Thursday, March 20, 2014

40 Hours Devotion at St. Faustina in Warren, MI

The shock! I've lived on the southeast end of Macomb County most of my life and I am not aware of any parish that has offered 40 Hours Devotion until now!  I'm happy to say, this weekend, it comes to Warren, Michigan starting tomorrow morning at St. Faustina (former location of St. Edmund Parish, with the old St. Sylvester's merged).  Any parish offering Eucharistic devotion like this is sure to receive many blessings from God, as are those who participate.

If you are in the area, please try to support the use of this old devotion by doing a holy hour there or even going to the closing ceremony. The full schedule is here.  (Note: This link may be temporary). St. Faustina is located on the north side of 12 Mile Rd, just east of Schoenherr.  There is construction at that main intersection with no left turns permitted, so plan accordingly to get onto 12 Mile Rd. before then.

This Eucharistic devotion, which can last for 40 hours consecutively, but is usually broken up over several days, has a history going back to the 1500's. Among the saints who encouraged 40 Hours Devotion were St. Philip Neri and St. Ignatius of Loyola.  Here in the U.S., in the 1800's, St. John Neumann, the fourth bishop of Philadelphia, strongly promoted it in a time when there was great anti-Catholic sentiment and persecution.  Some years ago, Fr. William Saunders wrote one of the few, in depth pieces you will find on the internet about 40 Hours Devotion in his article, "40 Hours with Jesus Christ."  

Assumption Grotto has 40 Hours Devotion in November every year.  I have heard from many older Grotto-goers, reflecting on an era past when this devotion was popular.  Parishes would schedule them at different times during the year and people say in some places it would literally roll across parishes week-to-week with opportunities for people to go numerous times through the year.  Pre-Lent and Lent were common times to have it.   People talk about this very fondly and how they looked forward to going to the different parishes, and especially to the solemn closing ceremony and dinner afterwards.

I would encourage people to go to any 40 Hours Devotion they see happening in their neighborhood. So, if you are near St. Faustina's make it a point to stop in.  Consider joining them at their closing ceremony.  There is a banquet afterwards, but reservations are required.  It is suggested that you make your reservations by 3:00 PM Friday (call 586-772-2720 for more info).

I'm rather interested in the fact that an organist I once knew, Dr. David Troiano, will be directing a polish choir, the Filarets, in the final stretch leading up to the closing with a tribute to the Blessed Sacrament.  I haven't seen him since he was the organist at St. Jerome Croatian Parish (now St. Lucy's in Troy) back in the 70's.  I believe this will be more classical based on my memories of him and his talents. Here is some background on Troiano from a 2012 article covering his 40th anniversary devoted to church music.

I also just noticed that the priest who will lead the Stations of the Cross at 7:00 PM Friday night, and offer a talk, is also the same priest who just celebrated the 6:00 PM extraordinary form Mass at St. Joseph's in Detroit yesterday on their big feast day. Reverend Robert Marczewski is the Spiritual Director of SS Cyril & Methodius Seminary, Orchard Lake.  I know many Grotto-goers will be at Assumption Grotto to hear the Lenten talk during the fish fry at 6:00 PM, followed by Stations and Mass, but for some, this starts later and might be an option.

Prayer during 40 Hours Devotion

There are many hours of just pure silence where you can do vocal prayers, meditate on something, or enter into contemplative prayer.  People don't often realize that sitting in total silence, merely resting in the Lord and not thinking about anything in particular, is a form of prayer.  It is the prayer of quiet and from the prayer of quiet, God can pull a soul into contemplative prayer.  It's often referred to as mental prayer. This is  why seminarians are encouraged to do holy hours, and why we see it built into the schedule of religious orders experiencing the most explosive growth right now.  In all prayer, God makes the first move, stirring in us, through grace, this desire to pray.  We respond to that by being there.  But such consolations will be taken from us to see if we still come to pray, or to sit in silence.  It is a test by God to see if we are there for his sake, or for ours.  Some of the most precious prayers we can give to God is when we feel no satisfaction at all.  Committing ourselves to an hour at something like 40 Hours, even though we have other things to do, is one way to show our love to God.

As a secular Carmelite, I'm required to put in 30 minutes of mental prayer daily. Fr. Perrone, also a secular Carmelite, talks often on the importance of this form of prayer as it is the one time that we finally rest and allow God to do the talking.  We won't always hear that still, small voice, but it is good to predispose ourselves to hearing it in our hearts.

It is good to bring Scripture with you to any Holy Hour, especially if you might spend more than an hour in church during Exposition.  There are many other things you could bring to use with a form of prayer called, Lectio Divina.  You can read more about that here (see the what, where, when and how):

St. Faustina Parish

St. Faustina, as it was renamed this past July when St. Edmund and St. Sylvester merged, has many parishioners of polish descent.  The new pastor, Fr. Bogdan Milosz, is a native of Poland who has been here in the U.S. for some years.  Since taking over the parish this summer, I have seen him try to introduce a number of pious devotions which, by appearance, have been warmly received.

Some readers of this blog may remember Fr. Bogdan from his Capac days. I know nothing about him from those days; all I know about him comes from about a dozen or more weekday Masses I've attended since he got there in July, and a handful of weekend Masses when I could not make it to Grotto.  A few examples that I recall: In his 4th of July Mass, he said that the first freedom is the right to life.  I've heard him tell parishioners to include prayer and spiritual reading in their Sunday plans along with spending time with family, and not to give it all away to sports and play. The walls might have rattled when he discouraged shopping on Sundays that day. A couple Sundays ago when I was not well enough to go to Grotto, I heard him explain to people there are two ways to love God: Obey the 10 Commandments and to live the Beatitudes.  I haven't heard a homily yet - weekend or weekday - that did not touch on some subject that might be a little uncomfortable for some.

The parish is typical of those built in the 1970's with it's round architecture.  Unfortunately, it has no kneelers - something I have long prayed would change when they have funding.   I have managed to kneel on the carpeted floor as I so desire, but I struggle more each year.  I feel bad for elderly people who know they are justified in sitting when the rubrics calls or kneeling, but are only held back by lack of kneelers.  I try not to get hung up on things like this, or round architecture, because it is the result of past thinking that some must yet live with for a time.  I know many fine priests who are inheriting parishes like this, even though they would prefer a classical design and furnishings.  What is important is what happens inside.   40 Hours Devotion is a very promising sign in any parish and should be supported.

Catechesis needed on Eucharistic reverence and reverence for others

One thing I hope priests do when introducing something like this Eucharistic devotion is to set out some sheets at the entrances that people can take into the pews during the silent hours which has a few notes. They might include some common Holy Hour prayers for those who aren't accustomed to filling an entire hour with meditation or contemplative prayer.  People who have had little or no exposure to Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament may be unaware of basic protocols, like observing strict silence during private devotions and not conversing.  I've seen some well-intentioned souls initiate a public Rosary and litanies to fill the silence, often to the dismay of others deep in mental prayer which requires a quiet atmosphere. Then, there are others who sometimes chat as they do before Mass.

The pre-Mass period in many parishes has become a social hour where one can hear conversation about everything from the big game in the afternoon, to elaborate details about a roast in someone's oven. People can be heard making plans for breakfast or dinner after Mass with others.  Imagine someone with a spouse or child at home who has cancer, looking to lay their head on the shoulder of Our Eucharistic Lord in silence, only to be met with chatter in church.  While some defend the pre-Mass social as "charity" no one is thinking about how uncharitable the noise is for the tired and burdened who are trying to seek refuge in the meek and humble heart of Jesus.  The pre-Mass period in some parishes rivals the mall on Saturday mornings for decibels in noise level.  Who can possibly pray amidst that noise?

There is a chasm in philosophy on this with one side saying this should be a time we draw close to Our Lord before the Mass in silent prayer; and the other side saying that it is charitable to keep one's neighbor company as they await Mass.  I have come to believe that if people truly care about one another, they won't wait until 20 minutes before Mass to keep their neighbor's company; they will pick up the phone during the week and call that person, or invite them out for coffee.  When we go forth from Mass, that is how we should respond. In fact, one of the highest forms of charity we can offer to others is to give them our time outside of church.  That is the discussion I think pastors need to have with their people in an effort to persuade them to give up this common chit-chat habit.  We need to convince people that if they have nothing to say to Our Lord while in Church they should be aware that God has something to say to them, but they will never hear him if they don't lend him an ear.

Even in these things, I no longer get upset with people.  I consider the fact that most have been conditioned to believe this is not only okay, but it is the right thing to do (priests included).  We have to work with charity, reason and grace to move hearts on subjects like this.  How many would defend their "right" to talk in church if they knew they were adversely hindering a troubled soul from seeking solace in the arms of God in prayer?

In conclusion

I hope people reading this who are close by will consider filling some of those silent hours, ensuring Our Lord is not alone.  Any parish just introducing this might have trouble doing this, but if priests persist year after year, others will hear how good it is and it will gain popularity.  There is something truly magnetic about  Eucharistic devotion.  Anyone who does it wants to come back for more, and to tell others to participate.  So, much patience is needed.  I hope to see other parishes bringing it back.

May God grant an increase to Eucharistic devotion in the Archdiocese of Detroit, especially through 40 Hours Devotion, rolling once again from parish to parish.  Many parishes cannot have perpetual Adoration, but this is one way to give people exposure to Exposition.  From there, people might look for more opportunities to pray this way and that will lead to more chapels.  Right now I must travel for 20 minutes in any direction to find Adoration which makes it difficult to participate daily, as I would like.

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The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church;
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