Eucharistic adoration in the 21st century

At the encouragement of the pope, a movement began 30 years ago to create new chapels dedicated to the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in parishes across the United States.

The movement resulted in over 7,000 parishes offering Eucharistic adoration today, comprising some 40 percent of the parishes in the United States, according to Real Presence Association Inc.

Although the flood of interest has crested over the years, the landscape of Catholic devotional practice in America has been reshaped by the thousands of chapels that still remain in use. Hundreds operate as perpetual adoration sites, where adoration occurs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, thanks to the people who sign up for one-hour visits.

Asked about the effects of increased devotion to the Eucharist, Carol Seydal of the Real Presence Association told Our Sunday Visitor that the fruits of prayer and contemplation before the Blessed Sacrament are inestimable.

Seydal’s association is the best source to locate adoration chapels in America and lists several thousand on their website (www.therealpresence.org).

Others involved in ministry are seeing the effects of adoration in ways that are dramatic, such as the increase in vocations for priests, nuns and other religious; subtle, such as strengthened sacramental participation; and even miraculous, such as cures for disease, psychological problems and doubts in the faith.

Power of adoration

Pope St. John Paul II is credited as the igniter of the renewal of Eucharistic devotion. At the 1993 International Eucharistic Congress in Seville, Spain, Pope John Paul said he hoped for “the establishment of perpetual Eucharistic adoration in all parishes and Christian communities throughout the world.”

In his 2003 encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia, he wrote: “The worship of the Eucharist outside of the Mass is of inestimable value for the life of the Church. ... It is the responsibility of Pastors to encourage, also by their personal witness, the practice of Eucharistic adoration, and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in particular, as well as prayer of adoration before Christ present under the Eucharistic species” (No. 25).

The response in the United States was tremendous.

“Eucharistic adoration is growing, and it has been since the 1980s, although at a slower pace,” Father Victor Warkulwiz from the Apostolate for Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, told OSV. “It brings an increase in spiritual life in a parish, a spiritual vitality. I’ve been in this for 25 years, and I see the results.”

Father Warkulwiz travels the United States and the world promoting Eucharistic adoration. “That is the way you are going to change things in the world, by going for an hour a week and visiting Our Lord,” he said. “It is something that is bearing fruit. ... And much is anecdotal, but it is what we need in this day and age.”

He points to the testimonial books present in many adoration chapels that tally the workings of the Lord through adoration. He reads many on his visits, and he described a few of the experiences he has read:

One woman had a sore knee, and doctors could find neither cause nor cure. “She started adoration and as soon as she sat down before the Blessed Sacrament, she felt warmth in her knee and the pain was gone and didn’t return,” he said

Another woman, who wasn’t Catholic and had no understanding of real presence, was touring the grounds of a Catholic church when she saw people coming and going through an unmarked door: “She was curious, and went in and she felt an overwhelming presence of the Lord. She had no knowledge of this, but she became a Catholic and is now a coordinator of a perpetual adoration chapel.”

Lastly he recalled a woman who could not put her worries to rest: “She signed up for an hour of adoration, week after week, and the worrying just stopped.”

Approaching the Eucharist

Approaching the presence of Jesus can be daunting, but the late Augustinian Assumptionist priest and author Joseph A. Pelletier, who wrote the “The Sun Danced at Fatima,” offered some advice:

“Too often we freeze up and get uptight when we are before the Blessed Sacrament. We suddenly become very formal. We do not know what to say. We wait for God to put some fancy words in our mouth. ... If we would only talk to him­ — as we would to a friend we meet on the bus or on our coffee break or the neighbor we visit for a chat. Just start talking to Jesus: ‘Jesus, thank you for staying with us night and day, so that we can come and talk to you.’”

Social media is another means to “connect” to Eucharistic adoration, Father Warkulwiz learned. “I see a lot of younger people sometimes responding better than older people, and most of them have hashtags (a number sign that conveys the subject a Twitter user is writing about so that it can be indexed and accessed in other users’ feeds) with their sign-ups. The Lord is drawing them there and makes it an attachment so they can come and talk to him.”

For nearly 20 years, mothers have been praying for their sons to respond with a “yes” to callings to the priesthood and religious life at the Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration Chapel at Immaculate Conception in Westerly, Rhode Island, Helen McAuley, director of the chapel, told OSV.

“We have had 10 vocations that I know of from the ones who visit at our chapel,” she said. “The mothers of these vocations have been involved in this chapel for years.”

She well remembers praying in the chapel and seeing the mothers of Father Michael Najim, now pastor of St. Pius X Church in Westerly and director of spiritual formation at Our Lady of Providence Seminary, and Father John Inserra, parochial vicar at Sacred Heart Church in Georgetown, Connecticut.

“There are many, many more who are discerning right now,” McAuley said. “Parental prayer is bringing these priests and nuns.”

In subtle ways, the power of adoration is being felt throughout the country by “creating happy marriages and seeing people returning to the church,” McAuley said.

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Father Giacomo Capoverde said the perpetual adoration chapel at Immaculate Conception “is the engine room of the Church,” powering the ministries and the faith lives of his parish.

“It is a great resource for the neighborhood. ... People are in such dire need of spending face time with Jesus at anytime of the day,” Father Capoverde said. “It helps them to bring their challenges, toils and struggles to him.”

During the month of May and on every First Friday, the students at St. Clement School in Bowling Green, Missouri, attend Mass, participate in the adoration of the Eucharist and have an opportunity to have their confessions heard.

“We have to start young,” Father Bill Peckman, pastor at St. Clement Parish, told OSV. The suffocating secularism of the 21st century is a formidable obstacle to seeing God, if you are not looking for him, Father Peckman said. “Adoration is transcendent in and out of the church in our life and in our devotional life.”

Adoration of the Eucharist is also a centerpiece in the diocesan summer camp for boys, he said. “They can find all the junk food they want in life, but we want to give them the opportunity to see that adoration and confession is part of Catholic life.”

Joseph R. LaPlante writes from Rhode Island.