Thoughts from the Second Floor Front
XXIV Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 15, 2019
Today, we begin our annual Forty Hours Eucharistic Devotions. This is a period of prayer and praise centered on the Most Holy Eucharist, the Blessed Sacrament, and corresponds to our patronal feast day. The origin of the devotion known as Forty Hours is obscure but there is historical evidence that it began in Milan, Italy. St. Charles Borromeo, the Archbishop of Milan, wrote about and supported the practice of continual prayer before the Eucharist. Locally, the practice of Forty Hours was begun in the then Diocese of Philadelphia under the leadership of the fourth bishop, St. John Neumann. The plan was to have this period of worship and prayer, intercessory and thanksgiving, ongoing continually. One parish’s Forty Hours Devotions would end and another one would begin thus establishing a perpetual act of adoration throughout the diocese.
Remember that during Neumann’s administration there was the beginning of an immigration movement from Europe reaching its apex in the early 20th century. There was also at that time a groundswell of anti-Catholicism. In some of the original colonies of our country, anti-Catholic bias was legislated, and anti-Catholic sentiment was strong. The worst of it produced a violence that caused death and the destruction of parish churches in Philadelphia, New York and other cities throughout the country.
The [Louisville, KY]cathedral was invaded by the mob and was saved from destruction only by the prudence of Bishop Spalding, who, in a letter to Bishop Kenrick summing up the results of the day's proceedings, said: “We have just passed through a reign of terror surpassed only by the Philadelphia riots. Nearly one hundred poor Irish have been butchered or burned and some twenty houses have been consumed in the flames. The City authorities, all Knownothings, looked calmly on and they are now endeavouring to lay the blame on the Catholics” (see "Life of Archbishop Spalding", by J.L. Spalding, p. 185).
The Know-Nothings, as they were called, instigated the violence. When arrested, if the law enforcement of the day even did that, they were questioned by authorities only to respond that they “know nothing.” The Know-Nothings actually emerged as a political party nominating a candidate for the Presidency. In the face of that violence, Neumann established the Forty Hours Devotions as a powerful form of intercessory prayer.
This year we will expose the Blessed Sacrament after the 11:00 AM Mass on Sunday and then gather for Solemn Vespers each evening on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday at 7:00 PM. I ask that you take time on these beautiful late summer days to come to church and sit with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Pray with other parishioners who gather at the evening Solemn Vesper Service and Benediction.
Ours is not a safe and secure religion demanding only 45 or 50 minutes on a weekend. To take it seriously is to walk a challenging path. The first step on our journey of faith may be a small one, not a quantum leap. Nevertheless, small steps are necessary to move us toward the goal of professing and witnessing to Jesus with our lives as well as our lips. In our efforts to make the journey of discipleship to which we are called, we need strength - a spiritual strength - that is provided for so beautifully and mystically in the Holy Eucharist. Please take advantage of these holy days and spend some time with Jesus, inviting Him to be a part of your journey.