From the Rector: 40 Hours of Adoration-Part II

40 Hours of Adoration-Part II

A Roman Tradition 

About 1550, St. Philip Neri introduced the Forty Hours devotion in Rome, and in 1592 Pope Clement VIII became the first pope to give formal recognition to the devotion with his papal decree Graves et diuturnae . Pope Clement’s intention was to use the 40 hours to pray for God’s aid in protecting the Church against all dangers, both internal and external. He also intended the observance to be continuous: “We have determined to establish publicly in this Mother City of Rome an uninterrupted course of prayer in such wise that in the different churches … on appointed days, there be observed the pious and salutary devotion of the Forty Hours, with such an arrangement of churches and times that, at every hour of the day and night, th e whole year round the incense of prayer shall ascend without intermission before the face of the Lord.”

The Vatican instructions or rubrics associated with the Forty Hours were issued by Pope Clement XI in 1705 and later in that century revised by Pope Clement XII. These rubrics, known as the Clementine Instructions, provide, with great solemnity, minute details for conducting the devotion and are mostly still followed today during exposure, benediction and reposition of the Blessed Sacrament. All the instructions are designed to focus attention on the sacredness of the Sacrament.

For centuries there was little doubt when the devotion was taking place, as a picture or banner depicting the Blessed Sacrament was hung on the church door, the church bells were rung every hour and the Sacrament was surrounded with at least 20 lit candles. While the Clementine Instructions were binding only on the churches in the city of Rome, they were quickly adopted throughout the rest of the world. In 1853, St. John Neumann, fourth bishop of Philadelphia, introduced Forty Hours as a diocesanwide devotion in the United States.


With Greatest Possible Solemnity 

At one time all Catholic parishes were obligated to conduct this popular devotion. The 1917 Code of Canon Law prescribed that the Eucharist be annually exposed for 40 hours of adoration, “with greatest possible solemnity,” in all places where the Blessed Sacrament was normally reserved and on dates determined by the local bishop. Today, except in churches where there is Perpetual Adoration, such annual periods of Eucharistic exposure are less common and only “recommended” by the Code of Canon Law that was promulgated in 1983. Guidance from the Vatican’s Sacred Congregation of Divine Worship and the Sacraments, in the document Eucharistiae Sacramentum , issued in 1973, states that the local bishop can approve extended adoration of the Blessed Sacrament outside the tabernacle and can order exposition “for any serious and general need … in those churches to which the faithful come in large numbers” (No. 87).

Other Eucharistic devotions such as continuous or Perpetual Adoration and the well-known holy hour of prayer are outgrowths of the Quarant Ore . TCA


Why Forty Hours? (sidebar) 

The Forty Hours Devotion is 40 hours of prayer before the exposed Blessed Sacrament, where we come face-to-face with Our Lord. This devotion is also widely known as Forty Hours Prayer and Forty Hours Adoration. The selection of 40 as the number of hours the faithful pray and the Blessed Sacrament is exposed outside the tabernacle is likely because that was the number of hours Jesus spent in the tomb between His death and resurrection. The number 40 is found repeatedly throughout the Old and New Testaments, including: the number of days Jesus fasted and was tempted in the wilderness, the days of rain causing the great flood during Noah’s time, and the years of journey the Israelites wandered in the desert.

F or over 500 years one of the most beautiful of all Catholic devotions has been the one known as Quarant Ore , or Forty Hours. The Blessed Sacrament is solemnly exposed for 40 hours outside the tabernacle and continuously adored by the faithful.

D.D. Emmons writes from O’Fallon, Ill. 


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