Mexico (Fides Service) - Founded 150 years ago the Association of Adoration Groups today has 6 million members all over the world who regularly devote some hours of the night to adoration of Jesus Christ present in the Tabernacle under the species of the consecrated Host. This is a prayer in communion with the universal Church, an act of love and expiation for sins. For over a century and a half this prayer has obtained providential assistance for the Church in times of difficulty. Adoration Groups in fact have often appeared in countries at the same time as events oriented more or less clearly towards the destruction of the religious spirit and a will to eliminate the presence of God from the human heart.
Origin and diffusion
The initiative was started in 1810 in Rome by the assistant priest at a small church in the city centre Santa Maria in Via Lata when Pope Pius VII was imprisoned at the order of Napoleon Bonaparte. In 1848 Hermann Cohen, a Jew converted to Christianity started the initiative in Paris with the following intention “night exposition and adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament in reparation for the many offences committed against the Lord and to ask God to bless France and preserve it from the evils with which it is threatened” as it was written in the minutes of the First Session.
From 1848 onwards Adoration Groups, whose members have always been mostly lay people spread rapidly to the rest of France and associations were formed in Germany, Argentina, Belgium, Benin, Brazil, Cameroon, Canada, Colombia, Ivory Coast, Cuba, Congo, Chile, Ecuador, Egypt, Spain, United States, Philippines, Equatorial Guinea, Honduras, India, Gt Britain, Ireland, Italy, Mauritius, Luxembourg, Mexico, Panama, Poland, Portugal, Santo Domingo, Senegal, Switzerland, Zaire.
In 1962 these associations formed the World Federation of Adoration Groups. Today it has about 6 million members all over the world and 4 million in Mexico alone. On 6 December 2002, with a decree issued by the Pontifical Council for the Laity, the World Federation of Adoration Groups was recognised as an international Catholic association of pontifical right with statutes approved “ad experimentum”.
In Mexico 4 million adorers in 5,000 sectors
In Mexico Adoration Groups were started by Mgr. Antonio Plancarte e Labastida, twenty years after persecution of Catholics and Catholic clergy as a way to expiate sins. He built a National Expiation Church for daily acts of expiation for vandalism in those times of violence. The church took 10 eyars to build and was consecrated on 3 February 1897 by the archbishop of Mexico City Próspero María Alarcón y Sanchez de la Barquera, with Saint Felipe de Jesús as patron. The first night time Adoration was held tow days later on the feast of Saint San Felipe de Jesús. At the same time devotion and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament spread to many parishes in Mexico City and all over the country with the foundation of new Blessed Sacrament Confraternities in addition to existing ones.
Pope Pius IX , 29 June 1913 approved the arch-confraternity of Night Adoration, and established it canonically in the national church San Felipe di Jesús of Mexico, with the same special privileges and graces as the Roman arch-confraternity.
This church is still the national centre for Adoration Groups in Mexico and the see of the National Council. At the diocesan level it is in the cathedral where there is a diocesan superior council, at the parish level there is a directing council guided by a spiritual director.
Despite enormous changes in society, Night Adoration in Mexico involves four million people in about 5,000 sections. Guadalajara archdiocese has the largest section with 30,000 members in 322 associations. Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez, archbishop of Guadalajara, on the occasion of the 48th international Eucharistic Congress held here asked 1,500 night adorers to be the “backbone of all parish and pastoral activities in the respective dioceses and in the universal Church”.
The soul of pastoral activity in diocese and in the universal Church
The starting of an Adoration Group is important first of all for the parish and it is canonically established by the local Bishop who includes it in the diocese’s ordinary pastoral activity. On his behalf the parish priest leads and guides the Group in its duty of Adoration: “Prolong and render present on earth, the priestly prayer of Jesus Christ eternal High Priest”. Members act only as part of the parish community. As members of the section they are committed to a monthly turn of night adoration, and frequent visits to the Blessed Sacrament during the day and to promote this important form of prayer, and other forms of devotion to the Blessed Sacrament in communion with the Church and in obedience to the local Bishop.
Members also take part in religious festivities, and to make sure the church is kept open for some hours during the day not only at Mass times. They make sure the tabernacle and Blessed Sacrament chapel is kept in order and promote Exposition, daily, weekly or monthly and an annual celebration of Forty Hours Adoration. The encourage young people and children to join adoration groups and help them with their prayers. The members also take part in other parish and diocesan activities as advised by the Spiritual Director and collaborate according to their gifts and charisma in the local Church’s pastoral work and missionary activity.
One family, one body, animated by one spirit : the Love of God
A singular characteristic of Adoration Groups in Mexico is the great sense of brotherhood and a life ruled by charity and reciprocal love. Article one of the Rules states: “We must write on our hearts and in our minds that Night Adoration in Mexico is one national institution, one family, one body of great beauty. Each section is a living and intelligent member of this body; its muscles and nerves are directing councils, (Superior, Diocesan and Section); the head which thinks, directs and rules the movements is the national council; but the animating spirit is the love for God”.
In this sense Adoration Groups are united with each other, they take part in each others events and monthly Vigils. One a year all the groups meet at San Felipe Church to adore Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament, render homage to Our Lady of Guadalupe and strengthen bonds of collaboration and brotherhood.
The spirit of adoration is leaven and it can transform communities
People of all ages man, woman or child, may become members as long as they have received First Holy Communion, taken part in three consecutive Vigils and are familiar with the rite of Night Adoration. There are active and honorary members. Honorary members are people unable to stay up at night because of their age or conditions and they pray during the day. Boy members are called Tarcizini and girls members Agnese: they join adults with daytime adoration.
In a joint pastoral letter the Bishops of Guerero express admiration for these groups and describe the traits of the members: “We encourage nigh Adorers to be salt of the earth and light of the world and leaven so a spirit of adoration may transform communities”. Members spread the spirit of adoration in families, organisations and the entire community with a spirit of authenticity and sacrifice essential for Christian life. The Bishops says members should “receive accurate catechesis and liturgical formation to enable them to be exemplary Christians”.
Fruits of vocations
Adoration groups are a source of vocations. For example Sr Maria Dolorosa, a member of the enclosed order of Sisters Perpetual Adorers of the Blessed Sacrament who have a convent in Guadalajara, said that many of the 21 Sisters before they decided to become nuns belonged the Adoration Groups were themselves or their parents or grandparents. Sr Dolorosa said her Jesuit uncle and an aunt who is a nun, other aunts and sisters all belonged to Adoration Groups. The convent in Guadalajara, started by an Italian nun Maria Maddalena of the Incarnation, has led to the foundation of convents in other parts of Mexico, and in Alaska. (RZ) (Agenzia Fides 15/10/2005, righe 128, parole 1.646)