John Allen Jr. in today’s daily column.
As part of a broad initiative to promote Eucharistic adoration, the Vaticans Congregation for Clergy is proposing that religious women spiritually adopt priests through prayer before the Eucharist, and, more generally, that Catholics from every corner of the world spend time before the Eucharist to pray for vocations to the priesthood in an era of priest shortages.
Concretely, the Congregation for Clergy is proposing that each diocese appoint a priest whose full-time job would be to promote Eucharistic adoration, and that special Eucharistic shrines be created that would resemble the well-known Marian shrines that dot the Catholic world.
Eucharistic adoration is a practice in which the Blessed Sacrament, meaning a consecrated host believed to be the Body of Christ, is exposed publicly for prayer and adoration. When this adoration is carried out continuously 24 hours a day, the practice is known as perpetual adoration.
The congregation also suggests that parishes, dioceses and religious orders seek donors to fund the construction of these shrines, as well as to pay for monstrances (a decorated vessel containing the consecrated host), liturgical vestments, and educational materials explaining the purpose of the devotion.
The congregation asks that Eucharistic adoration be introduced in parishes, seminaries, religious houses and other Catholic facilities. Bishops are requested to fill out a form indicating their intention to cooperate.
Consecrated women in particular are urged to “spiritually adopt priests in order to help them with their self-offering, prayer and penance” by engaging in Eucharistic adoration, following the example, Vatican officials say, of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The proposals come in a letter to all the bishops of the world, along with an accompanying leaflet outlining the project, to be released tomorrow, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. The letter is signed by Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, Prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, and Archbishop Mauro Piacenza, the congregations secretary.
Hummes says the idea is to stress the ontological link between the Eucharist and the priesthood, as well as the special maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary for each priest. The initiative is styled as a response to a call from Pope Benedict XVI in his apostolic exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, released last February as the concluding document from the October 2005 Synod on the Eucharist. In that text, Benedict urged wider practice of Eucharistic adoration.
This is a great initiative and the obvious one, but it seems so often in diocesan vocations programs one that is missing. I love the idea of having someone dedicated to the promotion of Eucharistic Adoration in a diocese. Eucharistic Adoration is back on the rise, though it would be great for more parishes to offer it more frequently or even to have perpetual adoration especially under the guiding connection of the Eucharist in the priesthood. The spiritual adoption of priests by women’s religious is also nothing new as is evident by the practice of the Missionaries of Charity, Saint Therese, and many others throughout history, but it is something that needs once again to be emphasized and to be put back into wider practice. I think we should also spiritually adopt seminarians within our diocese.
One thing I find odd about John Allen’s Jr. column this time is his thinking that he has to explain Eucharist Adoration and what a monstrance is. This isn’t exactly an obscure part of Catholic teaching or practice. Though I guess maybe he knows better the audience of the National Catholic Reporter.