Last weekend Friday, March 24 and Saturday, March 25 was celebrated in the universal church as “24 Hours for the Lord.” It’s an initiative of Pope Francis begun last year at the conclusion of the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
In his apostolic letter, “Misericordia et misera,” the pope urged this devotion to be observed on the fourth Friday and Saturday of Lent for a 24-hour period as a time of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament and an opportunity for individual confession.
While the ideal would be for every Catholic parish and community worldwide to comply with the Holy Father’s request, it may not always be possible. Some parishes may not have a congregation large enough to serve an all-night vigil. Others may be located in areas where it would be imprudent to leave the church open all night or dangerous for the parishioners to travel in the hours of darkness.
Guidelines issued by the archdiocesan Office for Divine Worship took account of that, by suggesting shorter hours for adoration and penance or parishes combining their effort if necessary.
The guidelines suggested parishes offer exposition of the Blessed Sacrament for the entire time, with several opportunities for confession, if possible.
Last year, the final version of an interactive map of participating parishes prepared by the archdiocesan Office for the New Evangelization showed approximately 50 parishes participating. A similar map prepared this year shows 20 of the 219 parishes in the Philadelphia Archdiocese listed as participating in full or in part.
It is possible some parishes had 24 Hours for the Lord observances but did not report their schedule to the archdiocese. Or as a possibility suggested by the guidelines, parishes may have participated this year in an observance at a neighboring parish.
It does raise a question: Has society today, so engrossed in the inaudible chatter of handheld devices, lost an appreciation of solitude, including silent meditation?
At Nativity B.V.M. Parish in Media, the pastor, Father Edward Bell, admits eucharistic adoration was not always part of his prayer life, but
Nativity does have an adoration chapel that is usually open 7 a.m. until 11 p.m. Recently attendance had slipped a bit, the pastor noted.
So Father Bell got up at all of the Masses one recent weekend, extolling eucharistic adoration and inviting parishioners to join in it. The response was excellent and this spilled over into 24 Hours with the Lord.
“It was amazing the response we got,” he said. “It was young couples, old people and families. We had parish groups take the hours of the night.
“God speaks to us in silence and solitude,” Father Bell said. “We have to take the time.”
At Our Mother of Consolation Parish in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia, the parish utilized the church for part of the time and the chapel in the residence of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales.
“The people seemed to like it,” said Oblate Father Robert Bazzoli. “In the church there was exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in a monstrance on the altar, but in the later hours, after vespers, it was in the residence (with) adoration before the tabernacle.
“It was worthwhile and it raises our consciousness. There was a steady stream for confession,” said Father Bazzoli, who credits his liturgy committee and director of worship for putting the program together.
“I think the timing was very good, at the midpoint in Lent. The people were there for what they needed and hopefully they got what they needed,” he said.
At St. Cyril of Jerusalem Parish in Jamison, where the parish already had day and evening eucharistic adoration Monday through Friday during Lent, the full 24 hours were also observed all day Friday through the night until 4:30 p.m. Saturday with the Sacred Host enthroned in what Msgr. Robert Powell, the pastor, declares is “the nicest monstrance in the diocese.”
“24 Hours for the Lord was well attended,” he said. “It was pretty steady all day long, and there was a line for confessions. It’s a little soon to tell, but people say how swell it was.”