Fr. Roger J. Landry
Putting into the Deep
June 5, 2015
As we prepare to celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi on Sunday, it’s a good time to turn to something that ought to be part of a Catholic’s Plan of Life each week: a Holy Hour in the presence of the Lord Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.
The Second Vatican Council stressed that Jesus in the Eucharist is the “source and summit of the Christian life,” meaning that it is the starting point and goal for any life worthy to be called Christian. This is true because Jesus obviously ought to be the alpha and omega of the Christian life and the Eucharist is Jesus.
One of the real movements of the Holy Spirit in recent times has been to move Catholic parishes, pastors and parishioners to take Jesus’ real presence in the Eucharist more seriously and to create opportunities for Eucharistic adoration. Many have added extensive periods of time when Catholics can come to spend time in Jesus’ presence and some have started perpetual adoration, giving people the privilege to be with Jesus at any time during the day or night.
The Popes have been explicitly encouraging such developments. A decade ago, in response to a recommendation from the Synod of Bishops, Pope Benedict wrote, “With the Synod Assembly, I heartily recommend to the Church’s pastors and to the People of God the practice of Eucharistic adoration, both individually and in community. … Wherever possible, it would be appropriate, especially in densely populated areas, to set aside specific churches or oratories for perpetual adoration.”
The latter is something the Diocese of Fall River has done at the exquisitely beautiful Eucharist Chapel at Holy Trinity Parish in West Harwich, which is certainly worth a visit just to see the beauty of the Chapel — not to mention to adore the One whom the Chapel was built to honor.
Pope Francis talks frequently about Eucharistic adoration, doubtless in the hope to inspire people by his personal example.
In an interview, he confessed that among all types prayer, “What I really prefer is adoration in the evening. … Between seven and eight o’clock, I stay in front of the Blessed Sacrament for an hour in adoration.” At times, he says, because of fatigue, “I allow myself to fall asleep while sitting there, looking at Him. I feel as if I were in someone else’s hands, as if God were taking me by the hand.”
Our approach to Eucharistic adoration, he said in a September 2013 homily, is an indication of whether we really seek to worship God. Pondering how Jesus is supposed to be the center of the Christian life, he stated, “A man or a woman who adores Jesus is a Christian. If you can’t worship Jesus, something is missing. … The sign [of a Christian truly focused on Jesus] is adoration of Jesus.”
In a homily the following month, he added that Eucharistic adoration can crush or expose our idolatries. He said that as human beings, “We all need to adore, because we have God’s very imprint within us. … When we do not adore God, we adore creatures.”
What idols we have in place of God will often be revealed by the choices or excuses we make when we don’t make time to be with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. For some people, it’s work or family chores. For others, it’s television or exercise. For others it’s time with friends. But if we say that over the course of the 168 hours in a week that God gives us, we can’t find one to come to praise and thank him, we can be pretty sure we’re placing something or someone else before him. In my parish I used to take the 3 am shift to remind my body that Jesus is more important than a good night’s sleep. Adoration crushed that potential idolatry!
When I was in College, with various other students, we were able to start Eucharistic adoration on First Friday provided that we were able to get enough students to sign up. I still remember the conversations I had with Catholic friends who at first were reluctant to be “tied down” even to a monthly commitment.
“If the Pope wanted to have a conversation with you about your life each first Friday each month at 3 pm,” I asked some of them, “would you keep that appointment?” When they would nod affirmatively, I would reply, “Well, how about an appointment with the Pope’s Boss?”
To those guys I knew who were in relationships, I’d ask, “How hard is it for you to set and keep a date with your girlfriend?” “Not very,” they’d reply with a grin. Then I’d ask, “Well, do you love Jesus enough to make and keep a ‘date’ with him once a month?”
I’m convinced that if we really believe that Jesus is truly present in the Blessed Sacrament and if we really love him, coming to adore him would be as much a no-brainer as it would for two people in love to want to spend time together.
In terms of a commitment for a Plan of Life, I recommend coming for a Eucharistic holy hour once a week and preferably at a fixed time that we keep so that, barring true emergencies, nothing else will come up to get us to tempt us to not keeping it. Mark “Jesus” in your calendar the same way you would put down any other important appointment and then keep it.
Among my greatest joys as a parish priest has been to see the changes that have happened in parishioners once they began to respond to Jesus’ Holy Thursday request, “Could you not keep watch with me for one hour?” I still get thank you notes several years later from parishioners who took up this challenge and who tell me about the difference doing so has made in their lives.
During my time as executive editor of The Anchor, I always had a mischievous desire to run a huge front page story, “Jesus Christ comes to the Diocese!,” and, just as we would have if the Pope were coming, feature how Jesus comes to the parishes of the Diocese every day and takes up residence in tabernacles and monstrances. I never acted on that desire, but I was proud that every week on page 19 we told the many places where Jesus was waiting for us to come to adore him.
If you’re not regularly coming to spend time with Jesus in the Eucharist, I’d urge you to make a resolution to do so this Corpus Christi.