Visit to the Blessed Sacrament is a devotional practice of visiting a church and praying in front of the Eucharist, where Catholics believe Jesus is sacramentally present. Although usually associated with Roman Catholics, this devotion also occurs amongst Anglicans, usually high-church.
According to John Paul XII, "The visit to the Blessed Sacrament is a great treasure of the Catholic faith." It is "the fountainhead of all devotional works," said St. Pius X. In 1965, Pope Paul VI issued the Encyclical Mysterium Fidei whereby he urged daily mass and communion and said that "In the course of the day the faithful should not omit to visit the Blessed Sacrament."
To emphasize the importance of this practice, a Doctor of the Church, St. Alphonsus Liguori, wrote a book on Visits to the Blessed Sacrament and he explained that a visit to the Blessed Sacrament is the "practice of loving Jesus Christ", since friends who love each other visit regularly.
According to Catholic doctrine, the host, which appears to be bread, is in reality the resurrected, living Christ, having been transformed during Mass at the consecration. Although most of the hosts are received by the faithful at Holy Communion, certain are left over and at the end of Mass are placed in the tabernacle. This means that at all times Christ is really physically present in any Catholic church in its tabernacle.
The Catholic practice of visiting the Blessed Sacrament consists of going into a church when no Mass or other service is taking place and spending some quiet time talking and praying to Christ who, according to Catholic teaching, is truly present in the tabernacle.
"After the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, one of the greatest ways to show devotion to our Blessed Lord is to adore Him in His True Presence in the Most Blessed Sacrament," said the Catholic library. Thus, another Catholic author recommended: "Think of a visit to the Blessed Sacrament as coming to see your best friend."
Don Bosco has many times encouraged visiting the Blessed Sacrament. "The Visit to the Blessed Sacrament," he once said, "is an extremely necessary way to conquer the devil. Therefore, go often to visit Jesus and the devil will not come out victorious against you." “Do you want many graces? Go and visit the Blessed Sacrament often. Do you want few graces? Visit the Blessed Sacrament rarely. Do you want none at all? Then never pay a visit to the Blessed Sacrament.”
History of the practice
At about the end of the 12th century, praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament started to become more common.
By the beginning of the 14th century, the English mystic Richard Rolle of Hampole, exhorts Christians to visit the church in preference to praying in their own houses. He says: "In the church is most devotion to pray, for there is God upon the altar to hear those that pray to Him and to grant them what they ask and what is best for them" ("Works", ed. Horstman, I, 145). In 1745, one of the greatest advocates of this practice, St. Alphonsus Liguori wrote his book for novices Visits to the Blessed Sacrament.
Teachings of the Popes
In the middle of the Second Vatican Council, on September 3, 1965, a few days before opening the fourth session, Pope Paul VI issued the Encyclical Mysterium Fidei whereby he urged daily Mass and communion and said that "In the course of the day the faithful should not omit to visit the Blessed Sacrament, which according to the liturgical laws must be kept in the churches with great reverence in a most honorable location. Such visits are a proof of gratitude, an expression of love, an acknowledgment of the Lord's presence." "The daily adoration or visit to the Blessed Sacrament is the practice which is the fountainhead of all devotional works," St. Pius X used to say.
One of the many rules of John XXIII when he was young and called "Angelo Roncalli" was this: "Visit the Blessed Sacrament of some church at least once a day.”
According to John Paul II, "The visit to the Blessed Sacrament is a great treasure of the Catholic faith. It nourishes social love and gives us opportunities for adoration and thanksgiving, for reparation and supplication." John Paul II also said in Dominici Coena that “Every member of the Church must be vigilant in seeing that this sacrament of love shall be at the center of the life of the people of God so that through all manifestations of worship due to it, Christ shall be given back ‘love for love,’ and truly become the life of our souls.” "I encourage Christians regularly to visit Christ present in the Blessed Sacrament, for we are all called to abide in the presence of God."
In Sacramentum Caritatis, Pope Benedict XVI said: "I heartily recommend to the Church's pastors and to the People of God the practice of eucharistic adoration, both individually and in community."
Examples of prayers to the Blessed Sacrament
The Handbook of Prayer by Fr. Charles Belmonte said that a simple way of doing the visit to the Blessed Sacrament is to pray 3 Our Fathers, 3 Hail Marys and 3 Glory Bes, and ended with a spiritual communion, as for example, "I wish, Lord, to receive you with the purity, humility and devotion, with which your most Holy Mother received you, with the spirit and fervor of the saints."
Through the centuries, saints have also composed prayers for making visits to the Blessed Sacrament.
Short Visit to the Blessed Sacrament By Ven. John Henry Newman
- I place myself in the presence of Him, in whose Incarnate Presence I am before I place myself there.
- I adore You, O my Savior, present here as God and man, in soul and body, in true flesh and blood.
- I acknowledge and confess that I kneel before the Sacred Humanity, which was conceived in Mary’s womb, and lay in Mary’s bosom; which grew up to man’s estate, and by the Sea of Galilee called the Twelve, wrought miracles, and spoke words of wisdom and peace; which in due season hung on the cross, lay in the tomb, rose from the dead, and now reigns in heaven.
- I praise and bless, and give myself wholly to Him, Who is the true Bread of my soul, and my everlasting joy.
Before the Blessed Sacrament Prayer from the Fátima Children
- O most Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, I adore you profoundly. I offer you the most precious body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifferences by which He is offended. By the infinite merits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg the conversion of sinners.
- Catholic Encyclopedia on Visits to the Blessed Sacrament
- Pope John Paul II Recalls and Encourages National Eucharistic Devotion
- Visit to the Blessed Sacrament. Could you not watch one hour with me? Matthew xxvi. 40
- Eucharistic devotion at the Catholic Center
- Prayers from the Catholic prayer book for Eucharistic Devotion
- Prayers before the Blessed Sacrament - pdf file
- Theology and Church teaching on adoration
- Habits of holiness by Fr. Vito Lombardi
- Quotes on the Eucharist
- Morning Offering
- Thanksgiving after Communion
- Spiritual reading
- Frequent confession
- Examination of conscience