Fr Dominic recently discovered this interesting photograph on a postcard, showing some religious sisters praying before the Blessed Sacrament in our church, during the Quarant’Ore or Forty Hours Devotion held in Lent 1909.
This Forty Hours Devotion was first devised in Milan in 1530 by the Capuchin Fathers, in order to encourage a greater love for Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. The Blessed Sacrament was exposed in a monstrance for 40 hours in honour of our Lord’s lying in the tomb and the people would take it in turns to watch before the altar for an hour at a time. By 1539, Pope Paul lll gave his approval to the extended exposition of the Blessed Sacrament for public adoration.
It was our own St Philip who introduced the devotion in Rome in 1550 and it was held once every month in the Oratory church of Santa Maria in Vallicella there. He did much to promote this expression of our faith in Jesus’ presence in the Blessed Sacrament.
Gradually, this form of prayer was taken up by the whole Church and it became customary for every parish to celebrate the 40 hours once a year, parishioners taking it in turns to spend an hour before the Lord throughout the period of Exposition. In some dioceses, this was arranged in such a way that the Blessed Sacrament was exposed continuously thought the Year and, in accordance with the Code of Canon Law (1917) always “with the greatest possible solemnity”. This was evidently the practice here at the Sacred Heart.
In recent decades, this devotion has sadly been largely forgotten, but there is a real need for this opportunity for prayer and adoration of Jesus in the sacrament of his love. The Fathers hope that it will be possible for our parish to celebrate this devotion together, showing that we are indeed a truly Eucharistic community, seizing such a wonderful opportunity for the spiritual growth of each person and the parish as a whole.