Before the year 1550, the Forty Hours’ Devotion, or some analogous Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, had been established by Saint Philip Neri for the Confraternity of Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini in Rome at the Church that stood where Santissima Trinita dei Pellegrini currently stands. St. Ignatius of Loyola also encouraged the practice of exposing the Blessed Sacrament during the carnival as an act of expiation for the sins committed at that season. St. Francis de Sales, who was a great admirer of Philip Neri, incorporated the Forty Hours’ Devotion as part of his missionary outreach among the Calvinists living between Annecy and Geneva between 1594 and 1596. In the United States, Saint John Neumann (1811-1860), bishop of Philadelphia, helped spread the devotion, composing a special booklet for its practice.
It was a great grace to have the Forty Hours’ Devotion at Santissima Trinita this year, in preparation for Lent. It directs the faithful in this course of forty days that will be upon them, giving them strength to pray, fast and give alms. You do not need to accept my words, but he who loves the Blessed Sacrament, he who fosters this love, in humility and gratitude, would flee from any and every occasion of sin, and in failing, would quickly make recourse to the sacraments to fight the good fight and remain in the grace of God.
You may recall from other posts that Saint Gemma’s love was undivided, her love for the Blessed Sacrament and for the Passion of Christ were one and the same. This should light our hearts aflame throughout these days of Lent! One cannot survive the perils of our time, or even the struggle of the interior life, without going regularly and humbly before the Lord Who humbled Himself to come to us in the Blessed Sacrament, under the appearance of bread and wine!
I offer to you my newest book, which provides daily meditations on the Passion of Christ. Over the course of 31 days, one follows the course of Christ’s sacrifice from the sorrow of departing His blessed Mother to the rending of His Heart for all mankind, pierced with a lance. You can find it HERE in paperback and PDF. Also, take courage from the words of Saints, as you prepare to embark on the Lenten journey of forty days:
“If we but paused for a moment to consider attentively what takes place in this Sacrament, I am sure that the thought of Christ’s love for us would transform the coldness of our hearts into a fire of love and gratitude.”
St. Angela of Foligno
“Recognize in this Bread what hung on the cross, and in this Chalice what flowed from His side… whatever was in many and varied ways announced beforehand in the sacrifices of the Old Testament pertains to this one Sacrifice which is revealed in the New Testament.”
from the writings of St. Augustine, Sermon 3, 2
“What wonderful majesty! What stupendous condescension! O sublime humility! That the Lord of the whole universe, God and the Son of God, should humble Himself like this under the form of a little bread, for our salvation”
“…In this world I cannot see the Most High Son of God with my own eyes, except for His Most Holy Body and Blood.”
St. Francis of Assisi
“When you have received Him, stir up your heart to do Him homage; speak to Him about your spiritual life, gazing upon Him in your soul where He is present for your happiness; welcome Him as warmly as possible, and behave outwardly in such a way that your actions may give proof to all of His Presence.”
St. Francis de Sales