Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I.

Eucharistic adoration and procession: Following Jesus Christ

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Last week, a representative group of Catholics from the archdiocese went in pilgrimage to Mary’s shrine in Lourdes, France, while other Catholics here participated in the pilgrimage at home. There are three processions during a week of pilgrimage in Lourdes: the torchlight procession while saying the Rosary, the eucharistic procession with the sick and the Way of the Cross.

The procession with the Blessed Sacrament at Lourdes winds its way from the tent where there is perpetual adoration on one side of the grotto of the apparition to the large underground church at the other side of the grotto. As the procession forms, the sick are brought into line behind the banners, others follow the sick and the bishops fall in behind the Blessed Sacrament. As I carried the Blessed Sacrament in procession, I thought that the Lord himself seems most often to take his cues from the sick and the impoverished, and the rest of us, especially bishops, have to fall in behind him in following them.

Most of the prayer intentions that the pilgrims brought to Lourdes detailed the needs and problems that affect us all. Many school children sent in petitions that we placed at the shrine. In a particular way, I was praying for the victims of sexual abuse that I have spoken with, along with those many others whose cases I have read about. Freedom from this sin for both abused and abuser is a grace that God will give if we ask him and then continue to take the means to help the victims and make sure that children are protected.

Our lives are transformed through frequent contact with the Lord present in the Blessed Sacrament. It is impossible to spend extended periods of time with Christ, adoring him, thanking him and uniting our wills to his, and not have him change our lives. One of the most encouraging developments in the prayer life of the archdiocese in recent years is the growth of eucharistic adoration in the parishes.

Almost half of the parishes in the archdiocese now have eucharistic adoration. The parishes are in both the city and the suburbs. A few have perpetual adoration, but this is often difficult to sustain day after day, night after night. Parishes that have perpetual adoration take special precautions to provide proper security.

Most of the parishes whose life is shaped by this special form of prayer have periods of adoration on specific days of the week or on several days of the week. I have visited many of the adoration chapels attached to parish churches. Those I have been in are often simple but beautiful, with everything in the chapel oriented toward the monstrance containing the consecrated host. In some parishes, devotion to the Divine Mercy is integral to the periods of adoration. In all the chapels, prayer booklets, rosaries and other devotional aids are available.

The Blessed Sacrament exposed on the altar is never to be left unattended. The adorers are often individual parishioners, but in some parishes groups take responsibility for several hours of adoration. The Pope John Paul II Eucharistic Adoration Association, under the guidance of Bishop Joseph Perry, can help parishes plan and remain faithful to eucharistic adoration.

What are the results of eucharistic adoration? Each one can witness to the workings of grace and the effects of prayer in his or her own life. Often the period of eucharistic adoration encourages the development of a more contemplative life and provides a sort of oasis from the extreme business that dominates our days.

For parishes as a whole, there is often an increase in unity and a deeper appreciation of the great gift of the Eucharist. Mass attendance sometimes increases. Marriages can be strengthened and, with an increase of spiritual generosity, the life of stewardship makes sense. Special calls to the ordained priesthood and to consecrated life can be heard. Deepening our love for Christ, who has given himself to us completely in this gift, moves us to love all those Christ himself loves, especially the poor and those who are the victims of injustice.

The archdiocesan Pastoral Council last year asked for more catechesis on the Eucharist. I have asked priests to preach on this mystery of our faith and requested the Catechetical Office to examine how the subject is taught in religious education. The seminary integrates its own teaching with the practice of eucharistic adoration as a way of extending the prayer of daily Mass.

The pilgrimage week in Lourdes was, for me and the others who made the pilgrimage here or in Lourdes itself, a time to draw close to the Lord through his Immaculate Mother. She points us to her Son; and the best way to be united to him is through the Eucharist, celebrated, received and adored. In Christ, with him and through him, all our prayers are made with the confidence born of faith and love.