Dear Catholic Exchange:
I belong to a lay community and we have exposition of the Blessed Sacrament once a month. At times, there are "discourses" taking place while the Blessed Sacrament is exposed — someone may give a talk about morality or lack of or something else. While we are looking at the person speaking, we are not looking at/adoring Christ in the Eucharist. I am not sure of the canonical requirements for exposition but I think I need help to understand.
Also, if the Blessed Sacrament is permitted to remain in a Chapel, in the tabernacle, but no one is around all day, does the Chapel need to be locked?
Thank you for any help/advice you can offer. I went to the Vatican website but could not find this information. Perhaps I was not looking in the right place.
Perpetual exposition of the Blessed Sacrament is done with permission of the Bishop, who has the authority to answer these questions. Sometimes a quick call the chancery office of your diocese can produce an authoritative answer.
Nonetheless, a Church document that might provide an indication is Eucharisticum Mysterium (Worship of the Eucharist):
"During the exposition everything should be so arranged that the faithful can devote themselves attentively in prayer to Christ our Lord.
"To foster personal prayer, there may be reading from the Scriptures together with a homily, or brief exhortations which lead to a better understanding of the mystery of the Eucharist. It is also good for the faithful to respond to the Word of God in song. It is necessary that there should be periods of silence at suitable times.
"Even brief exposition of the Blessed Sacrament held in accordance with the law should be so arranged that before the blessing with the Blessed Sacrament reasonable time is provided for readings of the Word of God, hymns, prayers and silent prayer, as circumstances permit.
"Local ordinaries will make certain that these expositions of the Blessed Sacrament are always and everywhere carried out with due reverence."
Provision is made for acts of worship such as reading Scripture ("with a homily" or "brief exhortations"), appropriate songs and communal prayer. Necessary periods of silence are also noted. All of these things foster the primary end or purpose for which exposition takes place, which is worship of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Do the discourses you have in mind "foster personal prayer" or "lead to a better understanding of the mystery of the Eucharist?"
The local ordinary mentioned in this instruction is the bishop (or his legitimate representative). He holds the authority to determine whether the proposed discourses are in line with the purpose of exposition.
You also asked whether the chapel should be locked. It might be prudent for a chapel or church to be locked for security reasons, but this is not required. The tabernacle itself must be locked "in such a way that the danger of profanation is avoided as much as possible" (canon 938 §3).
United in the Faith,
Catholics United for the Faith
827 North Fourth Street
Steubenville, OH 43952