In the United States, we have witnessed a growing phenomenon
in the participation of youth in eucharistic adoration services.
Such love for the Eucharist as exemplified at adoration should be
encouraged and nourished. As Pope Benedict XVI states in
Sacramentum Caritatis, #66–68, eucharistic adoration after
Mass is a continuation of what occurs when we receive Holy
Communion. "In the Eucharist," the Pope states, "the Son of
God comes to meet us and desires to become one with us; eucharistic
adoration 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." Continuing, the Pope states that adoration strengthens us
to do the work of the Church. "And it is precisely this personal
encounter with the Lord that then strengthens the social mission
contained in the Eucharist, which seeks to break down not only
the walls that separate the Lord and ourselves, but also and especially
the walls that separate us from one another."
Pope Benedict encourages both an increased practice of
eucharistic adoration in parishes and catechesis on this act of worship.
Such catechesis, he says, "would enable the faithful to experience
the liturgical celebration more fully and more fruitfully."
Keeping fully in mind the importance of eucharistic adoration,
we also should be open to re-evaluating how we introduce
youth to this practice. The primary concentration of this
article will examine the participation of youth in the Rite of
Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction apart from the Sunday
assembly in two pastoral and liturgical areas. First, the essay will
address three scenarios regarding youth adoration liturgies that
are typical across the country. Second, the article will offer four
pastoral implementation strategies for youth
ministers and parish priests to follow and utilize
in their communities.
The following remarks concerning eucharistic
veneration are made after observing scores
of adolescent ministry functions that encourage
and implement eucharistic worship apart from
the Sunday assembly. These functions have taken
place across the country at various youth venues:
parish services, diocesan retreats and rallies,
regional meetings and events, and national conferences.
From my observations, the services at
which Catholic youth participate in eucharistic
worship apart from the Sunday assembly have
not followed the rubrics properly as prescribed
within the rite and have not celebrated the rite in
Since the Rite of Eucharistic Exposition and
Benediction is an official liturgical rite of the
Catholic Church, it is not a question of why parishes
and youth ministries within parishes partake
in eucharistic adoration, but how those
parishes and youth ministries participate in eucharistic adoration.
It is the how that will be explored in this essay.
Listed below are three pastoral scenarios regarding adolescents
and adoration that I have witnessed at several youth adoration
liturgies. I will pinpoint and address some of the inherent liturgical
dangers that may potentially exist in a youth ministry
event without proper liturgical catechesis regarding the Rite of
Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction.
The first pastoral scenario deals with the reality that many
parish youth ministers around the country create: a separate
eucharistic adoration experience for young people apart from
the Sunday assembly. This type of separation from the larger
worshipping community has the potential to be divisive, is not
collaborative, and fails to fully comprehend the role and theology
of the whole liturgical assembly (see Catherine Vince, The
Role of the Assembly in Christian Initiation, Liturgy Training
Publications, 1993, pp. 12–15).
Pastoral situation: Desiring to have eucharistic adoration
once a month, the parish coordinator of youth ministry requests
the deacon of the parish to preside over the service for the teenagers
involved in the youth ministry. Graciously, the parish deacon
agrees to preside at a monthly eucharistic adoration service
for the teenagers at their regular gathering time. Hence, the
youth minister schedules the Rite of Eucharistic Exposition and
Benediction monthly throughout the academic year.
Theological concern: The potential theological danger is
that young people are separated from the larger parish community
to celebrate a liturgical rite of the Church. This type of
monthly ritual is too exclusive to the youth and runs the risk of
elitism. It is the responsibility of the youth minister to help connect
the larger faith community to the adolescent population of
the parish and to work to ensure that young people are included
in the array of liturgical and ministerial opportunities existing
in the parish. Youth should always be invited to participate in
the liturgical life of the parish; therefore, integration into parish
life is essential.
Liturgical solution: The youth should participate in
an already-existing parish-wide Eucharistic Exposition and
Benediction service and be integrated into the larger faith community.
This pastoral solution has three positive liturgical benefits:
a) it allows for a youth minister to amalgamate the adolescents
of the parish with other lay faithful of the parish community;
b) it is intergenerational and it helps to unite generations, creating
a genuine sense of community; and c) it exposes young people
to an authentic communal liturgical experience that is
distinct from the full celebration of Sunday Eucharist.
The second pastoral scenario situates eucharistic adoration
away from the parish or outside of the parish boundaries. The
increasingly popular practice of conducting eucharistic adoration
outside of the parish boundaries, such as at retreats, conferences,
and music festivals may cause young Catholics to confuse
the proper role of Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction.
Pastoral situation: Annually, a diocesan gathering of youth
attend an outdoor Catholic music festival. Catholic musicians
and bands take their turns performing while instilling Gospel
values through their music. At the end of the musical festivities,
late in the evening on a Saturday night, a priest presides over
Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction—outside, in an open
field, and on a makeshift wooden stage—for 400 young people.
Theological concern: The latent theological risk is twofold:
a) the official Catholic rituals should be celebrated in a place of
prominence and eucharistic adoration deserves a more sacred
and solemn environment; and b) on a Saturday evening, when a
priest can be present to preside at a liturgy with so many Catholic
faithful in attendance, the full celebration of Sunday should be
celebrated at the vigil Mass. An obvious pastoral worry is that the
monstrance is being paraded through a field or is in an atmosphere
that is not liturgically appropriate for eucharistic adoration.
Liturgical solution: It is more appropriate for Catholic
youth ministry gatherings away from parish boundaries such as
a music festival to celebrate the Liturgy of the Hours as its primary
form of worship for the following reasons. First, the
Liturgy of the Hours, the prayer of the Church, sanctifies time;
second, LOH is a "prayer of praise and petition" (General
Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours [GILOH], #2) and is an
active prayer that expresses the "memorial of the mysteries of
salvation" (GILOH, 12); and third, with the printing of liturgical
worship aids, the gathered assembly can enter into the worship
experience with greater participation. Also to be considered for
prayer at such events is Taizé prayer. Although Taizé prayer
might be more difficult to arrange logistically, it would be beneficial
for adolescents. These meditative candlelit services include
simple chants sung repeatedly, as well as silence, and prayers of
praise and intercession. The prayer empowers participants to
remain open to the voice of God and discover the prayer internally
and live it out externally.
The third pastoral scenario concentrates on the theological
images and liturgical ambience of Eucharistic Exposition and
Benediction as is sometimes experienced by adolescents. The
predominant scriptural narrative and biblical image often associated
with eucharistic adoration at many adolescent ministry
gatherings is that of the hemorrhaging woman found in the synoptic
accounts of the Gospel (Mark 5:25–34; Luke 8:43–48;
Pastoral situation: A gathering of youth ministries, perhaps
from the same deanery, gather for an evening of prayer,
friendship, networking, and spiritual enrichment. About 100
adolescents and 15 youth ministers/adult leaders are present. The
evening, which involves prayer, ice-breakers, music, skits, and a
theological presentation, concludes with eucharistic adoration.
The scripture pericope that is used for Eucharistic Exposition
and Benediction is that of the woman with a hemorrhage found
in the Gospel of Mark (5:25–34). During eucharistic
adoration a long white garment is rolled out
on the floor that leads to the altar where the monstrance
is placed and the priest, adults, and adolescents
surround the altar kneeling, with some
Theological concern: There are two causes
for alarm here. First, using the biblical text of the
hemorrhaging woman for eucharistic adorations
takes the scripture out of its proper theological
context. A theological danger exists here, because
there is a mixing of, and a misinterpretation of,
the image of healing (sacrament for the sick), with
the physical, psychological, and spiritual standpoint
of the woman and the celebration of eucharistic
adoration (eucharistic Real Presence). The
Rite of Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction is
not intended to be used as a quasi-healing service
for young people. The Catholic Church already
has official rituals for both adoration and pastoral
care of the sick. These theological details and distinctions
are significant because they help situate
the proper theological and liturgical framework
for the practice of eucharistic adoration. Secondly, there is
potential concern when the number of youth is great and they
surround the liturgical action of the altar, in this case, the priest
and monstrance. Two things may occur as a result of this surrounding
of the altar, whether direct or incidental (I have witnessed
both several times): a) touching of the priest's cope and/or b) touching the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance. Since
Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction is an official liturgical
prayer and liturgical action of the Church, there should be no
touching of the cope of the priest, in which young people are
trying to symbolize and re-enact the hemorrhaging woman
touching Jesus's garment. More importantly, there is no touching
of the Blessed Sacrament contained in the monstrance,
either on the altar or while the priest is holding the monstrance;
this is neither a Catholic practice nor liturgically appropriate.
Liturgical solution: Use the official designated Gospel
proclamations contained in the rite. Eight Gospel readings are in
the ritual Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist
Outside of Mass that are liturgically and pastorally sufficient for
any eucharistic adoration. These are: Matthew 11:25–30; Luke
15:1–10; Luke 15:1–3, 11-32; John 10:11–18; John 15:1–8; John
15:9–17; John 17:20–26; John 19:31–37. The pericope of the hemorraging
woman is not among these.
I hope that these three pastoral scenarios will help parish
priests, diocesan directors of youth ministry, and parish youth
ministers better comprehend the accurate pastoral practice
for eucharistic veneration, and identify some of the theological
concerns that exist with eucharistic adoration. Perhaps the
most helpful part of this section is to learn and understand the
liturgical alternatives and solutions to celebrating Eucharistic
Exposition and Benediction.
It is advisable to keep in mind Redemptionis Sacramentum,
#140: "It is fitting that the host to be exposed for adoration
should be consecrated in the Mass immediately preceding the
time of adoration, and that it should be placed in
the monstrance upon the altar after communion."
Consequently, when the Rite of Eucharistic
Exposition and Benediction is celebrated, it is
theologically more desirable and liturgically
more fitting when it is celebrated directly after
Sunday Eucharist as an appendix to the Mass,
and not as an independent rite apart from the
Four pastoral implementation strategies may be
helpful for parish youth ministers and adult youth
leaders to integrate. These pastoral recommendations
and implementation strategies are designed
to be separate from a parish's existing celebration
and integration of Eucharistic Exposition and
Benediction. These pastoral recommendations
and strategies, though they should be limited,
will offer parish youth ministers various ministerial
settings for implementation of eucharistic
worship apart from the Sunday assembly.
One pastoral plan is to have several parishes coordinate
youth and/or young adult ministries in the deanery for the celebration
of Mass together as the local Church. After Mass there
could be a eucharistic procession, Holy Communion and Worship
of the Eucharist Outside of Mass (HCWEOM), #101–108, around
the neighborhood, and a return to the church as a eucharistic
assembly and with Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction.
HCWEOM makes it clear that, "it is fitting that a eucharistic
procession begin after the Mass and the host to be carried in the
procession is consecrated at this Mass" HCWEOM, 103. Albeit
the rite is primarily intended to take place during the solemnity
of the Body and Blood of Christ and to move from parish community
to parish community, pastoral adaptations can be made.
At the conclusion of Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction, it
would be advisable to have the lay ministers and adult volunteers
facilitate small faith-sharing groups, with the participants discussing
and discerning the eucharistic activity just celebrated:
Eucharist, eucharistic procession, and eucharistic adoration.
Hence, theological reflection flows from the liturgical experience,
presenting a fruitful time for eucharistic catechesis and
A second ministerial approach especially geared for youth
ministry and young adult ministry is for young people to assemble
as a youth ministry (or young adult ministry) at the cathedral
parish for the celebration of Sunday Eucharist, immediately
followed by Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction. After adoration,
the young people could be involved in feeding the homeless
population, perhaps by volunteering at a soup kitchen or in
a homeless shelter, or traveling with an organization such as
Mobile Loaves and Fishes (www.mlfnow.org) or Meals on
Wheels. Consider a debriefing about the experience afterwards.
Linking adoration with action models a eucharistic ecclesiology
that is rooted in the Gospel values of service, social justice, and
stewardship. This type of eucharistic celebration can lead to personal
and communal transformation.
A third pastoral implementation strategy is a six-week
Lenten celebration of Liturgy of the Hours with Eucharistic
Exposition and Benediction. The Lenten liturgies could be celebrated
as Evening Prayer on weekday evenings. The youth minister,
with the help of adolescents, could prepare, in conjunction
with the pastor or the parish liturgist, the Lenten liturgies for
the entire parish. Therefore, the Lenten worship experience
would not be only a youth ministry activity, but a worship experience
that highlights the gifts and talents of the teenagers.
Young people could serve as ministers of hospitality, candle
bearers, incense bearers, liturgical servers, and lectors during
the liturgies. Immediately after the Liturgy of the Hours, the
ordained presider should lead the gathered assembly in eucharistic
veneration. The Lenten Liturgies of the Hours would help
build community and allow the youth to experience, along with
the rest of the community, a different liturgical celebration distinct
from Sunday Eucharist. This would serve to heighten the
prayerful and penitential season of Lent.
A fourth implementation method is to offer a retreat that
centers on the celebration of Sunday Eucharist. The theme of the
retreat could be the "Source and Summit" or the "Bread of Life."
The retreat may focus on various topics pertaining to Sunday
Eucharist, such as the significance of Sunday, the eucharistic
narratives in the Gospel, the eucharistic prayers, the primacy of
the gathered assembly, and/or the connection between the
Liturgy of the Hours and Sunday Eucharist. These themes would
help highlight the paramount importance that Sunday Eucharist
has for Catholic identity and spirituality, which are interdependent
with Catholic ministry and life. During the retreat,
Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction would be observed after
the celebration of Sunday Eucharist. For example, if the retreat
center is a diocesan retreat center and there already exists an
established sacred space such as a chapel, then midnight Mass
could be celebrated and immediately after Mass, Eucharistic
Exposition and Benediction could be observed. Or perhaps, on
Sunday morning before the conclusion of the retreat, and after
the celebration of Sunday Eucharist, Eucharistic Exposition and
Benediction could be observed. In both scenarios, eucharistic
adoration takes place within the context of Sunday Eucharist but
also after a discussion of eucharistic theology and is part of the
culmination worship experience within the retreat.
These four pastoral implementation strategies reflect an
attempt to integrate Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction into
the larger life of the local Church. Such an integration makes
evident that liturgical worship is a communal experience. The
prayer of Christ in the Catholic Church is best experienced when
entire communities (parishes, institutes, religious, cloistered)
are invited to share in the Christological, ecclesiological, and
eschatological realities that community liturgical prayer
expresses and reflects, especially when groups of Catholics who
act as a praying community—whether parish group, ministry,
or organization—gather as a sacred liturgical assembly (synaxis)
to give God thanks and praise (eucharistia).
Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction has been part of the
worship life of the Church for hundreds of years and perhaps is
being enthusiastically celebrated today more than ever. The intent
of this essay is not to discourage the liturgical practice and pastoral
experience of Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction in ministry
settings, but to highlight and situate eucharistic worship
in its fullest context of the celebration of Sunday Eucharist.
Adolescents deserve to be exposed to the richness of the varied
liturgies within the Catholic Church. However, an emphasis on
the celebration of a particular liturgy at youth ministry settings
may only encourage liturgical nearsightedness and, in so doing,
not empower youth to fully comprehend the significance of
Sunday and the essence of the Eucharist. It is in the celebration of
Sunday Eucharist that Catholics truly "Behold the Lamb of God"
(John 1:36) and come to fully memorialize, realize, and actualize
the gift that God has freely given us in Jesus of Nazareth who is
the Christ and is most deserving of human adoration.
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is a freelance Catholic theologian and
adolescent ministry scholar and an associate adjunct professor of
theology at Saint Edward University, Austin, Texas. He teaches
youth ministry courses for the Diocese of Austin. His doctorate from
The Catholic University of America has an emphasis in pastoral
theology and liturgical and sacramental theology. He is a speaker
and workshop presenter in areas of youth ministry, liturgy, and
sacraments, and stewardship. He is the author of the forthcoming
Models for Youth Ministry: A Comprehensive Catholic Approach to