A Visit to the Blessed Sacrament
Churches are beginning to re-open, but still for limited periods of time and for limited numbers of people. The traditional practice of making ‘a visit’ to the Blessed Sacrament might help make good use of the time we can spend in our church buildings.
We all know that one can pray to God anywhere: after all, he is everywhere. And wherever we are, he is present to us: he holds us in being, and by virtue of our Baptism we carry the gift of his Holy Spirit. The promise of God to which we hold fast is always with us, the word in which we believe: ‘the word is near to you, in your mouth and in your heart’ (Rom. 10.8).
These are consoling truths to think of at a time when churches have been shut for three months, and only gradually are re-opening for public access. Nevertheless, it is an understandable and a holy instinct to wish to pray in a church. Humans have always been inclined to set apart special places for prayer and worship and contemplation. Our own places of worship are consecrated for these purposes; they are fitted and decorated, hopefully made beautiful so as to be conducive to those ends. But what surely most draws us to a church, is the presence of the Lord himself in the Blessed Sacrament.
A Christian can pray anywhere; but there is something special about sitting before the tabernacle. The holy Curé d’Ars used to see every day sitting at the back of his church an old man, a peasant, sometimes for hours on end. One day, he asked him what he did while he was there – what kept him in his place? The old man simply replied, ‘I look at him, and he looks at me’.
For many of us, such a spirit of restful contemplation doesn’t come so easily. At the moment, most people will not be able to spend hours in a church, and charity might even demand that less time is spent in the church than desired, so as to allow others to enter and pray. One good way to make the most of that time might be to take up the traditional formula of a ‘visit’ to the Blessed Sacrament: a little pattern of prayer which focuses us in a special way on the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
There are many such patterns and forms of words available, in leaflet form or on the internet, to help with this. A simple pattern is simply to recollect oneself as being before the Lord, and to recite an Our Father, a Hail Mary and a Glory Be. While it still isn’t possible to attend Mass, you might also want to make an act of spiritual communion, an expression of your longing to receive the Eucharist. Below are three short texts that might help, including a ‘Visit’ that St John Henry Newman used to use before his meditations.
Praise of the Blessed Sacrament
O Sacrament Most Holy, Sweet Sacrament Divine, all praise and all thanksgiving, be every moment thine.
Spiritual Communion of Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val
At Your feet, O my Jesus, I prostrate myself and I offer You the repentance of my contrite heart, which is humbled in its nothingness and in Your holy presence. I adore You in the Sacrament of Your love, the ineffable Eucharist. I desire to receive You into the poor dwelling that my heart offers You. While waiting for the happiness of sacramental communion, I wish to possess You in spirit. Come to me, O my Jesus, since I, for my part, am coming to You! May Your love embrace my whole being in life and in death. I believe in You, I hope in You, I love You. Amen.
A Short Visit to the Blessed Sacrament, by St 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.