by Kara Hansen
TOPEKA — For the past 14 years, Lupe and John Jaramillo have had a standing date every Sunday evening.
Each week, the couple spends an hour in eucharistic adoration at their home parish of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Topeka.
Far from being a third wheel, the Jaramillos said the real presence of Christ brings tremendous peace to their lives.
“It’s so important to us to have that hour to spend with our Lord completely uninterrupted,” said Lupe. “There are no ringing phones or other distractions to keep you from him. It’s just time with the Lord.”
Julia Cherry, a parishioner at Corpus Christi Parish in Lawrence, agreed.
“It’s a set time to set aside and be there each week,” she said. “God is present everywhere, but I really feel closer to him when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed.”
Put simply, eucharistic adoration is the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist displayed in a monstrance. Catholics then come and spend time in prayer and adoration before the exposed Eucharist.
Eucharistic adoration is available in many parishes of the archdiocese perpetually, meaning a parish has the Eucharist available and displayed in a small chapel 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Parishioners sign up to spend an hour in adoration a week, rotating on the hour so that someone is always present with the Eucharist. Other parishes have adoration on a smaller scale, offering it one day a week for a 24-hour period, or even for just a few hours before or after a weekend Mass.
“Most of our parishes now have eucharistic adoration at least some small part of the time, and many have perpetual adoration, especially our larger parishes,” said Michael Podrebarac, archdiocesan consultant for the liturgy office.
Though reserving a special place for the consecrated Eucharist can be traced to the earliest days of the church after Christ’s death, devotion to Christ present in the tabernacle increased dramatically during the 11th century.
Belief in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist was common and generally unquestioned among Christians, until Berengar of Tours, a French theologian, began promoting the idea that Christ was not really present in the bread or wine. The idea caught on in some circles of the church, a development that eventually caused the Catholic Church to make its first definitive statement on the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
It also created somewhat of a eucharistic revolution, resulting in a dramatic increase in devotion to Christ present in the Eucharist. Religious orders commissioned special windows in their churches so their members could view and adore before the tabernacle at all times. Processions of the Blessed Sacrament were instituted.
The increase in devotion to the Eucharist also eventually led to the solemnity of Corpus Christi being instituted by Pope Urban IV in the 13th century.
Although these practices characterized European Catholicism for centuries, they were largely absent from the early years of the practice of the faith in the United States.
“Prior to the second Vatican Council,” said Podrebarac, “adoration as we know it today was largely reserved for religious orders in monasteries.”
But eucharistic adoration in parishes, like we know today, really began to take hold in the United States in the late 1980s, he said.
“There was really a strong resurgence in the practice of adoration and eucharistic devotion in parishes in the 1980s, partly due to Catholics reclaiming eucharistic devotion that used to be present in other forms such as Benediction, vespers, and Forty Hours devotion,” he added.
Podrebarac said devotion to and love of the Eucharist was also strongly encouraged by the late Pope John Paul II, who had a deep and fervent love for the Real Presence.
Margaret McClay coordinates the parishioners who sign up for slots at the one day a week of adoration offered at Sacred Heart Parish in Ottawa. She said people often find it challenging to make an initial commitment of one hour a week — but once they get over that hurdle, they do not want to give their hour up.
“People really love their time in adoration, especially the ones who do it in the wee hours of the morning,” said McClay. “It’s often their favorite place to go because of the quiet and peace. Once people start a regular adoration hour, they want to keep doing it, and the only thing that prevents them is a change in life circumstances.”
The Jaramillos had a similar experience at their parish.
“We’ve had adoration at Our Lady of Guadalupe for 14 years, and most of the people who started with it then are still doing it,” said Lupe.
Lupe said making the commitment for a weekly adoration hour sometimes required sacrifices of her time or created challenges with her schedule. When necessary, she finds another parishioner to substitute for her in adoration. Many parishes with perpetual adoration chapels have a list of names and contact information for people willing to be an adoration substitute.
Most often, though, Lupe said, she tries to keep her commitment.
“We try to make it a priority, because it’s good for us to be there,” she said.
Catholics undertaking the devotion for the first time often wonder how to spend an entire hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament.
For those who find it daunting, some priests recommend mentally dividing the Holy hour into 15-minute increments. Each increment can be devoted to one aspect of prayer: adoration, thanksgiving, reparation, and petition. Or, each increment can be devoted to a different type of prayer, quiet time, or spiritual reading.
Cherry said she brings a prayer book to her hour each week and also spends some of her hour in quiet, contemplative prayer. McClay said she often prays the rosary and spends time in meditation. Jaramillo regularly prays the rosary, the Divine Mercy chaplet, and reads Scripture.
Regardless of how the hour is spent, regular participants in eucharistic adoration find it makes a strong and lasting impact on their lives.
“I have a real sense of peace I didn’t have before,” said McClay. “People need to be aware of what a blessing adoration is in their lives. I really believe it is the glue that holds our parish together.”