Sunday, February 14, 2010

How do you feel about Eucharistic Adoration?

NB. A glossary for, Heathens, Protestants and Modern Catholics:
Eucharist, a Greek word meaning thanksgiving. A reference to the Thanksgiving Sacrifice in the Old Covenant. In the New Covenant that the Messiah gave us this Eucharist (Thanksgiving Sacrifice) is usually called the Mass. Outside of the Mass, Eucharist also refers to the consecrated bread and wine which we believe the Holy Spirit transforms during the Mass into real the Flesh and real Blood of Jesus of Nazareth.
Tabernacle: the box or container in which this transformed bread is kept in most Catholic churches. In traditional churches, it is kept in the center of the church because it is Christ who is really present among us and is the center of our lives. In more progressive and up to date churches it is kept over on the side or in a broom closet or behind some shrubbery.
Eucharistic Adoration: The host (a Latin word meaning sacrificial victim), which is the  consecrated communion wafer, is placed in a monstrance (another Latin word meaning “display case” related to the English word demonstrate, sometimes also called an ostensarium. Same meaning) We spend time in prayer and worship before Christ present in the Eucharist and displayed in the monstrance, though the Eucharist not eaten as at Mass, only worshiped.

Dear Rev. Know it all, 
About a month or so ago, I was asked by a parish member (who is also on our parish council) if I would be interested in participating in 24 hour adoration. I reluctantly said yes, and explained my reluctance was not because I didn’t want to participate in such a wonderful practice, but that I didn’t think the organizers had thought it through.  I brought up a few of the problems that I knew just off the top of my head and simply said if you can get these things answered I would consider signing up.
1) Our Tabernacle is in a side chapel that only allows maybe at most 6-10 people in it at once.  What if 15-20 people want to adore at the same time; do we tell them no? 
2) Our Priest lives 15 to 20 minutes away from the Church, what if nobody shows for their time slot?  What are you going to do with my Lord?
Well, as with any of the other issues of abuses and or novelties that I have brought up to my Priest and parish council, they ignore my thoughts as being nuts and continue on.  I need your help with this because as you know, if this is treated with the same cavalier attitude that the other novelties and abuses which they have introduced, we could have some serious problems! I have kids at this school and really don’t want them introduced or confused by anymore abuses or novelties!  The Catholic faith is so beautiful. I don’t want them to question any more things that go on there than they do already.
Thank You for Your Time,
Si Kahtic,
Dear Si, 
You may be nuts, but about this, I think you may have a point.  Eucharistic Adoration is an amazing source of grace. The Real Presence in the tabernacle of Jesus of Nazareth, Messiah, Son of God, Son of Mary, is the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise “Behold, I am with you all days ‘til the end of the earth.” It is not a virtual presence, not a symbolic or metaphorical presence, but a real presence. The whole Christ is present in the bread and wine become Flesh and Blood. God became flesh and remains in the world He loves so dearly in every tabernacle. Therein lies the problem.
We are pieces of work, we moderns. We wear pajamas to the grocery store. People go to the office in sweat pants. We wear ripped jeans to Mass. I was at a wedding not long ago and the younger members of the family of the bride were wearing greasy looking T-shirts. Why is this a problem? After all, isn’t it what’s inside that counts? That may be true, but you can usually tell what’s inside by the outside actions. What our actions say in this self absorbed culture is that “My personal comfort is more important than the people who have to stare at me.” To dress appropriately is really more about my respect for the people around me than it is about my vanity. We live in the culture of “Whatever.”  You don’t matter to me. Only I matter to me. This is the prevailing mindset of our dying culture and it  endangers Eucharistic Adoration. 
Eucharistic Adoration is wonderful, but what passes for Eucharistic adoration is often only Eucharistic convenience.  Back in the Neolithic Age when I was a boy, people dropped to their knees when the priest opened the tabernacle to get the sacrament for a sick call. Often, an altar boy carrying a lit candle and ringing a bell would accompany the priest on a sick call. Catholics would drop to their knees on the street if a priest carrying the Blessed Sacrament walked by (People walked back then, it was really something to see.)  The family of the person receiving the Sacrament at home would greet the priest and his sacred burden by kneeling with lit candles. Now it’s hard to get the person receiving the sacrament or his family to turn down the television.
These outmoded superstitions were replaced in the glorious and groovy sixties by a more modern, breezy attitude. Eucharistic ministers would pop by the church to pick up the Eucharistic on their way to the supermarket. People would keep the Blessed Sacrament in the top drawer in the dining room cupboard so that they would not have to be going back and forth to Church, I even knew people who like to keep the Blessed Sacrament in their night stands as a sort of good luck charm. Mind you, I have nothing against Eucharistic ministers. There certainly seems to be precedent in the history of the Church for non-ordained people to bring the Sacrament when a priest cannot. 
Remember St. Tarcsissus? It would be well to remember him. He was a young boy who was bringing the Eucharist to jailed Christians back in the Roman times. He refused to show what he was hiding to some pagan friends of his and they beat him to death for his persistent refusal to show them what he was hiding. I have no trouble with a lay minister who is willing die for the honor of our Lord in the Sacrament.  We moderns however have gotten a bit casual about things.
Don’t get me wrong. I think that Eucharistic devotion is an essential, even central part of the Catholic life. It’s nice to pop in and say “Hi!” to God, but that’s called “a visit to the Blessed Sacrament.” It’s wonderful. I do it all the time. That’s one of the great things about being a parish priest. I live next door to Jesus. However, Eucharistic Adoration is something more. In the olden days, we had something called Forty Hours Devotion. The whole parish geared up and spent forty hours in prayer before the Lord. Night and day members of the parish came and spent time on their knees before the Lord. It was one of the high points of the Church year. You don’t see many Forty Hours any more. Why bother? I can run over to St. Dymphna’s and drop in on the Creator of the Universe for five minutes.
Eucharistic Adoration should not be convenient. It, like the Mass, from which it flows, should be sacrificial. It is my opinion that only a few places in a diocese should be permitted to have perpetual adoration, and that adoration should be truly perpetual. I have often gone to places that advertised perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and found our Lord there, alone as could be. He was not being treated as the Lord of the Universe, but more like a museum exhibit in a glass case.
So, here is my suggestion; if a parish and its pastor really believe that the Lord is calling them to be a center for perpetual adoration, then some real preparation has to happen. You must have two people volunteering for one hour, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, four weeks a month.
Why two people? One person often can’t make it, or has to leave early for perfectly good reason, or the car won’t start in the middle of the night, yadda, yadda, yadda. In effect, you need adoration teams. 
Why once a month, not once a week? Unless you are dealing with contemplative nuns, it gets old fast. Asking someone to get up at 3AM every week until they drop dead is like asking someone to live in a state of constant jetlag.  They have to go to work in the morning. They are going to be snarling at their children and arguing with their spouse and glaring at their boss.
Remember, sacramental commitments are primary. Going to Mass is a sacramental obligation, Marriage is a sacramental obligation, Eucharistic Adoration, though involving the Blessed Sacrament, is not a sacramental obligation. Irritability should not be the result of worship.
So that means 2 x 24 x 30 (or 31) = 1,440, or 1.448 people. Has your parish got 1,400 plus people who are willing to commit to this? Perhaps they can conduct a little experiment and if they get 1,400 people to visit the Blessed Sacrament regularly for a couple months they should go on to the next step.
If I had a group of people who were insisting on Eucharistic Adoration and I came into the Church and found the Sacrament abandoned, I would fold it down that moment. Eucharistic Adoration, though a sacrifice, should be a joy and a privilege, not just a boring burden. Once a week becomes a burden for most people. Once a month is a special privilege for which people gear up. Trust me. I’ve been in the business a long time.
I remember the story that should point out our proper attitude to the Sacrament. A Catholic once worked with a Muslim. The Muslim began to quiz him on his faith. The Muslim said, “Do you really believe that God has a son?”
The Catholic said, “yes.”
The Muslim asked, “Do you really believe that this son who is himself God, came to earth?”
The Catholic said, “yes.”
Again he asked, “and you really believe that this divine being is still here under the appearance of bread, and is kept in a box on the altar in Catholic churches?”
The Catholic once more said, “yes.”
The Muslim finally said, “If I believed what you believe, I would find the nearest Catholic Church, I would go in, fall on my face and never ever leave.”
We cannot let the glorious gift of  the Real Presence become common place. The Blessed Sacrament is heaven come to earth and should be treated as such. 
Rev. Know-it-all

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