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Forty Hour Devotions

As the Diocese of Gaylord continues the year-long celebration of our 40th Anniversary, a number of special opportunities for prayer and spiritual renewal have been planned. A few weeks ago the practice of First Friday Devotions was highlighted. Each month, continuing through November, a parish in each vicariate will host First Friday Devotions. A schedule of locations and times is available on the diocesan website.

In this article, we focus on the Forty Hours Devotion which will be held once in each of the six vicariates of the diocese over the next several months.

Historically, the Forty Hours Devotion has been a special forty-hour period of continuous prayer in the presence Blessed Sacrament in solemn exposition. The focus of this devotion is, of course, Jesus present in the Holy Eucharist.

As Catholics, we believe that the Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life” (Lumen Gentium, #11). Without taking away from the fact that the Mass is the central act of worship, Eucharistic adoration prolongs and increases the fruits of our communion in the body and blood of the Lord. Catholics believe that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist even outside of Mass, and waits for us so that we might lie close to his breast like the Beloved Disciple (cf. Jn 13:25) and feel the infinite love present in his heart (Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia).

As we reflect on praying and spending time in quiet contemplation with our Lord, present in the Blessed Sacrament, we might look to the sixth chapter of St. John’s Gospel for inspiration: “I myself am the living bread come down from Heaven. If anyone eats this bread, He shall live forever; the bread I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

Why Forty Hours? T he number 40 relates to a sacred period of time. Consider some of the “40’s” which are recalled in the Holy Scriptures: For example, in the Old Testament, the Jews wandered through the desert for 40 years, the rains during the time of Noah lasted 40 days and nights, and Moses spent 40 days on the mountain. In the New Testament, Jesus fasted and prayed in the desert for 40 days, he spent 40 hours in the tomb, and He appeared to his disciples throughout the 40 days between his Resurrection and the Ascension.

The history of the Forty Hours Devotion harkens back to Milan in about the year 1530. By 1550, both St. Philip Neri and St. Ignatius Loyola had also instituted the Forty Hours Devotion in Rome, especially for the reparation of sin. The practice came to the United States when St. John Neumann (the fourth bishop of Philadelphia), having a tremendous devotion to our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, desired to foster such a spiritual life in his people. He introduced the practice of 40 Hours Devotion in April, 1853. At the Plenary Council of Baltimore in 1866, the Forty Hours Devotion was approved for all Dioceses of the United States.

For some of our younger Catholics, the 40 Hours Devotion and Eucharistic adoration may be new. Indeed, for some, the concept of making a commitment to spend time with Jesus present n the Blessed Sacrament may initially foreign and uncomfortable., Our recent experience in our diocesan Catholic schools and in Catholic universities around the US, however, has shown that young Catholics, when given the opportunity for Eucharistic devotion, embrace this special time with our Lord. Strength, refreshment and peace can be found when we take time away from the busy-ness of our day-to-day lives and just “be” with Jesus.

In an address to priests in Poland in 2006, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI affirmed the richness of adoration in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, saying, “In a world where there is so much noise, so much bewilderment, there is a need for silent adoration of Jesus concealed in the Host. Be assiduous in the prayer of adoration and teach it to the faithful. It is a source of comfort and light, particularly to those who are suffering."

The Forty Hours begins with a Solemn Mass of Exposition. Prayers continue while the Blessed Sacrament remains on the altar in a monstrance for the 40 hours. (Sometimes the continuous prayer has to be interrupted, especially during the night for safety reasons and so the Blessed Sacrament may be reposed for a few hours.) Some of things one can expect during the 40 hours will be praying the rosary and the liturgy of the hours, listening to scripture, homilies/talks and, of course, quiet time for private prayer. Materials will be made available to assist those who chose to participate in this devotion. The 40 hours will conclude with a celebration of Mass and final reposition of the Blessed Sacrament.

The Vicariates of the North Region, East Region, Central Region, and Southeast Region have already hosted their 40 Hours Devotion events this past spring and summer.  The final Forty Hours Devotion is scheduled to be held in the West Region Vicariate at St. Francis of Assisi in Traverse City December 6-8, 2011.

Bishop Hebda invites and encourages the faithful of the diocese to take the time to be enriched by the many graces which may be found through participating in the Forty Hours Devotion. It provides a wonderful opportunity for each of us individually, as well as for our diocese as a whole, to continue to grow and draw closer to our Lord not only during this 40th anniversary year, but throughout our faith journey.

Those wishing to have a keepsake of their journey with Jesus may download a “Passport to Grace” booklet below  which may be stamped at each church hosting 40 Hour Devotions or First Friday Devotions.

Download Your Passport to Grace

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By using the link below, you can download and print your very own “Passport” that can be used as you travel the Diocese of Gaylord especially for First Friday and Forty Hour Devotions during this 40th Anniversary year. (You will need to have Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on your computer to access the file. If you do not already have it, this free program is available here.)

Each vicariate, or region, will have one church in the region host a First Friday Mass and Holy Hour with Exposition and Benediction.  That means that on each first Friday of the month, from April through December, a Mass will be celebrated in honor of both the First Friday Devotion to the Sacred Heart as well as a remembrance of the Diocese’s anniversary year. 

To help broaden the scope of the entire Church of Gaylord, one could actually visit each of the six locations sometime during the day on each first Friday.  Just before and after the actual Mass, a member of the Diocesan Worship Commission will be present with a special “passport stamp” for your booklet. Outside of Mass time, one could visit the parish office or look in the vestibule of each church for the stamp to embellish your own booklet if no one is present.

The keepsake passport is for your own enjoyment and enrichment.  To obtain an actual Passport to Grace, you can either print one from this page, using two sided copying on your own printer at home or preprinted booklets will be available at each of the churches along with the stamp. 

If you have any questions or difficulty, please contact the Diocesan Secretariat for Worship and Liturgical Formation at 989.732.5147.