. You have my encouragement and blessing." On this occasion, Mother Teresa said: "Perpetual adoration is the most beautiful thing you could ever think of doing. People are hungry for God. Adoration is a tremendous way of coming closer to God."
The Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration Association was given Pontifical approval in 1991. It has grown rapidly: there are currently centres of perpetual adoration across the United States, Mexico, Ireland, Korea, Thailand, India, Canada and Puerto Rico.
In Australia, in Perth and Fremantle, there are a number of parishes which have perpetual adoration of the Blessed Eucharist. In Victoria, the parish of Mitcham has established perpetual adoration in a small Eucharistic chapel attached to the presbytery. At Warwick, in Queensland, perpetual adoration continued for thirty years and one of the most inspiring offshoots of this healthy Eucharistic life was the large number of priestly vocations.
The experience of the Church is that precisely as devotion for the Blessed Sacrament grows, there is a corresponding increase in vocations to the priesthood and religious life. The following account by Mother Teresa is revealing: "In 1973 our congregation decided to have adoration [of the Eucharist] for one hour every day ... From that time, our love for Jesus became more intimate, our love for each other more understanding, our love for the poor more compassionate, and we have doubled the number of vocations."
In 1988, Mr Traynor wrote: "More bishops and pastors are recognising the unbelievable ... Yes, the laity do want to make a sacrifice. They do want to get up throughout the night and drive, if necessary, thirty miles or more, to make their Holy Hour, regardless of the weather or any other real or imagined danger. Why? Because they believe in the Real Presence. They believe that Jesus is present in the Most Blessed Sacrament - Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity ...".
Cardinal Daly, Primate of All Ireland, and recently appointed by the Vatican as Moderator of Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration, wrote in 1989: "One of our anxieties was that people might be afraid to come out at night!" The two parishes in Belfast where perpetual adoration was established, St Peter's Cathedral Church and St Paul's Parish, were at the centre of violence, but this did not deter people from coming for adoration, even at night. The Cardinal continued: "It was notable that this year, the twentieth anniversary of the arrival of British troops on the streets in Northern Ireland, although it had been feared that there would be a major escalation of violence, in fact the weeks before and after the anniversary were the calmest we had for years. People attributed this peace to perpetual adoration".
The doctrine of Christ's Real Presence has not changed.
Chapter III, Sections III-VI of the Vatican II Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy are well worth study. This document speaks of "exposition of the Blessed Sacrament ... [stimulating] the faithful to an awareness of the marvellous presence of Christ, and [being] an invitation to spiritual communion with Him." And while the document reminds us that "the worship given to the Blessed Sacrament should be seen ... in its relation to the Mass", it describes in a profound and beautiful passage what happens when the faithful visit the Blessed Sacrament: "Dwelling with Christ our Lord, they enjoy His intimate friendship and pour out their hearts before Him for themselves and their dear ones, and pray for the peace and salvation of the world. They offer their entire lives with Christ to the Father in the Holy Spirit, and receive in this wonderful exchange an increase of faith, hope and charity ... The faithful should therefore strive to worship Christ our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, in harmony with their way of life. Pastors should exhort them to this, and set them a good example."
As recently as June 1993, the Holy Father, during his fourth pastoral visit to Spain, stated: "If only this form of [continual] adoration, which ends tonight in a solemn Eucharistic vigil, would continue in the future too, so that in all the parishes and Christian communities the custom of some form of adoration of the Eucharist might take root."
There are innumerable reasons to be found in Scripture for the promotion of Eucharistic adoration: "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst" (Jn 6:35); "Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Mt 11:28).
Although the enthusiastic support of priests is essential, lay involvement is the "key to the success of Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration ... What is needed in each parish are lay persons who want perpetual Eucharistic adoration enough to be willing to take the responsibility to make it succeed (Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration Handbook, English edition, Vatican Press, 1991).
Immense graces will be poured on parishes which undertake perpetual Eucharistic adoration: Christ will be more deeply centred in the hearts of the families of the parish, the children will grow in their friendship with Our Blessed Lord, teenagers will have a focus for their faith which will give them a greater devotion to the Mass and to their duties, and their intimacy with Our Lord and Our Lady will grow. There will be a deepening of sacramental life, more people frequenting Confession, fewer confrontations, greater unity and a tremendous increase in vocations to the priesthood and religious life. One cannot even begin to measure the happiness of priests in such an atmosphere.
Our Lord has told us: "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also ... Can you not watch one hour with me?" (Mt 6:21,26:40).
Can we, indeed?
- Inquiries about how to establish Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration can be directed to The Convenor, Society for Eucharistic Adoration, 142, Victoria Street, Ashfield, NSW 2131.