The majority of weekday Masses
that I attended in the 1950s
were “Low Masses” that involved
no singing. Most parishes
had only one Sunday “High Mass,”
where a choir did the singing.
In those days, Benediction of the
Blessed Sacrament always required
active participation, especially the
singing of hymns.
While Mass was required on Sundays,
Benediction was optional, often
combined with popular devotions
such as novenas.
'Source and Summit'
When Vatican II described the Eucharist
as the “source and summit of
the Church’s life” (Constitution on the
Sacred Liturgy, #10), Catholics began to
participate more actively at Mass, now
celebrated in their mother tongue.
Laypeople began serving as lectors
and extraordinary ministers of the
Eucharist. Some Catholics complained
that a sense of reverence for and adoration
of God was being lost as Benediction
and adoration of the Blessed
Sacrament became less frequent.
It is, however, the same Eucharist,
whether it is celebrated at Mass or
adored in Benediction. Jesus is completely
present in each event, inviting
us to become more generous disciples
and more wholehearted “living signs”
of his liberating Good News.
Benediction and adoration are now
making a comeback in many dioceses
and parishes—on a weekly or monthly
basis. In some places the ongoing intention
is greater respect for life or encouraging
vocations to the priesthood or
Eucharistic adoration at World
Youth Day draws thousands of people
for vocal and silent prayer. It is also an
important part of Cursillo weekends
and many retreats. The desire to convert,
to become more generous disciples
of Jesus, has been reinforced for
many people through prayer before
the Blessed Sacrament.
In the 13th century, St. Thomas
Aquinas wrote the beautiful prayer: “O
sacred banquet, in which Christ is
received, the memory of his Passion
is renewed, the mind is filled with
grace, and a pledge of future glory is
given to us. Amen.”
The Eucharist is indeed “a pledge
of future glory,” a reminder of the
eternal banquet to which we have
been invited. Like the disciples at
Emmaus, we recognize Jesus in “the
breaking of the bread” (the Eucharist)
and recognize that this
sacrament strengthens our baptismal
call to share the Good News
of Jesus Christ.
The first liturgical abuse recorded
in the New Testament involved Christians
who used the Eucharist to reinforce
economic divisions rather than to
recognize that the Eucharist puts those
divisions into God’s perspective (see 1
Sometimes we learn that lesson
while Mass is being celebrated. Often
we learn it during prayer before the
Blessed Sacrament. For many saintly
women and men, such prayer has
anchored their corporal and spiritual
works of mercy.
Benediction and adoration can provide
God’s nourishment for zealous but
sometimes weary disciples.
can read John Feister’s September
2001 Catholic Update, “The Real Presence:
Jesus’ Gift to the Church.”