Why (and How) to Restore First Friday Adoration at Your Parish| National Catholic Register

The revival of First Friday devotions can be a crucial way to restore awareness of the Eucharist as “the source and summit of the Christian life.”

On September 14, I commended that Catholic schools strive to bring school children to Mass on October 7 on the first Friday through June, so that at least once in their lives they will fulfill Our Lord’s request to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, the Holy to receive Communion during this time. Our Lord promises to be with those who have done so in the hour of death, and the practice would do well to help young people shape their spiritual lives.

I always appreciate the comments and feedback from my readers. “Karen” liked the article but urged communities to celebrate First Friday more broadly. I totally agree with her.

Let me remind you of a custom that used to be observed on the first Friday, but is now obsolete but deserves a revival: nocturnal adoration.

Nighttime adoration is the display of the Blessed Sacrament from sometime on the evening of the first Friday to sometime on Saturday morning. I say “sometime” because I’ve seen different customs, which I’ll describe in more detail below.

Back in my native New Jersey, in the 1960’s and 1970’s, “Night Worship” was a monthly spiritual exercise organized primarily by men’s societies (usually called “Holy Name” societies) in various parishes. A parish was designated as the congregation. Men from the other parishes in the city and from a neighboring town took turns in an hour of worship (“Could you not watch with me for an hour? – Matthew 26:40, Jesus speaking to his apostles in the Garden of Gethsemane). The schedule changed by an hour every month so everyone shared the opportunities (evenings) and challenges (middle of the night).

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Since we had nine Latin parishes in the city and three in neighboring cities, the exhibition began at 5:20 p.m. on Friday after evening Mass and ended at 7:00 a.m. on Saturday. Since often – but not always (e.g. not in October 2022) – the first Friday and first Saturday coincide, many people took the opportunity to receive communion according to the devotion of the nine first Fridays and the devotion of the five first Saturdays .

The First Friday night adoration was a devotional throughout the Diocese of Trenton prior to 1981: the Diocesan Gazette printed the parishes that were the exhibit sites and the rotation schedule of participating parishes.

Nightly devotions in Central New Jersey began to decline for a number of reasons. Pastors and parishes were not particularly supportive of the men’s societies, particularly in terms of encouraging younger members to support the older ones. The amalgamation of parishes reduced the number of churches attached to local worship. Concerns about nighttime crime – people going out and priests keeping their churches open – affected numbers. Local realities aside, there was also a flawed theology in the years immediately following Vatican II that devalued worship and claimed that it somehow “deflected” from the centrality of the liturgy, especially the Mass.

Well, (1) we want to encourage the church as “fellowship” and (2) there is no enduring ecclesial “fellowship” that is not spiritually grounded. (3) more and more parishes have reintroduced the weekly holy hours or extended exhibition day; and (4) we have stated that we want to “take back” the night from crime. As to whether worship “distracts” from the liturgy, one would hope that such naive thoughts were long ago discarded.

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My own congregation – St. James in Falls Church, Virginia – seems to be renewing this practice. For congregations still not comfortable with a truly nightly vigil, I’ve seen churches that have pushed exposure back to 2am or even midnight (mimicking the way we normally celebrate adoration of the Dormant Blessed Sacrament celebrate Maundy Thursdays).

Exposure and worship can begin in the evening as Holy Hour. Better yet, why not an evening mass to kick off the period? It strengthens the Eucharist both as adored and as received.

Some parishes observed adoration on the first Friday in a customary, silent Holy Hour manner. Others have mixed the time with devotions (Rosary or Chaplet of Mercy). Some parishes have also used the time to schedule at least a few time slots for sacramental confession.

Spiritual talks can also be tailored to specific demographics in the community, particularly younger people or even children (e.g. the first hour on Friday evenings). That would not be ill-advised since (1) we are losing young people who become “nothing” and (2) children need a message that there is nothing extraordinary or distressing about going to Mass on a non-Sunday (why I suggested in my earlier essay the morning masses on the first Friday) and that the “weekend” is sealed against religion. I note that because the “weekend” has replaced the Sabbath rest, it is not just other religious activities (e.g. Holy Hours on the first Friday of the year, Lent Stations of the Cross) but the Sunday Mass itself vying for a spot in the sacred “weekend”.

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As “Karen” noted, her church couples a meditative holy hour, joined by students from the local college, with a later social event. While this might not work for a vigil, it might work for a limited Holy Hour. I’ll admit I’m somewhat divided: there’s nothing wrong with that in the community begins at the Eucharist, which continues afterwards in the social setting, but I also worry that our tendency to associate religious events with social follow-up (Mass and donuts) sometimes tends to diminish or increase commitment to social life accelerate. Sometimes you are simple must pray. That, too, is Catholic and a spiritual discipline that must be acquired.

The bishops of the United States have recognized the need to promote Eucharistic revival, in part because survey results indicate that large numbers of Catholics simply do not understand what the Church teaches about Jesus and His real presence in the Blessed Sacrament. Regaining First Friday devotion can be a crucial way to restore awareness of the Eucharist as “the source and summit of the Christian life” (Vatican II, Dogmatic Constitution lumen gentium, no. 11).

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