In Australia, a Warm Reception for Eucharistic Adoration
Christine McCarthy on the Spread of a Devotion
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SYDNEY, Australia, MARCH 10, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Christine McCarthy credits old Fulton Sheen tapes for stirring her in Eucharistic adoration and helping ignited a trend in the island continent.
McCarthy is the national convener of the Society for Eucharistic Adoration. A musician who has been involved in sacred and concert music for 40 years, she is married with six children.
She shared with ZENIT what she has seen in terms of interest in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in her homeland.
Q: What is the state of Eucharistic adoration in Australia and what led you to become active in promoting it?
McCarthy: Eucharistic adoration in Australia in the 1950s usually meant the brief visit to the Blessed Sacrament which all Catholics, including every child in Catholic schools, were encouraged to make, or, on a grander scale, Forty Hours Devotion, when the Blessed Sacrament was exposed all weekend, once a year, in most parishes.
Eucharistic adoration as developed in the post-conciliar Church most often involves people making an hour of prayer in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. Perpetual adoration entails the church being open all day and all night and the practice has become widespread not only in Australia but across the world.
The fact that this initiative involves lay people to organize and maintain its continual progress is another particularly contemporary aspect of Eucharistic adoration. In Australia, perpetual-adoration parishes began to emerge in Western Australia in the 1980s and by the 1990s the practice had spread to Victoria and New South Wales.
Personally, I was drawn to the Eucharistic apostolate in the 1970s, when, as a young mother, I used to listen to the Archbishop Fulton Sheen tapes on the holy hour -- as I did the ironing! His ideas made a deep impact on me and on many others. He, more than any other person in the 20th century, promoted the daily holy hour for everyone -- priests, religious, and lay men and women.
In 1993, a gathering of friends met to discuss the foundation of an organization to promote Eucharistic adoration. From that small group of 20, the Society for Eucharistic Adoration was formed. Ten years later there are 2,000 members in Australia and overseas.
Our members undertake to make a weekly holy hour in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament and to pray for the intentions of the Holy Father, for priests, for vocations, for our families, for the holy souls in purgatory and for the sanctification of our nation.
Prayer is powerful as is the witness of praying, even alone, in one's church. The prayers and the agitation of our members have yielded fruit: There are currently in Australia hundreds of parishes which have some form of Eucharistic adoration each week.
This success has been fueled by the Holy Father's encouragement of adoration throughout his pontificate. The Holy Spirit has blessed the Eucharistic apostolate across the world, with perpetual adoration flourishing in the United States, the Philippines, South Korea and Ireland.
Q: The Society for Eucharistic Adoration is now active in a number of Australian parishes. How do you see this practice fitting into parish life these days?
McCarthy: Eucharistic adoration enlivens a parish as no other apostolic activity can. Eucharistic adoration unites all the apostolates of a parish.
The members of the Legion of Mary, the St. Vincent de Paul Society, the Bible study group, musicians, sacristans, readers, acolytes, catechists, the youth group, the children in the school and their parents and teachers can all be involved in adoration. This devotion enlivens their various apostolic efforts and makes the parish spiritually fruitful.
In fact, when a parish begins Eucharistic adoration, there is a tangible surge of grace in the life of the parishioners. Their fervor leads to an increase in daily and Sunday Mass attendance, numbers spending time in adoration and thanksgiving before and after Mass, a deepening in community and personal prayer, heightened appreciation of the sacraments, more confessions, silence in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, and parish unity.
Q: How do you see Eucharistic adoration fitting into the mission of the Church today?
McCarthy: Our spiritual leaders stress its importance in the life of the Church. The Holy Father frequently quotes the reference from "Lumen Gentium" about the Eucharist being the "source and summit of all Christian life" and encourages Eucharistic adoration for all the faithful, for priests, religious, single and married laity, and also for children.
Blessed Mother Teresa recalled: "In 1973 our congregation decided to have adoration for one hour every day. From that time, our love for Jesus became more intimate, our love for each other more understanding, our love for the poor more compassionate, and we have doubled the number of vocations."
This is still true today for the Missionaries of Charity, who spend four hours in prayer each day and who rely upon this spiritual input in order for them to carry out their work. Eucharistic adoration is essential in order to "put out into the deep," as the Holy Father has exhorted us, to bring about the new evangelization we are called to accomplish, for Christ and for his Church.
We need only look at the lives of those who have been beatified or canonized in our time to see how crucial Eucharistic adoration was for their work of evangelization: St. Maria Faustina, St. Padre Pio, St. Josemaría Escrivá and our own Australian Blessed Mother Mary MacKillop. I think it is true to say that there is not one saint who did not have a great devotion to the Blessed Eucharist, not one saint whose prayer before the tabernacle or monstrance did not yield abundant fruit for the mission to which he or she was called.
Q: What are some of the fruits you have seen so far as a result of the promotion of Eucharistic adoration?
McCarthy: There is a marked increase in vocations to the priesthood and religious life in parishes with perpetual adoration. Charity and unity increase in the parish and within the families participating in adoration. Our Lord transforms individual souls who are prepared to sacrifice time by spending an hour with him on a regular basis.
This results in contented individuals and happy, secure families because God is very much at the center of their lives.
This, of course, means that souls become available to the graces God wants to give, whether this results in a vocation to the priesthood or the means to strive to lead a holier life and to suffer the contradictions life seems to deliver to us with patience and in union with Our Lord's suffering.
Q: How have younger people reacted to the possibility of participating in Eucharistic adoration?
McCarthy: When parish adoration rosters are being established, those in their 20s and 30s are most generous in taking regular holy hours. Frequently the initiative to set up adoration rosters comes from young people. Youth retreats have been organized with Eucharistic adoration as the primary focus.
Recently a university student told me how he loves to pop in to the chapel on campus, to spend time with the Blessed Sacrament between lectures. He said: "No one ever told me about the Real Presence when I was at school."
He, like many young people, realizes that in the tabernacle is the Friend who will never let him down. And it is worth cultivating his friendship.
Q: What made you decide to undertake the publishing of your book of prayers and meditations for Eucharistic adoration, "I the Lord Am With You Always"?
McCarthy: Society for Eucharistic Adoration members make a holy hour each week and many requested assistance in using their time of prayer. A young friend of mine, who is now a priest, suggested that I republish some ancient prayers for Eucharistic adoration.
The idea developed to encompass prayers, readings and quotations from the saints, the Fathers of the Church, the councils and papal teachings.
"I The Lord Am With You Always" is a compilation of prayers and meditations from the first century to the present day. The second edition is enlarged and includes a number of references from "Ecclesia de Eucharistia." There is also a chapter for children of first Communion and confirmation age.
We have now sold almost 16,000 copies across the English-speaking world, which is a testimony to the fact that Eucharistic adoration has become a vital part of many people's lives.
Q: The book is about to come out in an Italian translation. How did the idea of an Italian edition come about?
McCarthy: There are plans to publish the book in a number of languages. The first and most attainable seemed to be an Italian version, as I myself have had some experience with Italian over the last 10 years.
In December, 2002, my youngest son and I spent three weeks in Rome researching for available texts in Italian. We managed to find about 80% of the texts in the book in Italian. The remainder has been translated by three Italian friends living in Italy and in Sydney.
There are many parish churches in Rome and elsewhere in Italy, where there is Eucharistic adoration. We hope that the Italian version of "I The Lord Am With You Always," under the title "Io sono sempre con voi," will be of value to Italian adorers. This Italian edition is to be published by Logos in Rome in the New Year.
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The Society for Eucharistic Adoration can be contacted at www.seadoration.org. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.