YONKERS — Perhaps the best-known and most-traveled Catholic priest in America, who has given retreats before great crowds for decades, spoke last night about what may be the most solitary and personal form of Catholic prayer.
The Rev. Benedict Groeschel explained that the practice of Eucharistic adoration, which invites worshippers to pray in silence before what Catholics believe to be the body and blood of Jesus Christ, has come back into favor only in recent years. Growing numbers of parishes are making available the devotion, often on a 24-hour basis.
"Go into the chapel and he is there — in his body and blood," Groeschel said.
The 71-year-old Franciscan gave the final talk in a lecture series at St. Joseph’s Seminary to celebrate the Catholic Church’s Year of the Eucharist. Groeschel’s very presence was celebrated by the more than 600 in attendance, as he was nearly killed in January 2004 when he was struck by a car in Orlando, Fla.
He received a standing ovation when he entered the seminary’s prayer hall, walking slowly up the center aisle with the help of a cane.
"Clearly, we have with us tonight a veritable legend of the church in America," said Monsignor Peter Finn, rector of St. Joseph’s.
Groeschel, who is director of the office of spiritual development for the Archdiocese of New York, is a beloved figure to countless traditional Catholics, thanks to his decades of retreat work and his many books. He is a founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, and many of the order’s members — in their increasingly familiar gray robes and long beards — were walking the seminary’s halls last night.
A movement away from reverence and devotion among some Catholics in the years following the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s helped to marginalize the practice of Eucharistic adoration, Groeschel said. He said that many Catholics since have not fully understood the church’s central belief that the bread and wine of Communion become the actual body and blood of Christ.
"Judgment must be passed on the inadequacy of much religious education in the last 30 or 40 years," he said.
In his typical wisecracking way, Groeschel hearkened back to the teaching philosophy when he was educated by no-nonsense nuns: "Learn or die." [Source]