Our monthly Hot Date Night/Eucharistic Adoration combo has always been special to my husband and me. When Manny and I began dating, I was Episcopalian and had no idea what Eucharistic Adoration was. But Manny spent entirely too much time in bars, I thought, so going to church offered a wholesome alternative for Friday night. A bunch of our friends would regularly gather together in a diner to grab a bite to eat before heading to Our Lady of Peace on 62d Street, Manhattan, at around 9 p.m. on the first Friday of every month.
The Bruschi family, known for their evangelical dynamism, ran the monthly vigil in honor of St. Pio. Word had it that Papa Bruschi had traveled all the way to Italy for Padre Pio to hear his confession, but Padre Pio had refused to grant him absolution. That had changed Papa Bruschi’s life. Organizing this monthly vigil was Papa Bruschi’s way to say thank you. The custom of spending the First Friday of every month in Eucharistic Adoration dates all the way back to the 17th century, when Jesus appeared in a private vision to St. Margaret Mary and encouraged her to begin and promote the practice. In this same vision, Jesus revealed to St. Margaret Mary, and thus to the world, his Sacred Heart, encircled by a crown of thorns and wounded for our sins. For me, then, Friday night vigil was a crash course in centuries of Catholic tradition.
The vigil included incensing, which filled the church with fragrant smoke, and a procession around the church with the Eucharist being carried under an umbrellino, or small umbrella, to protect it from anything falling from above. To our great delight, our friend Steve usually got to carry the umbrellino. The vigil also incorporated a Mass in which the two beautiful, dark-haired Bruschi daughters sang Gregorian chant and a capella duets from the choir loft high above. People remained in the church all night in adoration of the Blessed Eucharist, exposed on the altar in the gorgeous golden monstrance. Manny and I usually left after the first coffee hour, which ended around midnight. The notable exception was the night he proposed to me, outside the church, on one knee, with a diamond ring in his hand. There was no way we were going to sleep after that. We stayed in the church praying until six o’clock the next morning.
After we got married and moved out of the City to Long Island, Manny and I fell out of the habit of going to First Friday vigil. Then one of our friends gently asked us, “Well, you do something for First Friday, don’t you?” Imagine our surprise when we discovered that our own parish had already held First Friday vigils for many years, based on the format of the Nocturnal Adoration Society. Thus, we began our new tradition of monthly Hot Date Night combined with Eucharistic Adoration.
For this Year of Faith, the U.S. bishops have asked all Catholics to attend a monthly Eucharistic Adoration for the intentions of life, marriage, and religious liberty. In a way, Manny and I were doing this already. But the bishops also recommended reading certain Scriptural passages to help people to meditate on these intentions. Last month, our parish priest revised the normal vigil format to include some of these passages, and the vigil leader asked me to be the reader.
So, I stood before the assembly and read from the Gospel of John: “If you keep My commandments you will abide in My love … These things have I spoken to you so that your joy may be complete.” Our parish church had no umbrellino, no choir, and no coffee hour. But standing beside my husband, before the Holy Eucharist, I could sense the continuity with Catholics throughout the centuries. And I could feel the unending adoration.
Copyright 2013 Karee Santos