WASHINGTON (CNS) — Spending time in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is an opportunity “to reflect on something at the very heart of our faith — the enduring presence of Christ in the Eucharist,” Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington said March 8.

“As we make our way along our Lenten pilgrimage … we come together to recognize the presence of Jesus, not just in his words, not just in his actions, but in his enduring presence in the Eucharist,” Cardinal Wuerl said.

Cardinal Wuerl made his remarks during a Mass in the Crypt Church at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington to open the national shrine’s observance of “24 Hours for the Lord.”


A worldwide initiative to encourage adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, “24 Hours for Lord” was introduced by Pope Francis during the 2016 Year of Mercy. It has since become an annual Lenten event organized by the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization.

About 200 people attended the opening Mass at the national shrine.

Cardinal Wuerl called the Eucharist “bread that contains eternal life for those who eat it” and “a perpetual memorial to Christ’s death and resurrection.”

Recalling Christ’s words at his Last Supper — “Do this in memory of me” — when Jesus instituted the Eucharist, Cardinal Wuerl said the Catholic Church “continues to do this at every celebration of Mass.”

“What we proclaim in the Eucharist — Christ’s death and resurrection — is at the heart of our faith,” Cardinal Wuerl said.

Stressing “the real presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament,” the cardinal reminded those in the Crypt Church that “wherever the Sacrament is, there Christ is. Jesus chose to be with us (in the Blessed Sacrament) out of love for us.”

At the start of Mass, Msgr. Walter Rossi, rector of the national shrine, noted that the annual event was an opportunity for the faithful “to touch the grandeur of God’s mercy.”

He said that while the worldwide celebration is 24 hours in duration, the devotion at the national shrine would continue for 48 hours, with confessions being heard six hours each day and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament available every moment that a Mass is not being celebrated.

“May these days bring God’s abundant mercy and blessings upon all who come before the Lord in Mary’s shrine as well as for those who unite themselves with us in spiritual communion at home,” Msgr. Rossi said.

At the end of the Mass, the Blessed Sacrament was placed on the altar in an ornate monstrance, and Cardinal Wuerl led the faithful in adoration and veneration.

“Offering adoration to Jesus in the Eucharist, the Blessed Sacrament, is a graced moment, one that brings us into the presence of our Lord,” Cardinal Wuerl said. “It is truly a mystery but also a wonderful gift.”

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, was to celebrate the closing Mass for the devotion the evening of March 10 in the national shrine’s Great Upper Church, concluding with a eucharistic procession followed by Benediction.


Szczepanowski is on the staff of the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.