Not Leaving The Blessed Sacrament Alone During Exposition

by Jimmy Akin

in Liturgy

A reader writes:

I was wondering about the origin on the custom of not leaving the
Exposed Eucharist alone during Adoration? Is it canonical law or what?

First, kudos for recognizing the distinction between adoration and exposition. One can adore the Eucharist whether exposition is taking place or not. Many folks get these two mixed up.

In inquiring about the origin of the rule, I take it that you are asking what is the basis for this in current ecclesiastical law, rather than its historical origin. If you are looking for information on that, you might try here.

The Code of Canon Law only deals briefly with the subject of Eucharistic exposition. Those canons are part of the general section on the reservation of the Eucharist, which are online here.

The actual basis for the requirement is found in the Church’s liturgical documents. Specifically, it is found in a document known as Holy Communion and the Worship of the Eucharist Outside of Mass, which is published in The Rites, volume 1.

The section on the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament explains:

85. If exposition of the blessed sacrament goes on for a day or
for several successive days, it should be interrupted during the celebration of Mass, unless it is
celebrated in a chapel separate from the area of exposition and at least some of the faithful remain
in adoration.

86. In churches and oratories where the eucharist is
reserved, it is recommended that solemn exposition of the blessed sacrament for an extended period
of time should take place once a year, even though this period is not strictly continuous. In this
way the local community may meditate on this mystery more deeply and adore.

This kind of exposition, however, may take place only if
there is assurance of the participation of a reasonable number of the faithful.

88. Where there cannot be uninterrupted exposition because
there is not a sufficient number of worshipers
, it is permissible to replace the blessed
sacrament in the tabernacle at fixed hours that are announced ahead of time. But this may not be done more
than twice a day, for example, at

midday

and at
night.

From what I can tell, there is not an explicit statement to the effect that "There must always be at least one of the faithful present in adoration during the exposition of the Eucharist" in either of the main legal documents that are relevant (i.e., the Code and the one I just quoted), but it seems implicit in Holy Communion and the Worship of the Eucharist Outside of Mass that there are to be people present in adoration during exposition. Otherwise there would be no point to talking about needing a sufficient number of people to allow for a lengthy exposition.

Still, one could read this and say, "Okay, so you need people there generally, but not necessarily every single moment. If someone needs to step out of the room for a few minutes for some important reason, that would be okay."

Given the way HCWEOM is written, you could take that interpretation if you were of a mind to.

Which is why God created instructions issued by Vatican dicasteries.

According to the instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum, issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments,

[138.] Still, the Most Holy Sacrament, when exposed, must never be left unattended even for the briefest space of time. It should therefore be arranged that at least some of the faithful always be present at fixed times, even if they take alternating turns.

The instruction thus clarifies the ambiguity that one could see in the primary legal document.

So there you have it.

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{ 11 comments }

LarryD September 22, 2006 at 5:55 am

Our parish has had a chapel of Perpetual Exposition for the past 13 years, with parishoners volunteering to take one hour at a time, 24/7 (except during Masses). Once someone has signed up an hour, they are responsible to be there each week, or find a sub if they’re unable to adore. We have a heirarchy of 4 Division Leaders, each responsible for a six hour block, and each hour is monitored/managed by an Hour Captain. I happen to be the Hour Captain for the 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM hour, for each day of the week. If any person who has signed up for that hour cannot make their hour, and they are unable to find a substitute to take that hour, they call me, and I either a) call additional people to find a sub; b) take the hour myself; or c) call my Division Leader if I can’t fulfill (a) or (b) and they’ll take my hour. We have a sign-in log outside the chapel where adorees are encouraged to sign in – we track the coverage, and as of January of this year, we’ve had over 99% coverage. Many people choose not to sign in for whatever reason, so it’s possible that we actually have 100% coverage, but only the Lord knows for sure.
From my understanding, the primary reason for 100% coverage is to protect the Eucharist. While the intent is to adore and worship and “be with the Lord for just one hour”, the practical reason is to prevent sacrilege. Those who have formally signed on for an hour have assumed the responsibility of protecting the Eucharist while they adore.

the boy September 22, 2006 at 6:06 am

I am often left with the situation where I go into a city center church (where there is continual daytime adoration) and there is no one there.
There is also often no one else there when I am about to leave.
(btw the ostensorium is kept in a glass case under lock and key.)

John Henry September 22, 2006 at 6:39 am

I am often left with the situation where I go into a city center church (where there is continual daytime adoration) and there is no one there.
There is also often no one else there when I am about to leave.

Me too. And I feel bad leaving, but I have to get back to work.

Jeff Miller September 22, 2006 at 6:40 am

What about the practice of placing a cloth cover over the Monstrance when someone leaves and notices nobody is currently at adoration?
I have seen this done at a couple of parishes when it seems to me that it should be returned to a tabernacle. They have signs instruction people to do this if no one is there. In these parishes the adoration chapel is separate from the main church with a security keypad.
If it must always be placed back in the tabernacle, can they have s tabernacle other than the one in the main Church. Looking at canon law on this I am not sure if this would be licit. Barring that can a enclosure be built that contains the Monstrance that can be closed?
I have been wanting to bring this up to these parishes, but was unsure of my own interpretation of canon and liturgical law.

Ggoose September 22, 2006 at 9:38 am

OK, now I have a midnight hour and I am the only one there. Our adoration chapel is protected by a coded lock due to an incident several years ago that I have very few details on. Anyway, when the 1am person shows up they almost always knock on the door because they have not remembered the code. In order to get the door I have to leave the room. I am within proximity but in reality I cannot see it for about 5-10 seconds while getting the door. It seems to me that answering the door is questionable on my part.
Am I being overly legalistic here?

John September 22, 2006 at 10:04 am

Everyone interested in Eucharistic adoration and exposition could profit greatly from visiting the following site — especially every committed adorer and “leader” and “captain” (as mentioned by the excellent LarryD):
http://www.therealpresence.org/eucharst/pea/a2.html
Moreover, in my opinion, all U.S. bishops and pastors who allow PEA — Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration — (and even those who allow limited exposition) in their churches/chapels have a duty to become familiar with the contents of the manual that is described here:
http://www.therealpresence.org/eucharst/manual/manual.htm
The entire manual (as a 1.6 megabyte, 204-page PDF) can be downloaded for free via this link:
http://www.therealpresence.org/eucharst/manual/pea_manf.pdf
At the very least, such pastors need to read the following page at the USCCB site (which states, “There should always be a sufficient number of people present for eucharistic adoration before the Blessed Sacrament exposed … Every effort should be made to ensure that there should be at least two people present. There must absolutely never be periods when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed and there is no one present for adoration.”):
http://www.nccbuscc.org/liturgy/q&a/devotions/perpetualexposition.shtml
In my opinion, a bishop or pastor should prohibit exposition at any parish at which the monstrance has ever been found abandoned. I have witnessed such a thing in two separate parishes in the last three years — in the same diocese — and I raised hell (if I may use the expression).
What I have found to be quite common — just one person being present for adoration of the exposed Blessed Sacarament — is contrary to the will of the bishops (as quoted above), and I know from personal experience that it is extremely imprudent. No parish pastor should allow it.
It is also imprudent (if not illicit) not to have any sign-in log at all, something I have repeatedly seen, or a log that some regular adorers don’t bother to sign. Leaders/captains must police things like this.
Another “abuse” that I have seen at least three times in the past two years (in just one diocese) is the use of the word, “perpetual,” to refer to adoration that is not “24/7,” but is punctuated by periods of one to eight hours with no one present. As Rush says, “Words mean things,” and “perpetual” means that Jesus is ALWAYS attended, not sometimes or most of the time.
Finally, I firmly believe that it is an abuse to leave a chapel of exposition empty (even a locked chapel), while covering the monstrance with a cloth. This is forbidden because of the possibility that the Blessed Sacrament may be stolen by satanists, mentally ill vagrants, children who don’t realize what they are doing, etc.. When no one is present to adore, Jesus must be placed in His little home, a fixed and locked tabernacle.
As a late-night adorer for 9 years in a parish that has had PEA for 22 years, I know that every hour should be scheduled to be covered by at least two people — and they should be people who come from different places in different vehicles (not two family members). Why?
If there is only one scheduled adorer (or two traveling together), some bad things could happen, causing his/their hour to be left uncovered. Examples: his/their vehicle could break down or run out of gas; a sudden serious illness could occur; an electric alarm clock may fail to sound, or may not be heard, or may fail to be set at all, due to forgetfulness.
When an hour is left uncovered, partly because of the grave imprudence of leaders not scheduling two or more people, the adorer(s) for the prior hour sometimes has/have a tough decision to make, since he/she/they may need to go to work or to an appointment, use the restroom, treat an illness, tend to children, etc..
In my parish’s chapel, there is no cover for the monstrance and no tabernacle into which an adorer could lock the Blessed Sacrament — because no hours are ever left uncovered! And so it needs to be throughout the entire world!
In addition, the main doors to my church, leading into the vestibule (off which is the exposition chapel) have been unlocked constantly for 22 years — and the chapel door is unlocked too. When a new pastor arrived (after the previous one had been there for over fifteen years), no one could find a key to the main doors.

John September 22, 2006 at 10:31 am

Here’s a link to an “old” (Feb. 18, 2005) Akinblog thread on a related topic:
http://jimmyakin.typepad.com/defensor_fidei/2005/02/eucharistic_ado.html
Mr. Akin warns that a document he is linking is a PDF, which some people’s computers don’t like. Whenever I want to avoid a PDF page, I try to get an HTML version of it via Google. In the search box, I type some distinctive phrase (e.g., from the title), followed by a “site” parameter that focuses Google on the main address of the page.
For example, I entered this in the Google search box:
“outside of mass” site:www.fargodiocese.org
I got a short list of matching sites, including the PDF against which James warns — but Google offered the same document in HTML format, and it was very safe and quick to download.
Happy hunting.

Truefaith September 22, 2006 at 3:05 pm

In my parish of over 3000 families, the attempt to begin limited Adoration–on First Fridays from after morning Mass to a closing Benediction service in the early evening, began about a year ago. I did not sign up for any particular time, because of my own personal schedule uncertainties. However, one First Friday I found myself with some available time–and I felt the ‘pull’ to put in some adoration time. Needless to say, when I arrived at church, the 2 people who were there left, and I was left with the Blessed Sacrament ALONE for about an hour–when finally someone arrived, I stayed a bit longer and left. It pains me to think, that if I had not gone down to church, our Lord would have been left ALONE!!–Keep in mind, I didn’t sign up for Adoration, I just went. I’m not sure–I haven’t seen anything in the bulletin, but I suspect the whole thing has been discontinued. After my experience, I don’t think Exposition and Adoration is something for every parish.

J.R. Stoodley September 23, 2006 at 3:27 pm

At my college Catholic Center we occasionally have Exposition and Adoration. The most recent time was 19 hours or something like that, September 10th through 11th, in memory of 9/11/01 and to pray for peace. A group I am in planned it from weeks ahead of time, deciding how to open it with a special mass and end it with a prayer ceremony, and signing up people for the different time slots. The Catholic Center was open all night and until about 2 or so a bunch of us hung around, talking and stuff a ways off wile the others took turns in Adoration. In addition one of the campus ministers slept overnight in his office so that if someone didn’t show up to relieve whoever was finishing they could get him and he could stay until the next shift arrived. Jesus would be left alone for a minute or two in that case (which I don’t think ever happened) but I don’t think this is a problem, especially since the office is right there near the chapels and the Eucharistic Chapel so there wasn’t any real danger.
It all worked beautifully. I think the key is to have it be a special occasion with a lot of planning and dedication, not an every Friday thing or whatever, which gets old fast, making attendance unreliable and backups like we had much more difficult.

Ladonna Craven January 14, 2007 at 11:15 pm

What is the difference between adoration of the Blessed Sacrament exposed in the Monstrance and adoration of Our Lord in the Tabernacle? I realize that Our Lord is present both in the Tabernacle and the Monstrance; however, if there is no difference, which I have been told, then why have the Monstrance with glass in order to view Our Lord? If there is a difference, are there more graces derived from viewing the Eucharist in the Monstrance?
Also, the church I attend, a parish of about four thousand, has a cloth to cover Our Lord, which I realize is not recommended; however, we have many many adorers, but yet I know there are several hours a week that are not covered. The woman who is in charge has tried to get the hours covered but in vain. We do not have a coded lock on the the outside door to the Adoration Chapel. The outside door to the Chapel is propped open due to a few hours between adorers. Many of us Parishioners have requested the Parish Priest get a coded lock and the Knights of Columbus have offered to pay for one, however our Parish Priest refuses to have a coded lock installed.
In view of all of the above, would it be best not to have an Adoration Chapel?
Thank You and God Bless

Ladonna Craven January 14, 2007 at 11:15 pm

What is the difference between adoration of the Blessed Sacrament exposed in the Monstrance and adoration of Our Lord in the Tabernacle? I realize that Our Lord is present both in the Tabernacle and the Monstrance; however, if there is no difference, which I have been told, then why have the Monstrance with glass in order to view Our Lord? If there is a difference, are there more graces derived from viewing the Eucharist in the Monstrance?
Also, the church I attend, a parish of about four thousand, has a cloth to cover Our Lord, which I realize is not recommended; however, we have many many adorers, but yet I know there are several hours a week that are not covered. The woman who is in charge has tried to get the hours covered but in vain. We do not have a coded lock on the the outside door to the Adoration Chapel. The outside door to the Chapel is propped open due to a few hours between adorers. Many of us Parishioners have requested the Parish Priest get a coded lock and the Knights of Columbus have offered to pay for one, however our Parish Priest refuses to have a coded lock installed.
In view of all of the above, would it be best not to have an Adoration Chapel?
Thank You and God Bless

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