LEXINGTON – The pope calls it “an inexhaustible source of holiness” and parish priests think of it as an asset to the devotional life of the faithful.
Participants rave about the sense of peace that flows from it. And the Bishop of South Carolina is an avid proponent of it.
Yet only a tiny percentage of Catholics in South Carolina are involved in the devotion known as eucharistic adoration.
Eucharistic devotions generally are those that take place outside of the liturgy. Eucharistic adoration is a devotion wherein a consecrated host is exposed to view, usually in an elegant vessel called a monstrance.
Adorers sit or kneel before the sacrament, praying, reading prayer texts, maybe saying the rosary. Many apparently do nothing more than commune with the Son of God and enjoy the quiet time.
“All I can tell you is that this is a holy place,” said Charles A. “Buddy” Sirisky of the Eucharist Chapel at Blessed Sacrament Church in Charleston. “Spending time in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament promotes the sanctification process St. Paul talks about; it brings you closer to Christ in ways you don’t even realize. You become more prayerful; you become a much more spiritual person.”
The solitude is the thing Vicky Reese of Corpus Christi parish in Lexington finds most beneficial from her eucharistic adoration. She thinks that children in catechesis classes ought to be brought to eucharistic adoration to find solace in their busy days and to set the tone for their future spiritual lives.
“We clutter up our lives with so many things, how come we can’t dedicate some time alone with Jesus?” Reese asked.
Her answer was generated by the response of parishioners to the four hours each week when exposition is scheduled at her large suburban parish. From four to six adorers show up for each of the hours.
And the problem of sparse participation is not unique to any one parish in the state. St. Paul the Apostle in Spartanburg felt obliged to curtail its Perpetual Adoration schedule (see related story) a year ago because of limited participation.
“We were not fulfilling our obligation under Church rules, so we now have exposition on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., and we don’t have enough to cover those hours,” said Deacon Robert L. Mahaffey, who is in charge of the program for St. Paul.
Still, the deacon and others at the Upstate parish see the value of Eucharistic adoration in the spiritual life of the parish and have formed a committee to seek ways to popularize the devotion that Mahaffey likens to the “interior room that Christ talked about. Everyone who goes there relishes this spiritual time.”
Father Steven L. Brovey, dean of the Piedmont Deanery, pastor of Prince of Peace and diocesan vicar for Divine Worship and Sacraments, agrees with the benefits that accrue from minutes or hours before the exposed Sacrament.
“Spiritually, it is a fruitful thing for the parish. Bishop (Robert J.) Baker is a strong proponent of the importance of the Eucharist in parish life, and the Holy Father has supported the devotion of praying before the Sacrament,” Father Brovey said.
The vicar was referring particularly to the Holy Thursday 2003 encyclical of Pope John Paul II, “Ecclesia de Eucharistia.” In that letter, the pope connected the celebration of Mass with eucharistic adoration: “The presence of Christ under the sacred species reserved after Mass – a presence which lasts as long as the species of bread and wine remain – derives from the celebration of the sacrifice and is directed towards communion, both sacramental and spiritual.”
The supreme pontiff also bemoaned the abandonment of the devotion in some parishes, calling it a shadow on the light of Christ, and called for support from the pulpit.
“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,” the pope wrote.
Father Robert J. Sayer, pastor of Corpus Christi, called the spiritual practice “a wonderful asset” to his parish and said that the parish building committee has even considered converting one campus building into a eucharistic chapel in a future expansion. The priest leaves the details of exposition and adoration to lay people, led by the Rev. Mr. Jack L. Crocker. Deacon Crocker sees the value of the Monday evening exposition at his parish.
“It leaves you with a sense of strength, of fullness. It puts everything in perspective and enables you to deal with it all for the week,” he said.
Kathy Schmugge and her husband came to Corpus Christi’s eucharistic adoration time after dinner on their thirteenth wedding anniversary, June 2.
Even with a babysitter and time freed up for them alone, she said that being together before the exposed sacrament was how they wanted their evening out to end.
“You cannot know, until you come into his presence, what real peace means,” Schmugge said.