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Eucharistic adoration could transform the English Church in the not too distant future

It’s not just in the discernment of individual vocations where its power will be felt

By on Monday, 27 June 2011

A Eucharistic 'flashmob' in Preston

A Eucharistic 'flashmob' in Preston

Click here, and you will see a very extraordinary clip.

First, we see a pedestrian area in a shopping street in Preston, Lancashire. It could be anywhere in the country. Suddenly, there appears a Franciscan friar. He puts on a white priestly stole. Then he rummages in the bag he is carrying and takes out a charged monstrance, which he lifts up on high. One person comes out of the crowd and kneels. Another friar reads out a long series of Old Testament prophecies about Jesus, and new Testament references to him; interspersed in this list is the refrain “Come and kneel before him now”. Little by little, more and more do; by the time this extraordinary event has finished, there is a sizable kneeling crowd, which in the end burst into amazed and excited applause. Then, it is over. The friar replaces the monstrance in his bag, and walks away.

Yesterday, the Oxford Oratory’s Corpus Christi procession took the Lord in his Holy Sacrament through the shopping streets of Oxford. The same kind of extraordinary direct link between shoppers and the core of the Catholic religion took place (I couldn’t be there; but it always has in the past). By the time the procession was over, it had been (if previous form is any guide) swelled by a number of lapsed Catholics and others, drawn into the celebration of Benediction which always concludes it.

It is a very extraordinary thing that one of the despised “popular devotions” which those who went on and on, 30 years ago, about the so-called spirit of Vatican II really thought could safely be junked (along with devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, so unecumenical) as part of their supposed “renewal” of the Church was adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Today, the renewal of the Church, this time the genuine article, means bringing it back.

On Sunday (when we kept Corpus Christi), the Pope told a crowd of 30,000 at the Angelus that the Eucharist “constitutes the Church’s most precious treasure”. It is “like the beating heart that gives life to the whole mystical body of the Church, a social organism based on the spiritual but real tie to Christ”:

“Without the Eucharist, the Church simply would not exist. In fact, it is the Eucharist that transforms a human community into a mystery of communion, capable of bringing God to the world and the world to God. The Holy Spirit, which transforms bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, transforms all those who receive it with faith into members of the body of Christ, so that the Church is really a sacrament of unity of men with God and among themselves.”

And one of the things that clearly distinguishes Catholic belief about the Eucharist is that the presence of Christ in the Eucharistic elements remains with us after the Eucharistic action has ended. Protestants (even those who believe in some way in “the real presence”) do not believe that: that’s why ecumenism has been so reductive of Catholic Eucharistic belief, and why Eucharistic adoration was one of those supposedly “primitive’ devotions that was downplayed after the Council, though nothing in the Council itself remotely justified this. But that kind of ecumenism is now as dead as mutton; and adoration is back. The significance of the recent homily of Archbishop Antonio Mennini, the papal nuncio, at the three-day Invocation 2011 Vocations Discernment Conference, held at St Mary’s College, Oscott, Birmingham, should not be underestimated. This is how he said vocations should be discerned:

“To discern God’s call we need to withdraw from external activity and to dedicate time to prayer. At the last World Youth Day Pope Benedict reminded us that Jesus is always present in our hearts, quietly waiting for us to be still with him, to hear his voice, to abide in his love. Be convinced that the Lord is waiting for you to open your hearts to him in prayer. He wants to meet you personally and to enter into a dialogue with you. This conviction will fill you with an urgent desire to seek periods of silence in your daily life where you have the space to be drawn into union with God in prayer.

“In this regard I should like to commend to you the practice of Eucharistic Adoration which you have experienced during this weekend of discernment. Adoration draws us away from external distractions into a growing communion with Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament. Encourage your friends to join in this practice.”

The day before, Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury had said that Catholics should “ask our Lord what he has in mind for you” by meeting Christ “present among us in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar”. Bishop Davies added that “I would like to say to each of you that where the Holy Eucharist is found you will also find the answer to the greatest questions of your lifetime”. It is not coincidental that, as I noted in this column recently, Bishop Davies is one of those bishops who is dumping the reductionist catechetical materials currently in use in his diocese.

This is the future. Archbishop Mennini, don’t forget, is the key figure in another important process of discernment: the discernment of those who in the future will be appointed by the Holy Father to be bishops in the numerous dioceses which over the next few years will fall vacant. I think Archbishop Mennini has been sent here by the Pope to help him instal bishops who will do what Bishop Davies is doing in Shrewsbury. Watch this space.

  • Tiggy

    Returning Corpus Christi to its rightful place as a Holyday on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, would also be a help in the transformation of The Church. A much need transformation.

  • Nugent Noags

    “And one of the things that clearly distinguishes Catholic belief about the Eucharist is that the presence of Christ in the Eucharistic elements remains with us after the Eucharistic action has ended. Protestants (even those who believe in some way in “the real presence”) do not believe that.”

    Oh come on, Mr Oddie. You know that that is not true. You were once a Protestant. If protestants don’t believe that, why is it that EVERY protestant Cathedral in England reserves the sacrament outside the Eucharist. Why is it that so many Protestant churches on  yesterday celebrated Corpus Christi with processions and benediction?

  • Anonymous

    I would note that “Protestant” would include denominations other than the Church of England and that Anglicanism is only one expression of protestant worship/govenance.

    Or to put it another way – if you think you are likely to get a Lutharian, a Calvanist, an Elim Minister, a Methodist and someone from AoG in the same room and find much space for the Real Presence doctrine then I wish you the best of luck with that – let us know how you get on.

  • CM

    One of the common practices at events organised by Catholic Charismatic Renewal is that of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. I have witnessed this at Celebrate and elsewhere. Often, whilst Exposition takes place, the faithful are invited to attend the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and vast numbers take up this opportunity, far more than may often be seen in churches around the country! Those involved in Renewal also encourage Adoration to take place in their parishes, indeed, our small Charismatic prayer group which meets fortnightly in a tiny oratory has a short period of Adoration every tie we meet for praise and worship.

    It is wonderful at last to see the Blessed Sacrament being taken out of church buildings – it is no good Catholics sitting in church bemoaning reduced congregations, it is up to all of us in keeping with our baptismal promises, to evangelise by taking the Good News out to the people. This exampe of the Friars is marvellous, and if one reads the commentary on Youtube, (where is has already had more than 5,000 hits) you will note that others were handing out notes explaining to the public the signicance of what was taking place. It is a team effort led by courageous friars – let’s see more Corpus Christi processions, more adoration and more public witness in our country.

  • CM

    Since I visited this video on Saturday, the number of hits has risen to over 40,000 – remarkable!

  • W Oddie

    I didn’t say there were no believers in the Catholic religion in the Church of England. 

  • W Oddie

    The point is that belief in the continuing presence of christ in the sacrament  outside the Eucharistic action is one of the distinguishing marks of a  Catholic believer: it isn’t one of the distinguishing marks of an Anglican or of an Anglican Church

  • Brian A Cook

    May the Eucharist bring much good fruit to the Church and to the whole world. 

  • Nugent Noags

    I don’t know much about the Lutharian church, but I can say with confidence that in the LUTHERAN protestant churches of Scandinavia and the Baltics, reservation of the sacrament is widespread, and Eucharistic adoration is not unknown.

  • Disappointed

    Archbishop Antonio Mennini discouraged Russian Orthodox who sought to convert to Catholicism from doing so, as your own paper reported. “Watch this space” indeed!

  • Anonymous

    William Oddie has got this absolutely spot on. Eucharistic adoration should and must play a big part of the future of the Catholic church. I only hope that the Bishops of England & Wales can see the problems ahead if they do not act on this timely and wise advice.

    Problem? I hear you ask. What problem? Well the bottom line is that both ‘the faith movement’, and the charismatic movement, have been using large scale adoration as one of its main tools for at least the last twenty years and it is becoming more & more prominent in encouraging the faith of young people. By ‘the faith movement’ I am referring of course to Celebrate, Youth 2000, New Dawn (& New Dawn Youth), & Juventutem etc. Let us not forget the Pope’s visit to Hyde Park with the large scale Eucharistic adoration event which in itself was based on one or two million people turning up to celebrate adoration with the Pope  every World Youth Day.

    The problem will come when these hundreds, if not thousands, of young people from the UK who have been involved in Eucharistic adoration at these events grow up and find out that the main centre piece of these events they have grown up with is not properly encouraged within the church. It will no longer be good enough to just have Saturday morning adoration in a dusty old church with three people attending. This is something that needs to be taken out beyond the walls of the church. I applaud the Franciscan Friars.

  • Andr3w

    I think the reason that Anglicans reserve the bread after their communion services is a belief that, once blessed, it is special, not that it becomes God (as RCs obviously do believe). The Anglican Communion, even in this country, has no single doctrine of what actually happened when Christ said ‘this is my body’ meaning that one can believe in transubstanciation, consubstantiation, receptionism, symbolism etc without compromising one’s Anglican credentials.

    When you say ‘so many  Protestant churches…celebrated Corpus Christ with processions and benediction’ I’m not really sure which churches you mean. I can think of plenty of Protestants (including paid up Anglicans) that wouldn’t know what benediction meant let alone celebrated it. Actually, while there may indeed be some Protestants who do believe that the bread and wine become Christ’s body and blood I think you may find that they would, very likely, not want to be called Protestants.

  • Anonymous

    I just want to verify what CM is saying. At these events (both charismatic and ‘faith movement’) it is always surprising to see the numbers of people going to reconciliation. It is particularly striking that so many young people attend reconciliation. (sorry folks if you’ve heard me say this before on here but, it is a true reflection)!

  • Nugent Noags

    He could have brought a humeral veil with him. 

  • Anonymous

    While I’m at it!

    When JPII spoke about the New Evangelisation or when Pope Benedict talks
    about using all technology (in this case a flashmob via You Tube) to
    promote the New Evangelisation this is exactly what they were talking

    These Franciscan Friars are showing us the possibilities of what can be achieved!

  • Ratbag

    AMEN!!!!! There is Eucharistic Adoration/Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in my parish and it is pretty well attended. The Hidden Gem in Manchester (St Mary’s Mulberry Street) always has the Sacrament exposed and the Church is hardly ever empty. Young and old, casual and business suited people, shoppers all in quiet contemplation before Christ’s Presence.

    When I was at school, last thing Friday afternoon was Benediction for all the pupils and teachers. It was a beautiful way to end the week.

    I love the flashmob. It was touching to discover this happened in Preston, Lancashire. Why? It is just outside the City of Preston where the shrine to Our Lady Queen of Martyrs is situated: Fernyhalgh.

    Bishop Mark Davis is, as always, SPOT ON!!!!

  • Ratbag

    Sorry, I did not express myself clear enough. Of course, the Exposition took place in the City of Preston! I was thinking of the proximity of Our Lady’s Shrine where the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales are also remembered.

    Let’s not forget what happened to them…

  • polycarped

    With the wonderful solemnity of Corpus Christi still very much in my mind, I’d be interested to know: How does the processing of the Blessed sacrament (as was such a strong tradition everywhere not so long ago) link to Eucharistic adoration? i.e. is it essentially a form of eucharistic adoration? Or is it something quite different? And is there any basis for a view that would say processing the Blessed Sacrament is less important or relevant in times such as these when the faithful receive the Eucharist more frequently (i.e. a greater emphasis on receiving the Eucharist and going out into the world strengthened by the Eucharist? Or are these quite separate issues? I’d be interested in peoples’ views on this!

  • Tom

    That’s Brother Paul Coleman – he used to be based with the OFMCaps in Oxford. Inspired idea from this wonderful man.

  • Ian G

    If by ‘Protestant’ you mean all non-catholic Christians, Mr Oddie should know that his remark above is not true. Those members of the C of E who are described as Anglo-Catholic believe exactly what the Catholic church believes, and despite the Ordinariate there are still lots of us left at the moment at least. Otherwise, Mr. O., as usual, excellent.

    Ian G

  • Anonymous

    Amazing video!

  • AgingPapist

    Only superstitious children believe in magical bread in golden breadboxes.  Let’s keep the host and the chalice within Mass where they belong.  Eucharistic devotion and other forms of  trophy worship are intended for the ignorant and others the Church wishes to control.  They  were not junked at Vatican II, but they should have been.

  • Ratbag

    You are soooooo RANDOM!

  • Gary

    You must be an admirer of Karl Marx

  • Petrus


    Certainly, I think you touch on the fact that Eucharistic adoration is very important.  It is one of the pillars of Catholicism that was abandoned by the Roman Protestants.  When I was growing up it was treat like a sort of foreign eccentricity that wasn’t really important these days.  In other words, a bit of nostalgia.  Shocking.   So, I’m glad more people are starting to rediscover the wonders of this ancient practice.  Of course, those brave souls who resisted the Reformation Part II, have always given adoration of the Blessed Sacrament it’s proper place. 

    However, if you think reviving this practice alone will transform the English Church then you are going to be disappointed.  As I tried to comment on your previous blog post (which was bizzarrely closed to comments – too much of the Truth for your liking, I think) the problem, despite you odd claims to the contrary, is the New Mass.  Incredibly, you claimed that the Mass wasn’t to blame for the loss of faith that resulted in poor catechisis in schools.  You have forgotten “Lex orandi, Lex Credendi” – the law of prayer is the law of belief.  How we pray reflects what we believe.  So to divorce the Mass from loss of faith is fantasy land.  It’s a pity that thread was closed! 

  • Anonymous

    You may find that Eucharistic adoration will have a bigger impact in the future than you think. We have a young and older generation over the last ten years that have been brought up on large scale Eucharistic Adoration ceremonies through the ‘faith movement’ and they are expecting it in the future. If you ask anyone who as ever been to an large scale event in this country I would suspect that the majority would say that they were most affected by being part of a large crowd during adoration. Some of the Bishop’s, particularly the one’s who attend these events have taken note now. I have just been sent an email by Fr Dominic Howarth who states that it will take a prominent part at the CYMFED Flame Congress next year.

  • Petrus


    Don’t get me wrong, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is extremely important and can only do good.  Dr Oddie is right to highlight this.  But it’s like applying a plaster to a gaping wound.  It won’t solve the problem on it’s own.  Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi!  If the Eucharist is the “source and summit of the Christian life” then we must look to the changes in the Mass for an answer to the crisis in the Church.  Papering over the crack won’t work.  Introducing sound catechisis in our schools, emphasising the importance of Adoration, bringing back the Friday Fast are all steps in the right direction – but on thir own they are only papering over the cracks.   

  • Jeannine

    In addition to the most important liturgical activity for a parish, daily mass, constant Eucharistic Adoration will repair the cracks. It will be the catalyst to at least start the “ball rolling.” For example, I have read over the yrs about parishes/dioceses that started 24/7 or a weekly scheduled Eucharistic Adoration & have been blessed in multiple ways. When there is Eucharistic Adoration in a parish or diocese, there have been an increase in priestly vocations, increase in the Sunday mass attendance, increase in the number of people receiving the Sacrament of Penance, & worldly blessings such as finding the money to carry out a lay apostolate or repairing a damaged church. 

    Eucharistic Adoration is very efficacious.

  • Petrus

    I agree.  But adoration on it’s own will not fix the problem.  The problem can only be fixed if you go to the “source”.  What is the “source and summit” of Catholicism?  The Mass.

  • Charles Martel

    You maybe aging, but you sure ain’t no Papist.

  • Michael Vyse

    “Only superstitious children belive in ‘magical bread’ in ‘golden breadboxes’, let’s kkep the host & chalice within Mass….”: but the Mass itself is quite obviously something that Definitely-Aging-but-Certainly-No-Papist does not understand at all. BTW, I am (for the time being, at least) still and Anglican.

  • pjpaige

    Let the Church pray for Archbishop Mennini to be wise in decision making and to bless his words of advice for us, young and older, men and women and those of other denominations.  He is among us as a senior priest sent by the Holy Father let us support him and his ministry to our nation. 

    In his homily at Oscott College,  Archbishop Mennini suggested withdrawing to discern vocation before the Blessed Sacrament and surely this is not just advice for the young.  Jesus is neglected He wants us to adore Him He wants to minister to us, speak to us.  Who will be there to listen?  Jesus Himself withdrew to listen to the Father in His ministry on earth – up mountains, alone in boats, praying alone at night.  Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament offers a similar opportunity to withdraw,  to retreat to be closer to Jesus.

  • pjpaige

    If there are ignorant and naive people whom you suggest Eucharistic devotion and “trophy worship” are intended for then far from being “junked” as you suggest, Jesus will probably choose them, teach them Himself and equip them for the work He wants including the ‘shaming of the wise’.

  • Neil D. Bryson

    “The Holy Spirit which”: not “who”?  The Church has always taught that He is a Person with whom we can have a relationship.  Is this a mistranslation of the Holy Father’s words delivered in another language?

  • AgingPapist

    Protestants (even those who believe in some way in “the real presence”) do not believe that.”
    This is not true. It is frequently said of Anglicans and Lutherans.  It is a fallacy.

  • W Oddie

    I always thought you were a real creep. Now I know. What an arrogant bigot.

  • Carole_a_newman

    God’s word says “People are put right with God by faith in Jesus Christ”  not by adoring a symbolic Box.  God’s word says in Exodus 20:4-5 “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth, thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them, for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God.”     Jesus said true worshippers will worship in Spirit and truth.   

  • Charles Martel

    You should know, of course, AgingProtestant, being a protestant yourself, despite your misleading soubriquet.

  • Vconnolly11

    Bring back Eucharistic Adoration,and Benediction to our Parishes. The LORD truly present in The Most Blessed Sacrament. The Schools used to take the Children to Benediction. Every first Friday in term time we were taken,and thank GOD for that. It is up to us as Parents and Grand-Parents to pass on the Faith, with Benediction,and Adoration being part of what our Children learn.

  • Rae Marie

    we can’t stay strong without the Eucharist. He is the font of all life and holiness, why not bring him out before all? If we bring light into the world, the world will be made anew!