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What is perpetual adoration and why is it deeply personal?


Didgeman | CC

Philip Kosloski - published on 05/18/17

Perpetual adoration is a profoundly personal type of prayer that many saints recommended.

The term sounds rather strange and archaic, but “Perpetual Adoration” refers to one of the greatest gifts God has given humanity.

What is Perpetual Adoration?

Eucharistic Adoration is a deeply personal method of prayer that many saints have recommended over the past few centuries. It consists of visiting a church or small chapel to adore Jesus Christ, truly present in the Blessed Sacrament. As Catholics we believe that “The Eucharistic presence of Christ begins at the moment of the consecration and endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsist” (CCC 1377).

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This means that as long as the Sacred Host is intact and possesses the physical properties of bread, the Real Presence of Jesus Christ, body, blood, soul and divinity, remain.

On account of this reality, the Church started using a tabernacle (typically a gold box) as a way to protect any consecrated hosts not consumed at Mass. (Read here to see why the word host is used in reference to the Eucharist). The Eucharistic hosts are typically stored in the tabernacle, which is marked out by a red lamp that stays lit as long as there are hosts within.

There arose in popularity during the 15th century a practice that placed a host not in the tabernacle, but in a gold receptacle called a “monstrance.” This device put the host on display in a clear piece of glass, surrounded by gold. Instead of being hidden away in the tabernacle, a host in the monstrance could be clearly seen and venerated by all.

The purpose of this practice centered on the desire of Christians to adore the King of Kings in the Sacred Host. Adoration provided an opportunity for Christians to have a “face-to-face conversation” with God, truly present in the Eucharist.

Soon enough there developed various religious orders and societies who took as their mission the Perpetual Adoration of Jesus in the Eucharist. They placed the monstrance on an altar and took turns adoring Our Lord around the clock, ensuring that a person was accompanying the Blessed Sacrament every hour of the day. This practice has been taken up by the laity in what are now called “Perpetual Adoration Chapels,” greatly supported by Saint John Paul II.

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In his encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, John Paul II exhorted 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.” He further said in an International Eucharistic Congress in Seville, “I hope that this form of perpetual adoration, with permanent exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, will continue into the future. Specifically, I hope that the fruit of this Congress results in the establishment of Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration in all parishes and Christian communities throughout the world.”

The practice of Eucharistic Adoration only makes sense in light of the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist as the Real Presence of Jesus. Catholics believe that Jesus is truly there, in a special way not found anywhere else in the world. It is as if we were walking next to Jesus when he was on this earth.

A short story in the life of Saint Teresa of Avila perfectly summarizes the reasoning behind Eucharistic Adoration. One day Saint Teresa heard someone say, “If only I had lived at the time of Jesus … If only I had seen Jesus … If only I had talked with Jesus.” She responded, “But do we not have in the Eucharist the living, true and real Jesus present before us? Why look for more?”

With the availability of Perpetual Adoration, we can spend time — any time, any day — with Jesus.

If you are curious about Perpetual Adoration, check out this directory of Perpetual Adoration Chapels in the United States and visit one today!

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