As you know, we are in the midst of a period of Eucharistic revival, which has been called for by our bishops. Over the decades, we have seen a decline in the belief of the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and, as a result, a decline in reverence and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. As a natural consequence of this decline in belief and devotion, the value of Eucharistic adoration is often neglected.
There are great miracles, healings, and other graces to be received through devotion to the Blessed Sacrament in adoration. To this end, we will explore what Eucharistic adoration is and how we participate in a practical sense.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that adoration is “to acknowledge him [God] as God, Creator and Savior, the Lord and Master of everything that exists…” (CCC 2096). Through worship and prayer, the Church and individual persons give to God the adoration, which is the “first act of the virtue of religion,” (CCC 2096, cf. CCC 2628, 1086). The first commandment of the law obliges us to adore God (cf. CCC 2096).
Essentially, when we recognize and spend time contemplating the greatness of God, our natural inclination is to be aware of our littleness before Him and, in our humility, to adore Him. It is a “respectful silence in the presence of the ‘ever greater’ God,” (CCC 2628).
Now, the Catholic Church teaches that Jesus is really and truly present in the Eucharist – body, blood, soul, and divinity – so when you consume the host at Mass, you are consuming the flesh of our God as Jesus commanded us to do (see CCC 1374, John 6:22-59). Likewise, when you encounter the Eucharist exposed in a monstrance, either in a church or a designated chapel, you encounter the living Jesus in the flesh. In other words, Jesus is truly and really present there with you in the same way as a loved one sitting across the table from you. In Eucharistic adoration, you do not have to try and imagine a God who you cannot see, but you can humble yourself and adore the God you can see.
On more than one occasion, I have been asked how you should go to adoration, or what to do when you are in the chapel with Jesus in the Eucharist. Ideally, under perfect circumstances, and as a goal for which we all ought to aim, there is nothing to do in Eucharistic adoration but be still and silent and, in your littleness, adore the Christ before you. When St. John Vianney was asked what he did before the Blessed Sacrament, he replied, “Nothing, I look at Him, and He looks at me.” Now, in honesty, this is a very difficult feat for me personally. I neither sit in stillness nor silence well for extended periods of time, and I often get restless and distracted by my own thoughts. Therefore, the answer as to what you are going to do in Eucharistic adoration is going to vary depending on your gifts and challenges, and where you are on your faith journey and in your prayer life. Additionally, your own life circumstances might also influence how you spend your time with Jesus. The most important thing to remember is that no matter your situation, go to Jesus in adoration, talk to Him, and work toward perfect stillness and silence in His presence from wherever you are now.
For those of us who have not yet achieved the great heights of perfect stillness and silence for one hour or more (and that is most of us), there are things we can do to help us facilitate our conversations with God and practice advancement in our prayer life. Again, these will be different depending on the circumstances of the individual, but we can at least look at some suggestions to encourage those of you who may avoid Eucharistic adoration due to fear, intimidation, or uncertainty. For me, books and other reading material serve as helpful aids to keep me focused on holy things when I am in adoration. I may read from the Catechism or another book, such as the Diary of St. Faustina, that allows me to intellectually penetrate divine truths, or I may read from a book on a particular devotion that I am working through, like the Fifteen Saturday Devotion. If you struggle with focus, our adoration chapel has reading materials to help. Writing is also a great tool for keeping the mind from wandering. You can have a prayer journal or conversation log that you take with you into adoration. Write the thoughts you want to express to Jesus, whether it simply is your love for Him, or your deep pleas for His divine assistance in your troubles.
For the times when you struggle with free-formed prayer, we have a treasury of formulated prayers at our disposal. Adoration is a great time to pray the rosary, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and other chaplets. Perhaps you can pray a novena for a specific intention, or you can read reflections such as, The Way of the Cross, by St. Alphonsus Liguori, accompanying Jesus in prayer as He endures His Passion for you. Adoration is also a great time to read Scripture using Lectio Divina, a form of reading scripture in which you meditate on very small portions, listening to what God is telling you personally in His words.
Also, do not be afraid to express yourself to Jesus in your posture or body language. Sitting is perfectly acceptable, but kneeling is a wonderful expression of adoration before God, as is prostrating oneself by bowing even lower to the ground. You might also simply lay your hands open in your lap as a gesture of openness to receiving whatever our Lord has to offer you. If you are alone with Jesus, you can certainly speak to Him out loud, but be careful to be quiet when others are around so as not to influence or disturb their prayers. In some cases, you may touch or kiss the vessel in which Jesus is enthroned, which are other wonderful expressions of adoration.
I would also like to encourage you to bring your children to adoration, even if for just a couple of minutes. Kids learn by example and Jesus Himself said, “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them,” (Mat 19:14). Simply redirect them or take them out if they get antsy.
If you have been avoiding Eucharistic adoration for whatever reason, commit to making it a more regular part of your life. The recommended time is one hour per week, but you can choose to spend more or less time. The point is to just go… you won’t be sorry! Consider committing to a set hour each week to spend time with Jesus and make it a consistent part of your life. If you already go to adoration regularly, share your personal experiences of the graces you’ve received. This will encourage others who have yet to experience its life-changing effects. No matter where you are on your journey, Jesus is very close, and He is waiting for you to come visit Him.
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