In February 2006, I stepped foot into a seminary for the first time. I was attending a priesthood discernment retreat at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis with nearly 40 other young men. There were many graces from that retreat, but one in particular comes to mind as I think back on that memorable weekend. It happened on Friday night, the first night of the retreat. After dinner, we went to the main chapel of the seminary for a time of Eucharistic Adoration. What I did not realize at the time was that we were gathering to mark the beginning of a special devotion known as the 40 Hours Devotion.
The 40 Hours Devotion involves adoration of the Blessed Sacrament for 40 continuous hours, breaking only for the celebration of daily Mass. We know that 40 is a significant number when it comes to our faith, so it is a fitting number of hours for this devotion. During those hours, the men in the seminary would sign up in groups of two to spend an hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament, meaning that prayer was being offered that entire time. The thought of that really struck me, and it was such a blessing to be able to stop in the chapel during the retreat to see Jesus present on the altar with two young men kneeling in front of Him in adoration.
Once I entered the seminary, this tradition continued. My first year, one of my friends mentioned that he was going to sign up for a time in the middle of the night. I thought that sounded a little difficult, but I decided to do likewise. I went to bed early and rose with my alarm ten or so minutes before I needed to be in the chapel. Myself and the other seminarian signed up for the 2 AM slot entered in and took our places. I looked up at Jesus who was right in front of me and entered into the silence. Before I knew it, I heard the footsteps of the next pair, coming to replace us! The time flew by in a way that I had never experienced before. From that point on, I tried to be one of the first in line to sign up for a slot so that I could claim one of those hours in the middle of the night.
From my experience of the 40 Hours Devotion while in seminary, I had always hoped this would be something that I could bring to a parish to which I would be assigned in the future. I am happy to say that we hosted a 40 Hours Devotion two years ago in the days leading up to Pentecost. After taking last year off, we are planning to bring 40 Hours back for the days leading up to the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, better known as Corpus Christi from June 9-11. During that time, we will be inviting you to consider signing up for an hour with the Lord. We will begin on Friday, June 9 with an Opening Mass at 5:15 PM and conclude with the celebration of the 10 AM Mass on Sunday, June 21, which will include a Eucharistic Procession in the nearby streets. If you are trying to do the math, with breaks for Mass, that will leave us just short of 40 hours technically, but with daily masses being just 30 minutes, and the Sunday 7 AM usually not taking more than 45 minutes, we will be pretty close to 40 hours.
I plan to write more about 40 Hours in the next couple of weeks as we prepare for this beautiful devotion, but in the meantime, please mark your calendars for those days. Beginning next weekend, we will have volunteers available after the masses so you can sign up. We will also be sending out an email with information about how to sign up.
One final thing – do you remember how I asked the parish to add a 4th Hail Mary during this Eucharistic Year? Perhaps you can particularize that intention in these days, asking Mary’s intercessions that many will come to encounter her Son in this beautiful devotion.