St. Thomas Aquinas defines peace, in one aspect, as the “tranquility of order.” However you define it, we are not doing too well in achieving peace in domestic and international as well as cultural matters. Maybe we are missing something. Let me suggest a practice that can help.
When John Paul II instituted Eucharistic adoration at St. Peter’s Basilica in 1981, he said, “The best … way of establishing everlasting peace on the face of the earth is through … Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.” Mother Teresa, when asked, “What will convert America and save the world?” replied, “My answer is prayer. What we need is for every parish to come before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament in holy hours of prayer.”
What are they talking about? The Catholic tradition holds that, “[i]n the … Eucharist, the body and blood, … soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really and substantially contained. This presence is called real, by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence … but because it is presence in the fullest sense … it is substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present.” (Catechism, no. 1374).
This conversion of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, promised in the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel and fulfilled at the Last Supper, is called transubstantiation, “a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ … and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood.” Catechism, no. 1376. “Substance,” as Cardinal Avery Dulles put it, “denotes the basic reality of the thing, i.e., what it is in itself.” A change in appearance does not affect the substance of the thing. When the angel Raphael stood before Tobiah, his appearance was that of a “young man,” but his substance was that of an angel (Tobit, 5:5, 12:15).
“Christ is present,” wrote Cardinal Dulles, “by his dynamic power and action in all the sacraments, but in the Eucharist, His presence is, in addition, substantial. For this reason, the Eucharist may be adored. It is the greatest of all sacraments” (Feb. 15, 2005).
You are in the real presence of Christ every time you step into a Catholic church where the lighted lamp or candle indicates that the Blessed Sacrament is in the tabernacle. At any such time one can be with Christ in adoration. The term Eucharistic adoration, however, is usually applied to the exposition of the Sacrament to view. Christ is as fully present in the closed tabernacle as he is in the monstrance during exposition. It helps devotion to be able also to look upon him in the host in which “the whole Christ is truly, really and substantially contained.”
Eucharistic adoration is a part of Notre Dame, in history as well as practice. “Our great consolation here,” wrote Fr. Edward Sorin, C.S.C., from the wilds of Indiana, “is the Perpetual Adoration in our midst, and the perpetual daily Mass … Upon these two wide spreading wings may we not, each and all, daily rise above the dense and thick fogs of this dreary land of exile? When we die, this double insurance against forgetfulness will prove to be a rich investment, a precious solace — aye, a source of joy for our last hours, but especially for those whose life is moulded after the Divine precept — always to pray and never to faint.”
Notre Dame has Eucharistic adoration in the Basilica Friday from noon to 4:45 p.m. and in Coleman-Morse, Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. You don’t have to sign up. Just be there and stay for as long or as short a time as you choose. You can pray, read or just think. You might ask, “What am I going to do for half an hour or 15 minutes, just sitting there? Suppose I fall asleep?” As Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen noted, “That’s the way the Apostles made their first Holy Hour in the Garden.” So that should not be a concern. And if you are worried about being bored, it might be useful to reflect on the several meanings of being there.
The practice of Eucharistic adoration complements the liturgy of the Mass. “One of the most moving moments of the Synod [of Bishops],” wrote Benedict XVI, “came when we gathered in St. Peter’s Basilica, together with a great number of the faithful, for Eucharistic adoration. In this act of prayer, and not just in words, the … Bishops wanted to point out the intrinsic relationship between Eucharistic celebration and Eucharistic adoration. [An] appreciation of this … has been important … in the years following the liturgical renewal desired by the Second Vatican Council. … [A]doration outside Mass prolongs and intensifies … the liturgical celebration … Indeed, ‘only in adoration can a profound and genuine reception mature. And it is precisely this personal encounter with the Lord that then strengthens the social mission contained in the Eucharist, which seeks to break down not only the walls that separate the Lord and ourselves, but also and especially the walls that separate us from one another.'” Benedict XVI, Apostolic Exhortation, Sacrament of Love (2007), no. 66, quoting his address, Dec. 22, 2005.
So why should we consider Eucharistic adoration? One reason is that it works. “People are hungry for God,” said Mother Teresa of Calcutta. “When the Sisters are exhausted, up to their eyes in work; when all seems to go awry, they spend an hour in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. This practice has never failed to bring fruit; they experience peace and strength.”
Eucharistic adoration at Notre Dame is essentially a student initiative, with the support and encouragement of Campus Ministry. It is one of the very best things about Notre Dame.
Professor Emeritus Rice is on the Law School faculty. He may be reached at [email protected]
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The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.