Eucharistic Devotions

Here at Church of Saint Paul, we’ve had perpetual Adoration for so long that we tend to take it for granted that everyone knows what it’s all about.  Likewise, we can be less informed about other similar devotions, just because they’re not a regular part of our parish life.  Because this is the topic of April’s Classroom Lesson, it may be in our best interest to develop a common language on the topic.  This short post is going to be a glossary of sorts on different types of Eucharistic Devotions.  (If you know of more, please add them in the comments box.)

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass – Worshiping Christ, truly Present in the Mass is the highest form of worship for Catholics.  Under normal circumstances, we are required to attend Mass each Sunday and on holy days of obligation, and everyone is warmly invited to attend more often when possible.

Perpetual Adoration – The continual (twenty-four hours a day) exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, typically in a monstrance, for worship by the faithful.  Parishes (or convents and monasteries) which offer perpetual adoration will have a chapel set aside for this purpose.

Holy Hour – Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament for an uninterrupted hour.  Perpetual adoration is typically possible in a parish because many parishioners are willing to commit to a regular holy hour each week.  The inspiration for a holy hour comes from Matthew 26:40 when Jesus asks Peter, “So,  you could not keep watch with me for one hour?”

40-Hours Devotion – The practice of a group arranging 40 continuous hours of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament displayed in a monstrance.  This devotion may be carried out  in a parish church or in a chapel.

Benediction – Benediction (from a Latin word for “blessing”) can be done alone or as part of some other service such as Stations of the Cross.  In common use, “benediction” refers to a priest of deacon blessing a congregation with a monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament.

Little Visits – Jesus is truly Present almost year-round in the tabernacle of every Catholic Church in the entire world.  You can visit Him there in a simple, informal way any time a church is open.  Simply sit in a pew and visit Him.

Reverent Actions – Reverent actions such as genuflecting in the presence of a tabernacle or making a Sign of the Cross when passing a church are small moments when we pause to remember the Presence of Christ nearby.

Corpus Christi Processions – A Corpus Christi procession is basically a sacred parade, either inside or outside a church, in which clergy and the faithful travel a path giving thanks, praise, and worship to God.  The Blessed Sacrament is typically displayed in a monstrance and carried by a priest or deacon under a canopy.

First Friday Devotions – This is the practice of receiving Holy Communion on the first Fridays of nine consecutive months.  It is derived from the revelations of Christ to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque.

Eucharistic Congress – Less common, but these still happen occasionally.  A Eucharistic Congress is a large public assembly of Catholics with the intention of promoting a greater devotion to our Lord in the Eucharist.  This type of celebration includes Mass, periods of Eucharistic Adoration, Benediction, and lectures on the Blessed Sacrament.  There have been about 50 international congresses since the first one in France in 1881.

This postcard shows the outdoor altar built for the Ninth National Eucharistic Congress in Minnesota, 1941. More than 100,000 people attended the closing ceremonies at the State Fair Grounds, despite the pouring rain!

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