The Place of Eucharistic Adoration

One of the genuinely hopeful developments in Catholic life in recent years has been the spread of Eucharistic adoration. Parishes across the country have begun to offer opportunities for people to meditate and pray before the Blessed Sacrament. In some places, Eucharistic adoration is a 24/7 program while elsewhere it takes place several days a week. It's a great idea.

Or at least, quite a few of us think it is. But apparently not all. It may come as a shock to people who cherish Eucharistic adoration, but there are some who have reservations about the practice. It's worth considering why.

Recently I read a magazine article by an articulate critic — the name hardly matters — who can reasonably be taken as representative of the rest. His point was simple and, simply on its own terms, impossible to quarrel with: The Mass is the most important act of Christian worship, and it's wrong to let adoration of the Blessed Sacrament overshadow it.

That's perfectly true. Just as it's perfectly true that this overshadowing may sometimes have been a problem in the past and may sometimes be a problem even today.

Many years ago, I lived in a parish where it was the practice to distribute communion before the first morning Mass. That was done, I assume, to oblige early risers who needed to head off to work. The intention was good, but there was a danger of conveying the impression that "receiving communion" by itself was an adequate substitute for "going to Mass."   

 But that was way back when.  A few years ago, in response to something I'd written about the clergy shortage and the growing unavailability of Mass in some places, an intelligent layman whom I know made a remark that jarred me. What difference does it really make, he asked, as long as there's a communion service? If you can receive the Blessed Sacrament, that's all that really counts.

The only possible reply to this is, of course, that the heart of the Eucharistic celebration — the Mass — is Jesus' covenant-forming action made present for our participation here and now. This is, or at least it should be, the absolute center of our Christian lives. In case of need, communion outside Mass is excellent. But it just isn't comparable to participation in the Eucharistic celebration that includes receiving communion.

Eucharistic adoration shouldn't be allowed to overshadow that. But just here is where critics of Eucharistic adoration tend to miss the point.

Adoring the Blessed Sacrament exposed on the altar is not an action separate and apart from participating in the Eucharist. On the contrary, it's a way of continuing and extending that participation beyond the sacramental act itself. This is what Eucharistic adorers are in fact doing.

Participating in Mass and engaging in Eucharistic adoration, properly understood, are not in competition, much less in conflict. They are two aspects of the same profound reality. Pope Benedict XVI expresses that idea beautifully in his apostolic exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis ("The Sacrament of Charity"), published in March of last year.

"Eucharistic adoration," he writes, "is simply the natural consequence of the Eucharistic celebration, which is itself the Church's supreme act of adoration…. The act of adoration outside Mass prolongs and intensifies all that takes place during the liturgical celebration itself."

And the Pope quotes from a talk he gave to the Roman Curia in 2005: "Only in adoration can a profound and genuine reception [of communion] mature" (Sacramentum Caritatis, 66). If you haven't given it a try yet, it's time that you do.

Russell Shaw


Russell Shaw is a freelance writer from Washington, D.C. You can email him at

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  • Guest

    Thank you very much! Amen!

  • Guest

    I used to go to Eucharistic Adoration till circumstances intervened to prevent it.  While it was possible to go, I became gradually more and more aware of the Real Presence of Jesus, and this increased my reverence at Mass.  Thank God, this  has continued, and I wish everyone could take advantage of going to Eucharistic Adoration.  Our Parish doesn't have a chapel, and I don't know if anyone has ever tried to establish one.  If that happened, I think it would make a great difference in so many ways.  Thank you, Mr. Shaw.

  • Guest

    At a parish mission last night, the presenter used the analogy of going outside on a bright sunny day and being bathed in the warm rays of sunshine. We may not fully understand the scientific principles of radiant heat and the energy that it creates but we can and do experience the results. He encouraged us to participate in Eucharistic Adoration and let the "SONshine" on us. We can't help but be positively affected when we spend time being exposed to heavenly rays!

  • Guest

    Thanks Mr. Shaw. I don’t understand those who say Adoration of Christ takes away from the Eucharist. It’s like saying what the shepherds did at the birth of Christ took something away from his message. Their arguments don’t hold any water. Even the case Mr. Shaw stated is not proof of a lack of understanding by many people. It was just one. Today we have millions of Catholics who think the Eucharist is just a symbol. This is after years of listening to these people who say adoration takes away from the Mass. As Father Mitch on EWTN states, “How can Jesus take away from Jesus?” or “How can Jesus distract us from Jesus?” It’s impossible. I think these people are deceived by the evil one. Oh how the errors of Protestantism has crept into our Church. Ave Maria!

  • Guest

    Personally I struggle tremendously with Adoration of the Eucharistic element especially when it is placed within a monstrance and is placed on the altar for personal adoration. I also struggle with belief in the real presence of that same Eucharistic element when the intention to consume the flesh of Christ is subverted for a different purpose. In my heart I feel in violation of the first commandment and that I am worshipping God in a form that He has forbidden.

  • Guest

    Zachaeus, there is serious confusion in your statements. That's OK for a while. Everyone has to come to grips with their faith which tests our tenacity and audacity and resolve to believe that which is incredible.

    These are Sacred Mysteries, from Malchizadek to the Last Supper to our modern day Mass. Trust Mother Church on this one; She is old and wise and full of the Holy Spirit. You will never be able to figure this out for yourself. 

  • Guest

    Some of this new interest derives from so many people going to Medjugorje since the '80 and '90's.  I wish that people did not ignore the very good and helpful messages and support of Medjugorje.