St. John Paul II was an ardent promoter of eucharistic adoration throughout his pontificate. He believed that the Eucharist was the Church’s greatest treasure. In fact, people who helped to organize his travels said he had a penchant for instinctively locating a chapel in places where he had never been before. During his visits, he would spend time in adoration — sometimes derailing his schedule.
During his 1999 visit to St. Louis, the Holy Father spent time in front of the Blessed Sacrament in the Blessed Mother’s Chapel at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis before the start of an ecumenical prayer service. The image of him kneeling on a hand-embroidered prie-dieu is an iconic reminder of his devotion to our eucharistic Lord.
“The Church and the world have a great need of eucharistic worship,” he wrote in his 1980 letter, “Dominicae Cenae,” which detailed the mystery and worship of the Eucharist. “Jesus waits for us in this sacrament of love. ... Let us be generous with our time in going to meet Him in adoration and in contemplation that is full of faith and ready to make reparation for the great faults and crimes of the world by our adoration never cease.”
Two years before the Holy Father’s visit to St. Louis, then-Archbishop Justin Rigali formed the Archbishop’s Committee for Eucharistic Adoration as part of a strategic plan to foster conversion through prayer and the sacraments to revitalize participation in the Eucharist. Understanding the pope’s long-held desire to renew adoration, the archbishop also called for an increased participation in eucharistic adoration within parishes in the archdiocese.
Msgr. Joseph Simon, chaplain of the local committee, said St. John Paul II “promoted eucharistic adoration at the highest level of the Church.” On Dec. 2, 1981 — the same year an assassination attempt was made against him — he opened a chapel for perpetual adoration in St. Peter’s Basilica, encouraging all parishes to offer perpetual adoration.
Parishes in the Archdiocese of St. Louis have increased efforts to promote eucharistic adoration in the ensuing years. Many parishes offer some level of adoration, whether that’s several hours a day, to more elaborate perpetual adoration schedules. Some parishes also have built separate, standalone chapels specifically for eucharistic adoration.
Msgr. Simon, who recalled attending 40 Hours and First Friday devotions as a child, said eucharistic devotions had largely waned by the 1960s and 1970s. “That devotion to the eucharist outside of Mass kind of fell asleep,” he said. “St. John Paul II wanted to bring that back. He spoke about 40 Hours. He spoke about adoration chapels, and encouraged the pastors of the church to do that. The impetus on exposition and adoration was from him.”
The archbishop’s committee assists parish coordinators, helping them with new methods of drawing in and retaining adorers. Msgr. Simon said St. John Paul II placed an importance on helping others understand Christ’s True Presence in the Eucharist.
“You realize that Christ is truly present as you gaze upon (Him) in the Blessed Sacrament,” Msgr. Simon said. “The presence is a real, personal presence. This is a leap of faith — but that’s what faith is. It is what we as Catholics … believe.”
Important points from Ecclesia de Eucharistia
“Ecclesia de Eucharistia,” St. John Paul II’s 2003 encyclical on the Eucharist, notes that:
• “In many places, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is also an important daily practice and becomes an inexhaustible source of holiness. (#10)
• “In some places, the practice of eucharistic adoration has been almost completely abandoned. In various parts of the Church, abuses have occurred, leading to confusion with regard to sound faith and Catholic doctrine concerning this wonderful sacrament. … The Eucharist is too great a gift to tolerate ambiguity and depreciation. (#10)
• “The worship of the Eucharist outside of the Mass is of inestimable value for the life of the Church. This worship is strictly linked to the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice. The presence of Christ under the sacred species reserved after Mass — a presence which lasts as long as the species of bread and of wine remain — derives from the celebration of the sacrifice and is directed toward communion, both sacramental and spiritual. (#25)
• “It is the responsibility of 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.” (#25)
To read the entire encyclical, see bit.ly/1EuawSO
Other documents on the Eucharist from Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II on eucharistic devotion, from a talk during a visit to Ireland,1979
Inaestimabile Donum (Instruction Concerning Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery), prepared by the Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship and confirmed by the pope in 1980
Eucharist: Sacrament of Human Pilgrimage, 1996
Adoration resources in the Archdiocese of St. Louis
For information on eucharistic adoration, visit archstl.org/adoration. Contact your parish to see what adoration times are offered.