Eucharistic adoration

(Last night someone threw a rock through the Catholic Worker’s window. It’s probably nothing personal; there’s lots of random vandalism hereabouts.)

Letter to the editor from Friday’s Worcester T&G:

…St. Francis Xavier Church in Bolton holds adoration of the Blessed Sacrament from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. every Tuesday.

On a Tuesday early in November, I entered the church about 5 p.m. and was surprised and saddened to find no faithful in solemn veneration. When confronted with this scandal, the Rev. Thomas Fleming, pastor, vehemently defended this situation. Bishop Robert J. McManus was also informed. At about 10:45 a.m. on Dec. 27 I entered St. Francis Xavier Church and again found no faithful in solemn veneration.


You non-Catholics are probably confused if you’ve read this far, so here is the deal. You’ve seen pictures of “The Last Supper.” This is Jesus celebrating the Passover Seder meal with his friends. The centerpiece of this meal is unleavened bread (like a cracker) and wine. It’s a Jewish thing.

Well, at this meal, Jesus said (to paraphrase), “This bread is my body … this wine is my blood … celebrate this meal in remembrance of me.” When Roman Catholic Christians come together for a church service (Mass) the main event is sharing unleavened bread and wine which has been consecrated. And the Catholic belief is that the deepest nature of the bread and wine become the body and blood of Jesus (although our senses don’t notice this). Basically, Catholics say: What part of “this is my body” don’t you understand?

So since Jesus was the incarnation of God, this bread and wine at your local church is God, and if it is being displayed publicly outside of Mass (which it usually isn’t) someone had better be there to pay the proper respect, what we call “adoring” it. In most Catholic churches, people react to the presence of God with much less awe than you’d expect.

The unleavened bread (matzah) used at a modern Jewish seder is like a big soda cracker, in my experience. The unleavened bread (host) that Catholics use at mass is more like a small disc of really thick paper–it doesn’t crumble easily. If the Mass is being held in a private home, sometimes homemade unleavened bread is used, though this is frowned upon nowadays. You can’t do anything crazy like try to consecrate pie and coffee. That won’t work. It has to be wheat bread and grape wine.

This morning at Worcester’s cathedral, the eucharist was out and people were present.

I haven’t found any technical jargon to describe what happens if someone isn’t there to adore the eucharist. A lot of churches will have a sign-up sheet to make sure there are people to adore the eucharist the whole time it is out in the open.

I did find this web-based perpetual adoration in Louisville, Kentucky. The “talk page” for the Wikipedia article on Eucharistic adoration comments on the iffy-ness of video adoration.

Thinking about Passover reminds me that NYC’s Second Avenue Deli has closed. They made a fine sandwich.

2 thoughts on “Eucharistic adoration”

  1. Mike, you leave me no option but to quote from John Calvin’s Institutes 4.17.19: ‘But when these absurdities are discarded, I willingly admit any thing which helps to express the true and substantial communication of the body and blood of the Lord, as exhibited to believers under the sacred symbols of the Supper, understanding that they are received not by the imagination or intellect merely, but are enjoyed in reality as the food of eternal life.’ (The next chapter is less-than-ecumenically-titled, reflecting the Zeitgeist of 16th-century Europe: ‘Of the Popish Mass. How it not only profanes, but annihilates the Lord’s Supper.’ To compensate, I shall also place a link here to the encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia.)

  2. I hadn’t really thought abou Eucharistic adoration before. Back at my home parish, most Masses actually took place over in the school hall, which was several blocks away from the actual church. So the tabernacle wasn’t actually kept in the nave of the school hall, but up in the sacristy. I remember we had eucharistic adoration sometimes (generally during Lent), but somehow I missed the part where it was explained to me what it was all about. I remember thinking that the monstrance looked pretty cool, though.

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