Forty Hours Devotion

To Keep a Solemn Vigil with the Lord
September 11, 2021

Dear Friends in Christ, 

 

Part of any spiritually flourishing parish is a devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord’s Eucharistic Presence among us. Currently, we offer Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament for only four hours a month on the First Friday. Although those who can attend devoutly pray in front of the Lord, it does not seem to be a convenient time for many who would definitely attend if they could. 

 

The practice of Eucharistic Adoration of the Exposed Blessed Sacrament has its origins in the high Middle Ages when the reception of Holy Communion was rare. In fact, reception of Holy Communion was so rare due to local diocesan particular laws and the feeling of unworthiness of many of the lay faithful that the Church herself in 1215 at the Fourth Lateran Council had to mandate that all Catholics receive Holy Communion at least once a year during the Easter Season. 

 

From this century in history, not only the elevation of the Blessed Sacrament at Mass became popularized, but also the practice of taking the Sacred Host in a crystal cylinder especially at the Feast of Corpus Christi to publicly express faith in the Lord’s Real Presence. From this time period, we get the monstrance (monstrare—Latin to show), which is the brass/gold element with the crystal center where the Host is exposed to our vision and where we can receive the Lord’s blessing at Benediction. When the Blessed Sacrament is solemnly exposed, the custom is to genuflect on both knees to show greater reverence for the Lord’s Presence consistently exposed Real Presence. The typical way of showing reverence in the Latin Church is to genuflect on one knee when the Sacrament is hidden behind the veil of the tabernacle. This is the normative way of reserving the Blessed Sacrament for safety and for prayer. Our prayer is most certainly efficacious in front of the Tabernacle. We should not forget that; personally, I think we have as a Church. We should remember, the veil on the tabernacle tells us the Lord is present, hidden, and waiting for us. We can and should make visits often to the Blessed Sacrament.  Nevertheless, it is praiseworthy that with regularity, that we have an extraordinary manifestation of our belief and receive the graces from spending time with great solemnity in front of the exposed Blessed Sacrament and to receive the graces from Benediction. 

 

Since the 15/16th century, the Devotion of Forty Hours (commemorating outside of the Easter Triduum the forty hours Our Lord laid in the tomb) became popularized in Italy especially during times of great tribulation. In the 18th century, the Holy See provided a particular rubrical practice for this three-day devotion. In the 16th century, it often took place before Lent to lessen sinful occasions of Carnivale (Mardi Gras) and to encourage the Faithful to pray in front of the Exposed Blessed Sacrament for a good Lent. 

 

As time progressed, Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament often took place one Sunday a month after the main Mass so that, again, there could be an opportunity for solemn prayer as well as Benediction. In addition, Forty Hours Devotion was perhaps (especially in the United States) one of the most popular methods of Adoration. The Devotion would start with a Sung Mass followed by an indoor procession with the Litany of the Saints. The second day would have a Votive Mass of Peace. The last day would have a very particular Votive Mass of the Blessed Sacrament in front of the Monstrance ending with an indoor procession and Benediction. Each parish used to take a turn with this sort of devotion so that the Faithful (as well as priests) could come in the appointed Church and pray solemnly. This devotion even took place at our very own St. Ann in Plattsburg in the past. 

 

I was able to introduce this devotion with great success at St. Andrew the Apostle in Gladstone and I would like to do so here as well annually. You will find ample sign-up sheets in the back for our upcoming Forty Hours Devotion on October 10-12. Let’s see how many hours we can fill with two adorers and we’ll go from there! The Mass schedule will be as follows:

 

Sunday, October 10 10:00AM Mass followed by Solemn exposition and indoor procession with the Blessed Sacrament 

 

Monday, October 11 

7:00P.M. Low Mass (Votive Mass for Peace)

 

Tuesday, October 12

 

7:00PM Sung Mass (Votive Mass of the Blessed Sacrament) with Procession and Benediction

 

I hope that you will all find the time to participate in adoring the Eucharistic Lord in what I hope becomes an October spiritual practice for our parish. In addition, I would like to use this Eucharistic Adoration time to revise the current schedule and begin a monthly overnight vigil on the Thursday before the First Friday. This would be more in line with what Our Lord asks St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in the Devotion to His Sacred Heart (to whom our parish is consecrated) and hopefully provide more ample time that people are free to come to church, even if through the night. More to come on this schedule change later. 

 

For now, I would like to heartily encourage all of us to sign up in the back for our Forty Hours Celebration in October. The Lord asks, “Could you not watch one hour with Me?” Material will be provided in the back of the Church when the date comes to assist you with how to adore and pray! 

 

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