Eucharistic Adoration a Step Backward?


Fr. Z reported on these comments against adoration from Richard McBrien of Notre Dame. Here’s the bit from McBrien (and Fr. Z’s comments in red) below:

The practice of eucharistic adoration began in the 12th century, when the Real Presence of Christ was widely rejected by heretics or misunderstood by poorly educated Catholics. The church saw eucharistic adoration as a way of reaffirming its faith in the Real Presence and of promoting renewed devotion to it.

However, as time went on, eucharistic devotions, including adoration, drifted further and further away from their liturgical grounding in the Mass itself.

Notwithstanding Pope Benedict XVI’s personal endorsement of eucharistic adoration [In other words, who cares what the Pope thinks.] and the sporadic restoration of the practice in the archdiocese of Boston and elsewhere, it is difficult to speak favorably about the devotion today.

Now that most Catholics are literate and even well-educated, [In other words, Adoration is probably something only stupid people are interested in.] the Mass is in the language of the people (i.e, the vernacular), and its rituals are relatively easy to understand and follow, [Really? Ask people after Mass what the epiclesis is for? or what the Gospel reading was?] there is little or no need for extraneous eucharistic devotions. The Mass itself provides all that a Catholic needs sacramentally and spiritually[No need for confession, either, I suppose.]

Eucharistic adoration, perpetual or not, is a doctrinal, theological, and spiritual step backward, not forward.

What do you all think about Eucharistic adoration?

19 comments Add comment

Chris October 14, 2009 at 11:49 am

Well, I disagree, but I haven’t seen the comments in context. He may be using this argument rhetorically to make the opposite point. He may go on to say… “Nonetheless, it remains a vital devotion that connexts with the faithful at the level of faith, not rationality, which is why it will always be treasured by the Church.”

I doubt it, but I’m just saying.

To be honest, as a former Protestant, I have the same problem with the Rosary: an entirely inappropriate devotion for a literate faithful, designed merely to give illiterate medieval peasants 150 prayers to say in the fields in connection with the psalms prayed by the monks and clergy during the liturgy of the hours.

Since the Liturgy of the Hours is the official prayer of the whole church and the Rosary is a mere popular devotion, anyone who can read should properly put down the beads and pray the daily office instead, right?

Obviously, no. While seemingly logical, it isn’t pastorally appropriate. Yes, one is a proper liturgy, and the other a time-tested devotion, both hold a valued… though different… place in the life of faith.

Same thing for adoration.

Valerie N. October 20, 2009 at 3:15 pm

I appreciated the way you made sense of this. I have a friend who once asked, “Am I less orthodox because I pray the liturgy of the hours instead of the rosary?” My response was no. And yet, the personal experiences of millions of Catholics around the would throughout history would indicate that one might be missing out on something by not praying the rosary. Same with Adoration. Hearts change. Lives change. Apparently it pleases God to use these devotions as powerful tools for conversion.

Kaitlin L. October 14, 2009 at 11:59 am

Eucharistic Adoration has completely changed my life. Mother Teresa sure seemed to understand the importance of Eucharistic Adoration.

“The time you spend with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the best time you
will spend on earth. Each moment that you spend with Jesus will deepen your
union with Him and make your soul everlastingly more glorious and beautiful in
Heaven, and will help bring about everlasting peace on earth.” – Mother Teresa

Bronwyn47 October 14, 2009 at 12:00 pm

Eucharistic adoration is in no way, a “step backwards”, that’s for sure. It is the real presence of Jesus! He is truly present,body, blood, soul & divinity! There are many people from a wide range of vocations, callings and careers who find it uplifting and an effective way of strengthening their faith. People who are fathers, mothers, architects, university educated, lecturers and students. It’s not something that only stupid people are concerned with. Why would religious sisters/brothers/priests dedicate one hour a day for adoration? It’s something that it still important. It still holds a place in many devout Catholic’s prayer life, young and old.
Do people really pay attention at mass? That can always be debated, but one thin I know is that the pews are still filling up! In one parish, 500 people come for Sunday mass every week. Would Fr Z rather that the pews were empty instead of having a congregation that won’t listen?
Yes, there is still the need for confession. In this world, we have a great need for confession, particularly when things like pornography are but a mouse click away!

Kaitlin L. October 14, 2009 at 12:20 pm

@ Chris,

“I have the same problem with the Rosary: an entirely inappropriate devotion for a literate faithful”

Are you saying that as people become more educated they are in less need of Our Lady’s intercession? That is an extremely bold statement considering how many educated people have a devotion to Mary. Mary urged us to pray the Rosary for world peace when she appeared in Fatima. John Paul II, a literate man (very educated and fluent in many languages) had a great devotion to Mary. If the Rosary isn’t your thing, that’s fine. However, The Rosary is for the literate and illiterate, there is nothing “inappropriate” about it.

Chris October 15, 2009 at 1:06 pm

No Kaitlin, I think if you read my remarks all the way through you’ll see I set up the argument to make exactly the opposite point: if we reduce popular devotions like adoration or the rosary merely to their original function, we are missing out on what they have come to offer the Church over time.

Jason October 16, 2009 at 4:02 pm

Nice comment Chris…

Jean October 14, 2009 at 12:33 pm

In a world where Eastern ‘meditation’ and contemplative prayers and practices are gaining popularity, it seems odd to look down one’s nose at the “Catholic Edition” therein. Adoration, the rosary, and contemplative prayer are an opportunity to find solace and wisdom, but also serve an important personal, and not just ‘requirement-fulfilling’ function.

I honestly never really ‘got’ adoration until I went. It’s the same reason you’d shell out $150 for a concert when you already have all the group’s CDs – it is different when they are live, and you’re in their presence.

At a minimum, adoration is a breath of fresh air and reflection in a harried world. At best, it is personal, direct union with the son of God. The reason people stray from the church and from faith is they fail to see its personal ‘relevance.’ For me, reflecting on Jesus being human, choosing to humble himself, the magnitude of his sacrifices, makes my personal burdens pale in comparison and gives me patience and perspective.

The Rosary is many different things to many different Catholics. A loaf of white bread is boring, but a fresh baguette can be divine. If you just repeat prayers monotonously without reflection, then yes, it’s boring and may be a waste of your time and mental energy. But if you believe in the meaning behind the words, and if you believe God hears you *personally*, the rosary is powerful.

In a recent church event, they talked about how the Rosary is all kinds of prayer: ‘formaulated’ (recited), contemplative and spontaneous, all at once. As I practiced my rosary more, and got more consistent with it, the higher meaning seeped in because I was less focused on the precise words and more on the meaning of a 14-year-old pregnant girl, on a man whose friends soldhim out for 30 silver pieces and died a painful death he could have spared Himself.

So honestly, don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. I got so much more out of my faith when I began to trust the wisdom of centuries of faithful people over my own eye-rolling or uncertainty.

Chris November 9, 2009 at 12:27 pm

I’d say that Eastern meditation has more in common with standard Catholic practices like Centering Prayer, Lectio Divina and Contemplation than with the Rosary, but still, nice point. :-)

In Eastern practices, the closest thing to the rosary is… well, Eastern “rosaries,” the collection of 108 prayer beads common prayed by Buddhists.


Mike October 14, 2009 at 12:50 pm

“The practice of eucharistic adoration began in the 12th century, when the Real Presence of Christ was widely rejected by heretics or misunderstood by poorly educated Catholics.”

…as opposed to the 21st century, when the Real Presence of Christ is widely rejected by heretics and misunderstood by poorly catechized Catholics.

Jason October 16, 2009 at 4:03 pm

Right on Mike…great point…

Leticia Velasquez October 14, 2009 at 1:02 pm

Anyone who can say that spending time in the presence of the King of KIngs, of Love Himself. is a waste of time, needs not less adoration but more. MUCH more.

Matthew Michelsen October 14, 2009 at 1:05 pm

First, people should know that Fr. McBrien is a dissident on many Catholic moral and theological teachings.
Any attempt to trivialize the practice of Eucharistic spirituality whether in the Mass or the additional practice of Adoration, is coming from the prince of lies.
I can speak first hand that time spent sitting in front of Our Lord’s True Presence in the Blessed Sacrament, purifies and converts your mind and heart.
A true revival of Tradition and Eucharistic piety would set the world ablaze !!

JT October 14, 2009 at 1:48 pm

WOW! I totally agree with Leticia! If you have doubt about what adoration can do for YOU then you haven’t been enough or haven’t let yourself “go” properly. Going to mass and going to adoration are completely different for me. Different feelings are received; different emotions experienced.

amy2boys October 14, 2009 at 2:22 pm

Notre Dame is wearing me OUT. So disappointing.

To say that Adoraton is a step backward is completely ridiculous. He should be ashamed.

Mark Alger October 14, 2009 at 7:03 pm

Eucahristic Adoration is the purist prayer. When do well,It is the moment that we can leave this world and totally be in the loving arms of the Savior. I understand the point of considering Adoration as a step backwords when thinking only on a human level where religion is really a mental construct that makes one feel “fulfilled”. However, adoration is a moment of pure reality; Creature before creator; sinner before the healer. I agree with Jean who says that only when you go do you understand the fullness of this act of piety. Only when the experience of God is experienced, can ones mind understand the power of adoration. In reality, Adoration is a brief moment of heaven. Many people cannot get to this truth because they have to go through the purging of sin so as to be able to get to be ready for the consolation of God’s love in his grace. God does grant graces along our path because all have sinned and his infinite mercy reaches out to us. Brothers and sisters, adoration is all about giving yourself in purity to the Lord and singing his praises in your heart. Adoration is for me a glimpse of heaven where God and I are together and no earthly matter will be of importance. He and I walking and talking without any desire for myself and my needs. I cannot wait for heaven. This desire for heaven and to be with God, comes from my love increasing each time I go to adoration. Thank you Jesus the gift of this moment with you.

Joe October 15, 2009 at 1:12 am

I think McBrien and others at ND (and elsewhere in the dissenting realms) use these type of ploys to drive a wedge between traditional and cafeteria Catholics.

Sure, this may be a simplistic way of looking at things, but in essence it is what they are doing. See, they have a philosophical base which relies on quantity over quality and style over substance. Filling pews with 50 followers is better than nourishing the 25 that already attend. For McBrien, ND’s ranking and global prestige is more important than the prestige received from Catholics.

Mary October 15, 2009 at 3:02 pm

From the Eucharistric Daily Adoration Booklet
based on excerpts from Saint Faustina Diary
The Parton Saint of the Divine Mercy Devotion

This is what Jesus told me this afternoon during my Daily Hour of Eucharistic Adoration. And I fervertly believe He was actually speaking to me personally beings physically present before me. After that Adoration I felt the most wonderful peaceful feeling.

“Come to me – do not be afraid. There is something very special I have to say to you today.

“Do you know that every visit you make to me will be rewarded. No one who comes to me returns empty handed. You will hear good news, your heart will be filled with love and joy. You will see that your mind will be enlightened. As you sit before me still, you are being enriched beyond your imagination. I want you to understand this. You are very Special to me. I know your name. Your name is carved on the palm of my hand. No matter how you see yourself, I see you as the Beloved – the one for whom I bled and died.

“I have belessed you in a special way. I have given you gifts and as you use these gifts, they grow. You remember the boy who gave me 5 loaves and 2 fish? How many did I feed with that?

“I will accept whatever you offer me and use it. Give me your Hands, stretch them out towards me, that I may bless them and make them always open for sharing

“Give me your eyes, I will bless them to see and respond to the needs of others. Give me your voice, I will bless and use it so that those hearing you will be filled with joy and love.

“Give me your heart as I give you Mine, that I may LOVE through you”

With words like these from Jesus Himself I am shocked to hear anyone suggesting Eucharistic Adoration is a step backwards. I can’t believe he was not joking.

Eucharistic Adoration Hour is the highest level of worship to Jesus in his Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, living among us until the end of time. The next best giftHe gives us it to come to us during Communion. These two manefestations of God’s love for us are the ultimate the the apex of the Catholic Faith, from where our worship, adoration and Thanksgiving flows through the Holy Spirit and the sure route to Salvation

As for the Sacrament of Confession, what do I say. This Sacracement was instituted on Easter Sunday when Jesus appeared to the Apostles upon His ressurection, breathed the Holy Spirit into them saying ” Receive the Holy Spirit, the sins you forgive are forgiven, the sins you retain are retained” Now anyone against this Sacrament let him explain here how the Priest can carry out this order and impart this Sacrament of Jesus unless I meet Jesus at the Confessional through the Priest, tell him the sins I have committed so that through him, Jesus can forgive my sins. If the Holy Father himself goes for Confession, who is this Catholic who says he does not need to go to confess?

In my very simple and humble mind and unshakable Faith in the Catholic Faith, when I read discussions such as these among intelligent and highly educated people, I fear the Holy Father is right when he has consistently condemned the dictatorship of consumerism and relativism. We need to pray very hard.

Catherine October 15, 2009 at 5:47 pm

What is more beneficial and uplifting than being in the presence of our Lord?

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