As you may recall in my column last week, I mentioned that Fr. Dan Thelen, associate pastor of St. Matthew’s and Holy Name Parishes in Wausau, would be coming to celebrate the weekend Masses November 26th-27th and speak about Eucharistic Adoration in his homily. I also explained a bit about what we, as Catholics, believe about the Eucharist – that it is truly the Body and Blood of Christ, truly the Real Presence of Christ with us.
This week, I would like to address the questions: What is Eucharistic Adoration, why do we have it, and what do we do in Adoration? Since we believe that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist, we give to the Eucharist the same adoration and devotion we would give to Jesus himself. As you know, at the end of Mass, the remaining consecrated bread is placed in the tabernacle. This is why it is appropriate for us to genuflect to the tabernacle when we come into church – because Christ is truly present there. At the beginning of a period of Adoration, when Christ in the Eucharistic Host (a.k.a., the Blessed Sacrament) is exposed (called “Exposition” or “Solemn Exposition”), the priest or deacon takes the Blessed Sacrament from the tabernacle and places it in the monstrance on the altar so that it is visible for everyone in the church. The monstrance is the, often elaborately decorated, gold vessel used to display the Blessed Sacrament. The word “monstrance” comes from the Latin verb “monstrare,” which means, “to expose.” It is also sometimes called an “ostensorium.”
Often during a period of Adoration, usually at its conclusion, the priest or deacon will offer Benediction. The word “Benediction” simply means “blessing.” During Benediction, the priest or deacon picks up the monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament and gives a blessing to those in the congregation by making the sign of the cross with the monstrance. Also, as a sign of reverence, the priest, when giving the blessing, does not touch the monstrance with his bare hands. He instead uses a wide band of cloth known as a humeral veil (coming from the Latin word “humera,” meaning “shoulders”), which covers his shoulders and extends down to his hands. Often, the rituals of Solemn Exposition and Benediction are accompanied with various hymns and prayers, as well as incense.
Eucharistic Adoration expresses our faith in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Simply being in the presence of the Lord in this way WILL have an effect on us! Jesus wants us to spend time with him and surrender ourselves to him. What one does during the time of Adoration is not rocket science. We can begin by simply praising God (silently, of course, unless there is no one else in the church), directing attention to him and away from ourselves. We can do this with our own words, or the help of the Psalms, a hymn, or any other prayer. It may be helpful at times to begin with something structured, such as the Rosary, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, or some kind of spiritual reading. In addition to the Bible, there are many great books in the back of St. Mary’s Church that can guide us in our time of Adoration. We also want to have sufficient time for quiet, allowing us to speak to Christ about whatever might be on our hearts, and to listen as he “speaks” to us. Be present with Him, even if it SEEMS that nothing is happening. St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) once said, “The time you spend with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the best time that you will spend on earth. Each moment that you spend with Jesus will deepen your union with Him and make your soul everlastingly more glorious and beautiful in heaven, and will help bring about an everlasting peace on earth.”
Please consider stopping in for a few minutes, or an hour, or more, of Adoration at St. Mary’s on first Fridays from after the 8am Mass to 12 noon. If you have any questions, or would like to sign up for an hour, call Petrine Pongratz at 715-652-2421.