by Paul Turner
Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament is a service of worship and
blessing centered on the Catholic belief in the real presence of
Jesus in the Eucharist. It began in the Middle Ages as a popular
devotional exercise. In recent years the frequency of its
celebration has lessened, but it remains in our liturgical books.
Some older Catholics remember it fondly; some younger Catholics
have never heard of it.
After Vatican Council II, the Catholic Church revised its order
of service for Benediction along with all the other liturgical
rites. The full title, "Rite of Eucharistic Exposition and
Benediction," helps explain its purpose. The faithful gaze at an
unconsumed host from a previous Mass and worship the presence of
the risen Christ in that host.
The ceremony has four parts: exposition, adoration, benediction,
and reposition. During exposition, the minister goes to the
tabernacle and removes a large host reserved there. Placing it in
a monstrance (a windowed liturgical vessel which displays the
host), the minister sets the object of our devotion on the altar.
The period of adoration may be lengthy. Prayers, Scripture
readings, songs, homily, and silence may fill the time. At the
close of this period, if the minister is a priest or a deacon, he
blesses the assembly with the monstrance and says a concluding
prayer. This blessing is the benediction from which the service
derives its name. If a communion minister is presiding, he or she
does not give a blessing. Finally, the minister removes the
Blessed Sacrament from the monstrance and places it back in the
tabernacle, an action called "reposition."
Traditionally, Catholics have sung two popular eucharistic hymns
during the adoration, "O Salutaris Hostia" and "Pange Lingua" but
any eucharistic hymn will serve. A litany of acclamations to God
"The Divine Praises," usually concluded benediction, but the
revised liturgy does not specifically include them. Any
acclamation or song of praise may close the service.
Benediction enhances our devotion to the Eucharist and whets our
appetite for the Mass. The main reason we have eucharistic bread
is to consume it in communion with one another and with Christ.
However, it may also serve as an object of praise, a vision of
the great treasure we share at every Mass.
(This bulletin insert originally appeared in MODERN LITURGY,
copyright (c) 1996, Resource Publications, Inc. It may not be
reproduced without permission. Send permission requests to
(Paul Turner, pastor of St. Munchin Parish in Cameron, MO,
holds a doctorate in sacramental theology from Sant' Anselmo