DURING THE FIRST 80 years of the existence of the United States, the practice of 40 Hours Devotion took place only in “some” Parishes in “some” dioceses. However, that was changed by St. John Neumann. He immigrated to the United States as a cleric and was ordained as a priest in New York in 1836. He served in various pastoral capacities in New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland for the next 16 years.
In 1852, St. John was consecrated Bishop of Philadelphia. He quickly began establishing schools in his parishes and establishing many new parishes, especially national parishes for the many immigrants in his diocese. St. John also introduced the practice of 40 Hours Devotion at his first diocesan synod in 1853. The first instance of the practice took place at St. Philip Neri Parish. He soon introduced the program throughout his diocese. The practice of 40 Hours Devotion was so successful in the Diocese of Philadelphia that it spread quickly to many other dioceses. In fact, at the Plenary Council of Baltimore in 1866, the 40 Hours Devotion was approved for all dioceses in the United States.
Over the course of the last century, the practice of 40 Hours Devotion has diminished to some degree, especially after the II Vatican Council. The 1973 Instruction on Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist Outside Mass does not specify 40 Hours Devotion. However, it states that in churches where the Eucharist is reserved, it is recommended that solemn exposition of the Blessed Sacrament for an extended period of time should take place once a year even though this period is not strictly continuous… (n. 86)
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The information for this and last week’s articles was taken from Our Sunday Visitor’s Catholic Encyclopedia (1991) and from an article by Rev. William Saunders, entitled ‘40 Hours with Jesus Christ’ and published in the Arlington Catholic Herald.