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Youth and Eucharistic Worship  
Arthur David Canales, DMin  

In the United States, we have witnessed a growing phenomenon in the participation of youth in eucharistic adoration services. Such love for the Eucharist as exemplified at adoration should be encouraged and nourished. As Pope Benedict XVI states in Sacramentum Caritatis, #66–68, eucharistic adoration after Mass is a continuation of what occurs when we receive Holy Communion. "In the Eucharist," the Pope states, "the Son of God comes to meet us and desires to become one with us; eucharistic adoration is simply the natural consequence of the eucharistic celebration, which is itself the Church's supreme act of adoration. . . . The act of adoration outside Mass prolongs and intensifies all that takes place during the liturgical celebration itself." Continuing, the Pope states that adoration strengthens us to do the work of the Church. "And it is precisely this personal encounter with the Lord that then strengthens the social mission contained in the Eucharist, which seeks to break down not only the walls that separate the Lord and ourselves, but also and especially the walls that separate us from one another."

Pope Benedict encourages both an increased practice of eucharistic adoration in parishes and catechesis on this act of worship. Such catechesis, he says, "would enable the faithful to experience the liturgical celebration more fully and more fruitfully."

Keeping fully in mind the importance of eucharistic adoration, we also should be open to re-evaluating how we introduce youth to this practice. The primary concentration of this article will examine the participation of youth in the Rite of Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction apart from the Sunday assembly in two pastoral and liturgical areas. First, the essay will address three scenarios regarding youth adoration liturgies that are typical across the country. Second, the article will offer four pastoral implementation strategies for youth ministers and parish priests to follow and utilize in their communities.

The following remarks concerning eucharistic veneration are made after observing scores of adolescent ministry functions that encourage and implement eucharistic worship apart from the Sunday assembly. These functions have taken place across the country at various youth venues: parish services, diocesan retreats and rallies, regional meetings and events, and national conferences. From my observations, the services at which Catholic youth participate in eucharistic worship apart from the Sunday assembly have not followed the rubrics properly as prescribed within the rite and have not celebrated the rite in its fullness.

Since the Rite of Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction is an official liturgical rite of the Catholic Church, it is not a question of why parishes and youth ministries within parishes partake in eucharistic adoration, but how those parishes and youth ministries participate in eucharistic adoration. It is the how that will be explored in this essay.

Three Pastoral Scenarios
Listed below are three pastoral scenarios regarding adolescents and adoration that I have witnessed at several youth adoration liturgies. I will pinpoint and address some of the inherent liturgical dangers that may potentially exist in a youth ministry event without proper liturgical catechesis regarding the Rite of Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction.

The first pastoral scenario deals with the reality that many parish youth ministers around the country create: a separate eucharistic adoration experience for young people apart from the Sunday assembly. This type of separation from the larger worshipping community has the potential to be divisive, is not collaborative, and fails to fully comprehend the role and theology of the whole liturgical assembly (see Catherine Vince, The Role of the Assembly in Christian Initiation, Liturgy Training Publications, 1993, pp. 12–15).

Pastoral situation: Desiring to have eucharistic adoration once a month, the parish coordinator of youth ministry requests the deacon of the parish to preside over the service for the teenagers involved in the youth ministry. Graciously, the parish deacon agrees to preside at a monthly eucharistic adoration service for the teenagers at their regular gathering time. Hence, the youth minister schedules the Rite of Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction monthly throughout the academic year.

Theological concern: The potential theological danger is that young people are separated from the larger parish community to celebrate a liturgical rite of the Church. This type of monthly ritual is too exclusive to the youth and runs the risk of elitism. It is the responsibility of the youth minister to help connect the larger faith community to the adolescent population of the parish and to work to ensure that young people are included in the array of liturgical and ministerial opportunities existing in the parish. Youth should always be invited to participate in the liturgical life of the parish; therefore, integration into parish life is essential.

Liturgical solution: The youth should participate in an already-existing parish-wide Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction service and be integrated into the larger faith community. This pastoral solution has three positive liturgical benefits: a) it allows for a youth minister to amalgamate the adolescents of the parish with other lay faithful of the parish community; b) it is intergenerational and it helps to unite generations, creating a genuine sense of community; and c) it exposes young people to an authentic communal liturgical experience that is distinct from the full celebration of Sunday Eucharist.

The second pastoral scenario situates eucharistic adoration away from the parish or outside of the parish boundaries. The increasingly popular practice of conducting eucharistic adoration outside of the parish boundaries, such as at retreats, conferences, and music festivals may cause young Catholics to confuse the proper role of Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction.

Pastoral situation: Annually, a diocesan gathering of youth attend an outdoor Catholic music festival. Catholic musicians and bands take their turns performing while instilling Gospel values through their music. At the end of the musical festivities, late in the evening on a Saturday night, a priest presides over Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction—outside, in an open field, and on a makeshift wooden stage—for 400 young people.

Theological concern: The latent theological risk is twofold: a) the official Catholic rituals should be celebrated in a place of prominence and eucharistic adoration deserves a more sacred and solemn environment; and b) on a Saturday evening, when a priest can be present to preside at a liturgy with so many Catholic faithful in attendance, the full celebration of Sunday should be celebrated at the vigil Mass. An obvious pastoral worry is that the monstrance is being paraded through a field or is in an atmosphere that is not liturgically appropriate for eucharistic adoration.

Liturgical solution: It is more appropriate for Catholic youth ministry gatherings away from parish boundaries such as a music festival to celebrate the Liturgy of the Hours as its primary form of worship for the following reasons. First, the Liturgy of the Hours, the prayer of the Church, sanctifies time; second, LOH is a "prayer of praise and petition" (General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours [GILOH], #2) and is an active prayer that expresses the "memorial of the mysteries of salvation" (GILOH, 12); and third, with the printing of liturgical worship aids, the gathered assembly can enter into the worship experience with greater participation. Also to be considered for prayer at such events is Taizé prayer. Although Taizé prayer might be more difficult to arrange logistically, it would be beneficial for adolescents. These meditative candlelit services include simple chants sung repeatedly, as well as silence, and prayers of praise and intercession. The prayer empowers participants to remain open to the voice of God and discover the prayer internally and live it out externally.

The third pastoral scenario concentrates on the theological images and liturgical ambience of Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction as is sometimes experienced by adolescents. The predominant scriptural narrative and biblical image often associated with eucharistic adoration at many adolescent ministry gatherings is that of the hemorrhaging woman found in the synoptic accounts of the Gospel (Mark 5:25–34; Luke 8:43–48; Matthew 9:20–22).

Pastoral situation: A gathering of youth ministries, perhaps from the same deanery, gather for an evening of prayer, friendship, networking, and spiritual enrichment. About 100 adolescents and 15 youth ministers/adult leaders are present. The evening, which involves prayer, ice-breakers, music, skits, and a theological presentation, concludes with eucharistic adoration. The scripture pericope that is used for Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction is that of the woman with a hemorrhage found in the Gospel of Mark (5:25–34). During eucharistic adoration a long white garment is rolled out on the floor that leads to the altar where the monstrance is placed and the priest, adults, and adolescents surround the altar kneeling, with some prostrating themselves.

Theological concern: There are two causes for alarm here. First, using the biblical text of the hemorrhaging woman for eucharistic adorations takes the scripture out of its proper theological context. A theological danger exists here, because there is a mixing of, and a misinterpretation of, the image of healing (sacrament for the sick), with the physical, psychological, and spiritual standpoint of the woman and the celebration of eucharistic adoration (eucharistic Real Presence). The Rite of Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction is not intended to be used as a quasi-healing service for young people. The Catholic Church already has official rituals for both adoration and pastoral care of the sick. These theological details and distinctions are significant because they help situate the proper theological and liturgical framework for the practice of eucharistic adoration. Secondly, there is potential concern when the number of youth is great and they surround the liturgical action of the altar, in this case, the priest and monstrance. Two things may occur as a result of this surrounding of the altar, whether direct or incidental (I have witnessed both several times): a) touching of the priest's cope and/or b) touching the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance. Since Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction is an official liturgical prayer and liturgical action of the Church, there should be no touching of the cope of the priest, in which young people are trying to symbolize and re-enact the hemorrhaging woman touching Jesus's garment. More importantly, there is no touching of the Blessed Sacrament contained in the monstrance, either on the altar or while the priest is holding the monstrance; this is neither a Catholic practice nor liturgically appropriate.

Liturgical solution: Use the official designated Gospel proclamations contained in the rite. Eight Gospel readings are in the ritual Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist Outside of Mass that are liturgically and pastorally sufficient for any eucharistic adoration. These are: Matthew 11:25–30; Luke 15:1–10; Luke 15:1–3, 11-32; John 10:11–18; John 15:1–8; John 15:9–17; John 17:20–26; John 19:31–37. The pericope of the hemorraging woman is not among these.

I hope that these three pastoral scenarios will help parish priests, diocesan directors of youth ministry, and parish youth ministers better comprehend the accurate pastoral practice for eucharistic veneration, and identify some of the theological concerns that exist with eucharistic adoration. Perhaps the most helpful part of this section is to learn and understand the liturgical alternatives and solutions to celebrating Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction.

It is advisable to keep in mind Redemptionis Sacramentum, #140: "It is fitting that the host to be exposed for adoration should be consecrated in the Mass immediately preceding the time of adoration, and that it should be placed in the monstrance upon the altar after communion." Consequently, when the Rite of Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction is celebrated, it is theologically more desirable and liturgically more fitting when it is celebrated directly after Sunday Eucharist as an appendix to the Mass, and not as an independent rite apart from the Sunday assembly.

Four Pastoral Implementation Strategies
Four pastoral implementation strategies may be helpful for parish youth ministers and adult youth leaders to integrate. These pastoral recommendations and implementation strategies are designed to be separate from a parish's existing celebration and integration of Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction. These pastoral recommendations and strategies, though they should be limited, will offer parish youth ministers various ministerial settings for implementation of eucharistic worship apart from the Sunday assembly.

One pastoral plan is to have several parishes coordinate youth and/or young adult ministries in the deanery for the celebration of Mass together as the local Church. After Mass there could be a eucharistic procession, Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist Outside of Mass (HCWEOM), #101–108, around the neighborhood, and a return to the church as a eucharistic assembly and with Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction. HCWEOM makes it clear that, "it is fitting that a eucharistic procession begin after the Mass and the host to be carried in the procession is consecrated at this Mass" HCWEOM, 103. Albeit the rite is primarily intended to take place during the solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ and to move from parish community to parish community, pastoral adaptations can be made. At the conclusion of Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction, it would be advisable to have the lay ministers and adult volunteers facilitate small faith-sharing groups, with the participants discussing and discerning the eucharistic activity just celebrated: Eucharist, eucharistic procession, and eucharistic adoration. Hence, theological reflection flows from the liturgical experience, presenting a fruitful time for eucharistic catechesis and liturgical reflection.

A second ministerial approach especially geared for youth ministry and young adult ministry is for young people to assemble as a youth ministry (or young adult ministry) at the cathedral parish for the celebration of Sunday Eucharist, immediately followed by Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction. After adoration, the young people could be involved in feeding the homeless population, perhaps by volunteering at a soup kitchen or in a homeless shelter, or traveling with an organization such as Mobile Loaves and Fishes (www.mlfnow.org) or Meals on Wheels. Consider a debriefing about the experience afterwards. Linking adoration with action models a eucharistic ecclesiology that is rooted in the Gospel values of service, social justice, and stewardship. This type of eucharistic celebration can lead to personal and communal transformation.

A third pastoral implementation strategy is a six-week Lenten celebration of Liturgy of the Hours with Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction. The Lenten liturgies could be celebrated as Evening Prayer on weekday evenings. The youth minister, with the help of adolescents, could prepare, in conjunction with the pastor or the parish liturgist, the Lenten liturgies for the entire parish. Therefore, the Lenten worship experience would not be only a youth ministry activity, but a worship experience that highlights the gifts and talents of the teenagers. Young people could serve as ministers of hospitality, candle bearers, incense bearers, liturgical servers, and lectors during the liturgies. Immediately after the Liturgy of the Hours, the ordained presider should lead the gathered assembly in eucharistic veneration. The Lenten Liturgies of the Hours would help build community and allow the youth to experience, along with the rest of the community, a different liturgical celebration distinct from Sunday Eucharist. This would serve to heighten the prayerful and penitential season of Lent.

A fourth implementation method is to offer a retreat that centers on the celebration of Sunday Eucharist. The theme of the retreat could be the "Source and Summit" or the "Bread of Life." The retreat may focus on various topics pertaining to Sunday Eucharist, such as the significance of Sunday, the eucharistic narratives in the Gospel, the eucharistic prayers, the primacy of the gathered assembly, and/or the connection between the Liturgy of the Hours and Sunday Eucharist. These themes would help highlight the paramount importance that Sunday Eucharist has for Catholic identity and spirituality, which are interdependent with Catholic ministry and life. During the retreat, Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction would be observed after the celebration of Sunday Eucharist. For example, if the retreat center is a diocesan retreat center and there already exists an established sacred space such as a chapel, then midnight Mass could be celebrated and immediately after Mass, Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction could be observed. Or perhaps, on Sunday morning before the conclusion of the retreat, and after the celebration of Sunday Eucharist, Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction could be observed. In both scenarios, eucharistic adoration takes place within the context of Sunday Eucharist but also after a discussion of eucharistic theology and is part of the culmination worship experience within the retreat.

These four pastoral implementation strategies reflect an attempt to integrate Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction into the larger life of the local Church. Such an integration makes evident that liturgical worship is a communal experience. The prayer of Christ in the Catholic Church is best experienced when entire communities (parishes, institutes, religious, cloistered) are invited to share in the Christological, ecclesiological, and eschatological realities that community liturgical prayer expresses and reflects, especially when groups of Catholics who act as a praying community—whether parish group, ministry, or organization—gather as a sacred liturgical assembly (synaxis) to give God thanks and praise (eucharistia).

Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction has been part of the worship life of the Church for hundreds of years and perhaps is being enthusiastically celebrated today more than ever. The intent of this essay is not to discourage the liturgical practice and pastoral experience of Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction in ministry settings, but to highlight and situate eucharistic worship in its fullest context of the celebration of Sunday Eucharist. Adolescents deserve to be exposed to the richness of the varied liturgies within the Catholic Church. However, an emphasis on the celebration of a particular liturgy at youth ministry settings may only encourage liturgical nearsightedness and, in so doing, not empower youth to fully comprehend the significance of Sunday and the essence of the Eucharist. It is in the celebration of Sunday Eucharist that Catholics truly "Behold the Lamb of God" (John 1:36) and come to fully memorialize, realize, and actualize the gift that God has freely given us in Jesus of Nazareth who is the Christ and is most deserving of human adoration.

Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy. 1978. Environment and Art in Catholic Worship. Washington, D.C.: USCCB Publishing. Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy. 2004. Thirty-one Questions on Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Washington, D.C.: USCCB Publishing.

Canales, Arthur David. "Strengthening Eucharistic Spirituality in Adolescents." Emmanuel: Eucharistic Spirituality, vol. 115, no. 1 (January/February 2009), 9–23.

Canales, Arthur David. 2009. "A Noble Quest: Cultivating Christian Spirituality in Catholic Adolescents and the Usefulness of 12 Pastoral Practices." International Journal of Children's Spirituality, vol. 14, no.1 (March), 63–77.

Congregation for Divine Worship. 1973. Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist Outside Mass. New York, New York: Catholic Book Publishing Company.

Congregation for Divine Worship. 2004. Redemptionis Sacramentum (Instruction on the Eucharist). In Eucharistic Documents for the New Millennium. Chicago, Illinois: Liturgy Training Publications, 93–160.

Interdicasterial Commission of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. 1997. Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition. Rome, Italy: Liberia Editice Vaticana.

Irwin, Kevin W. 2005. Models of the Eucharist. New York, New York: Paulist Press.

Mitchell, Nathan. 1982. Cult or Controversy: The Worship of the Eucharist Outside Mass. New York, NY: Pueblo Publishing Company.

Pope Paul VI. Mysterium Fidei. A papal encyclical (3 September), AAS 57:753–754, n. 35.

Pope Benedict XVI. 2007. Sacramentum Caritatis (The Sacrament of Charity: A Post-Synod Apostolic Exhortation).

Pope John Paul II. 2003. Ecclesia De Eucharistia (On the Eucharist). Washington, D.C.: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Seasoltz, R. Kevin. 2007. "Eucharistic Devotions and Reservations: Some Reflections." Worship, vol. 18, no. 4 (September), 426–448.

The Second Vatican Council. 1963. Sacrosanctum Concilium (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy). In Austin Flannery, OP, edits, Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post-Conciliar Documents. Northport, New York: Costello Publishing Company, 1–40.

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. 1997. Renewing the Vision: A Framework for Catholic Youth Ministry. Washington, D.C.: USCCB Publishing.

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. 2003. General Instruction of the Roman Missal. Washington, D.C.: USCCB Publishing.

Vincie, Catherine. 1993. The Role of the Assembly in Christian Initiation. Chicago, Illinois: Liturgy Training Publications.

Arthur David Canales, DMin
is a freelance Catholic theologian and adolescent ministry scholar and an associate adjunct professor of theology at Saint Edward University, Austin, Texas. He teaches youth ministry courses for the Diocese of Austin. His doctorate from The Catholic University of America has an emphasis in pastoral theology and liturgical and sacramental theology. He is a speaker and workshop presenter in areas of youth ministry, liturgy, and sacraments, and stewardship. He is the author of the forthcoming Models for Youth Ministry: A Comprehensive Catholic Approach to Adolescent Ministry.
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