Eucharistic devotions

| Father Michael Van Sloun | September 26, 2019 | 0 Comments


Eucharistic devotions are spiritual practices outside of the Mass that give honor to Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament, as well as opportunities to pray to Jesus in an intensified and personal way in his very presence. These devotions offer Jesus respect and reverence, express praise and thanks, make petition and offer contrition, and strengthen one’s personal relationship with Jesus. Eucharistic devotions do not replace the Mass, but instead help a person place a greater value on the Mass and lead a person back to the Mass.

The exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction is a longstanding, traditional devotion to the Eucharist. It begins when a priest or deacon places the Blessed Sacrament, a consecrated host, in a monstrance, a large ornate receptacle with an opening in the middle, and places it upon the altar or an elevated throne for all to see. Once exposed, it is common to sing a eucharistic hymn, followed by an extended period of prayer which may include a Scripture reading or another spiritual text, a homily or a brief exhortation, hymns or instrumental music, and silent prayer. It concludes with Benediction, which begins with a eucharistic hymn, then a prayer, incensing, the blessing of the assembly with the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance, the “Benediction,” followed by the recitation of the Divine Praises, the reposition of the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle, and a closing hymn.

Eucharistic adoration is to pray before the Blessed Sacrament, usually exposed in a monstrance but also possibly in a ciborium, in a church or an adoration chapel. It is customary to make a “holy hour,” to pray for a full hour based upon Jesus’ question, “So you could not keep watch with me for one hour?” (Mt 26:40), but there is no definite time requirement and it is acceptable to make a shorter or more extended visit. Some locations have perpetual adoration, where the Blessed Sacrament is exposed all day, every day, whereas others have designated days and times.

The Forty Hours devotion is celebrated at certain parishes, often annually, as an opportunity for renewal and prayer. It may be 40 continuous hours over two days, or more commonly, for portions of three consecutive days, with the Eucharist reposed overnight. Forty was chosen to commemorate the amount of time that Jesus spent in the tomb from Good Friday until Easter Sunday morning. While the entire parish or community is encouraged to participate, at least one person is in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament at all times. Forty Hours has a solemn closing, usually consisting of a procession and Benediction.

Eucharistic processions offer the participants an opportunity to witness their faith before others while expressing their devotion to Jesus in the Eucharist. The two most common occasions are Corpus Christi and Holy Thursday. It is customary for a priest or deacon to carry a monstrance beneath a canopy, led by the clergy and altar servers with lit candles and a smoking censor, followed by the faithful in prayer and song, and observed by others either inside the church from their places or outside along the route. For outdoor processions it is customary to make a series of stops, possibly at local churches, in districts or neighborhoods of large cities, in adjoining villages in rural areas, or at designated stations, both to pray and receive a blessing.

Other devotions to the Eucharist include visits to the church with prayer before the tabernacle, the Litany of the Holy Eucharist, all night prayer vigils, and the nine First Fridays.

Father Van Sloun is pastor of St. Bartholomew in Wayzata. This column is part of an ongoing series on the Eucharist. Read more of his writing at

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Category: Faith Fundamentals