In Eucharistic Adoration, the faithful bask in His Divine Presence

North Texas Catholic
(Nov 22, 2023) Feature

A view of the Blessed Sacrament during Adoration at the St. Peter the Apostle Church in Fort Worth. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

The Church and the world have a great need of Eucharistic worship.
 Jesus waits for us in this sacrament of love. 
Let us be generous with our time in going to meet Him in Adoration. -St. John Paul II

Jewel D’Cruz admits feeling a little lost when she first arrived at the University of Texas at Arlington from her home in the Middle East. Culture shock, coupled by navigating a large student population, left the undergraduate anxious and lonely.

“The only thing familiar was going to church, and I dove in,” recalled D’Cruz who graduated last May with a degree in interior design. “I joined the Catholic community on campus and went to Eucharistic Adoration anytime it was available. It calmed me and brought me closer to my faith.”

Praying before Christ’s presence in the monstrance every Wednesday was not a new experience. Growing up, the 22-year-old routinely attended Eucharistic Adoration with her parents in one of the two Catholic churches in her Oman neighborhood.

Today, she continues to carve out time for worship while building a career at a Dallas architectural firm. D’Cruz believes the religious practice benefits young people struggling to find their way in the world.

“Adoration calms the mind and helps you focus. When you don’t have the answer — pray and listen. In a moment of quietness, you can hear God’s plan,” she advised. “Sometimes you just need peace and God’s comforting touch in Adoration.”

A centuries-old devotion

Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is a centuries-old devotion rooted in an essential teaching of the Catholic Church: Jesus Christ is truly and completely present in the Eucharist. Conducted outside the typical Mass, the Eucharist is exposed on the altar in a monstrance and people are invited to offer prayer and praise to Jesus in silence.

Why is Adoration an important aspect of prayer life? The Catechism of the Catholic Church provides this explanation.

Deacon Dave Poole prepares to repose the Eucharist at the end of Adoration on Oct. 3, 2023 at St. Jude Thaddeus Parish in Burkburnett. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

“Adoration is the first attitude of man acknowledging that he is a creature before his Creator. It exalts the greatness of the Lord who made us and the almighty power of the Savior who sets us free from evil. Adoration is homage of the spirit to the ‘King of Glory,’ respectful silence in the presence of the ‘ever greater’ God. Adoration of the thrice-holy and sovereign God of love blends with humility and gives assurance to our supplications.” (CCC 2628)

In the sermons he always prepared in front of the Blessed Sacrament, the Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen told listeners a Holy Hour of Adoration was necessary for authentic prayer. A gifted author and evangelist who revitalized America’s religious landscape in the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s, he believed frequent Eucharistic Adoration was transformative for participants and generated inner personal change as well as greater empathy toward others.

“The most brilliant ideas come from meeting God face to face [at Adoration],” he pointed out. “The Holy Spirit that presided at the Incarnation is the best atmosphere for illumination.”

Feast of Corpus Christi instituted

From the 11th century on, devotion to the Blessed Sacrament became more and more prevalent in the Catholic world with religious orders of men and women taking the lead.

The lay practice of Adoration formally began in Avignon, France, in 1226. To give thanks for a victory over aggressors, King Louis VII of France asked the bishop of Avignon to have the Blessed Sacrament exposed in the Chapel of the Holy Cross. The number of people visiting the chapel was so great, the bishop allowed Adoration to continue day and night.

Eucharistic Adoration grew in popularity across Europe, and in the 13th century, Pope Urban IV established the Feast of Corpus Christi (Body of Christ). 

St. Thomas Aquinas composed the Liturgy of the Hours for the feast to highlight the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. 

The Adoration hymns, “O Salutaris Hostia,” “Tantum Ergo Sacramentum,” and “Panis Angelicus,” were written by the saint and continue to reverberate in churches during the Solemnity of Corpus Christi and Benediction services when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed.

Spending time with Jesus

St. John the Apostle Parish in North Richland Hills celebrated Corpus Christi Sunday this past June by hosting its first Eucharistic procession for the faith community. 

More than 500 parishioners braved sweltering summer temperatures as they walked behind Father Jack McKone. The pastor carried a blue and gold monstrance outside the perimeter of the church. 

During the procession, the congregation stopped twice for Scripture readings and traditional hymns.

A view of the Blessed Sacrament during Adoration at the St. Peter the Apostle Church in Fort Worth. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

The parish used the occasion of Corpus Christi Sunday to reintroduce 24-hour Adoration in the daily chapel every Thursday after morning Mass.

“We’re trying to bring back the idea of spending some time with Jesus,” explained Paul Epperley, a parish volunteer. “An hour in silence in front of Christ is nothing compared to three hours on the cross He endured for us.”

Rebounding from the isolation caused by the COVID pandemic is challenging for many parishes.

“A lot of people are in a different place in their faith life, and they’re looking for something different spiritually,” Epperley observed. “As a Catholic Church, we have to capture that and bring them back to the faith.”

Encouraging parishioners to develop a one-on-one relationship with Jesus is key to achieving that goal.

“Adoration is probably the first and best way to make that happen,” he asserted. 
“If you come to Adoration and leave everything outside the door of the church, you can do, say, and hear what you want. It really changes your thinking,” he added.

Participants tell Epperley an hour spent at Adoration improves their home life and relationship with children, “because it allows a person to decompress.”

Prayer Answered

For some, like Father Joseph Moreno, Adoration is also the catalyst for a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. After grieving the loss of his wife, Sarah, to cancer in 2013, the husband and father began to feel “a restlessness in my heart.” His job as an IT security specialist was no longer fulfilling, and he began to explore the possibility of doing something more with his life.

“But I had no idea what that could be,” said Fr. Moreno, who considered becoming a permanent deacon during his marriage. “I took this restlessness to Him in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.”

The struggling 44-year-old would visit the chapel at St. Matthew Parish in Arlington, sit in front of the tabernacle, and ask Jesus for some direction.

“He didn’t answer immediately,” remembered Fr. Moreno, who felt a renewed pull to become an ordained minister. “It took a year, but I finally came to understand that Jesus was calling me to become one of His priests.”

With the blessing of his daughter, Kathryn, the former catechist and acolyte entered the seminary and was ordained in May 2021. Today, he is pastor of three rural parishes: St. Paul in Electra, Christ the King in Iowa Park, and St. Jude Thaddeus in Burkburnett, where he organized weekly Adoration on Tuesday as his first ministry. Parishioners responded enthusiastically.

Sister Felicity, of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, prays during Adoration at the Holy Family Religious and Retreat Center on October 7, 2023. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

“In my small rural parishes, the flock has found a way to do amazing things fueled, I’m sure, by the graces poured into the parishes from Adoration,” the pastor asserted.

First Saturday devotion has increased, outreach giving is more generous, and more adults are attending religious formation. Sharing their faith with the greater community, one parish refurbished a four-story, lighted cross at Mt. Carmel Cemetery, and another constructed a Marian shrine.

“This is Christ at work in their hearts,” Fr. Moreno said confidently.

Bearing life's struggles

Deacon Wendell Geiger noticed a similar awakening in the faith community he serves. When St. Peter the Apostle Parish in White Settlement began offering Adoration inside its newly constructed St. Teresa of Calcutta Oratory in 2017, parishioners quickly embraced the devotion. The chapel welcomes worshippers Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

“We thought it would be difficult to get people to sign up so the Host is never alone, but we always find people in the chapel who are not on the schedule,” said the ministry’s organizer who estimates at least 30 visitors stop by the oratory daily. “There are people who never thought they wanted to participate in Adoration but once becoming involved, they never stopped.”

A deacon at St. Peter for 13 years, he emphasized to parishioners the importance of bringing Christ into their lives on an intimate basis and not just as something to think about on Sunday. Forming that relationship has benefits that are hard to describe because each individual is affected differently.

“Through the grace of Christ and the grace of prayer time, people notice subtle changes in the way they act with other people — their friends and family,” Dcn. Geiger continued. “People come up and tell me about things going on in their lives that would be difficult to cope with if they weren’t able to turn to Christ in prayer.”

Parishioners come to Adoration to pray for sick children, for their own health problems, or for their grandchildren to return to the faith.

“Adoration allows them to release that anxiety and turn to the Lord,” the deacon said.

Deacon Wendell Geiger leads Eucharistic Benediction on October 2, 2023 at St. Peter the Apostle's oratory in Fort Worth. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

He finds curiosity about Adoration, along with the increasing number of parishes in the diocese offering Blessed Sacrament worship, encouraging.

“It’s wonderful to see people becoming aware of the joys of spending time in prayer before Jesus.”

Without God, nothing is possible

St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Fort Worth provides Eucharistic worship every Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. in its adjoining chapel.

“We wanted to give our parishioners the opportunity to be in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament outside the Mass and spend some quiet time with Him,” explained Deacon Humberto Serrano. “It’s where we can praise, adore, and contemplate Him and, in return, He bestows His mercy, forgiveness, and unconditional love in our daily struggles.”

Adoration continues to play an important part in his vocation to the diaconate.

“It helps me stay firm and committed to the ministry the Lord has entrusted to me,” he said. “It is there, in Adoration, where I receive the necessary grace that keeps me going as I serve Him and His Church.”

Philomena Varghese prays for her husband when she attends Mass and Adoration at the northwest Tarrant County parish. The native of India recently moved to the area from New Jersey, and Adoration is an important part of her faith journey.

“Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior, and He’s there in the Eucharist,” stressed Varghese, who comes from a “great family of believers.” Spending time in quiet prayer helps her bear the crosses and pain that comes with life.

“Without God, nothing happens,” she added with certainty.

Taking the time to listen

The world is a noisy place full of mental and physical distractions. Finding inner serenity conducive to prayer and meditation is a challenge for many people.

In his book, The Divine Encounter: Meeting Jesus in Eucharistic Adoration, author Mark Hart offers practical suggestions for “getting the most out of Adoration.” Paramount is developing the ability to put the stress and routines of daily life on hold, “to make time to enter in, be heard, and really listen to what the Lord wants to speak to you,” the author states.

More than 45 college students from Catholic campus ministries across the Diocese of Fort Worth adored Jesus in the Eucharist on Oct. 7, 2023 during the Campus Ministry Retreat at the Holy Family Religious and Retreat Center. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

He suggests choosing a spot close to the altar to maintain focus and sitting down if kneeling for long periods of time is uncomfortable. Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament would rather have someone’s full attention, Hart writes, than witness a person struggle on a kneeler for 10 more minutes.

Giving your time in Adoration structure is another useful tip, especially if work or parenting schedules require watching the clock. Start by taking deep breaths to promote a feeling of peacefulness followed by periods of offering thanks, petitioning for the needs of others, and then meditating on what the Lord might be saying to you. The author advises spending the final few minutes at Adoration praising God for “His goodness, love, and divine mercy.”

Bringing a Bible to read a few Scripture passages or a journal to write down thoughts can promote inspiration.

Faith fixed on Jesus

There is no one correct way to spend time in Adoration. Concentrating on Jesus can be enough. St. John Vianney, patron saint of priests, would pray for long hours before the Blessed Sacrament. A local farmer, sitting in the back of the church, often joined him. Finally, one day, the saint asked the man what he did during his time of Adoration. The farmer responded simply, “I look at Him, and He looks at me.”

Contemplation is a gaze of faith, fixed on Jesus. (CCC 2715)

Interest in Eucharistic Adoration waned after the Second Vatican Council but is experiencing a resurgence thanks, in part, to the influence of St. John Paul II.
The late pontiff, who served as pope from 1978 until his death in 2005, believed the Eucharist was the Church’s greatest treasure and often turned to it for revelation. When he wasn’t spending hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament, praying specifically for each of the 30 to 40 petitions he received each day, the late pontiff was known to place a desk and chair in front of the tabernacle to find wisdom, strength, and support while writing his encyclicals. 

Pope John Paul II also had the uncanny ability to locate chapels in places he had never visited before. Spending time in Adoration often derailed his travel schedule during the many pilgrimages he took around the world.

Known as the Pope of the Real Presence, he credited the Eucharist — Christ present on earth — for everything he accomplished.

“The Eucharist is the secret of my day. It gives strength and meaning to all my activities — of service to the Church and to the whole world,” he explained in a Sept. 27, 1997, address to young people in Bologna, Italy. “Let Jesus, present in the Blessed Sacrament, speak to your hearts. It is He who is the true answer of life that you seek.”

A sign asking worshippers to be quiet is seen outside the oratory where Eucharistic Adoration is held in St. Thomas the Apostle Church on Sept. 29, 2023. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

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