Prayers for April

The Month of the Blessed Sacrament

Holy Thursday, the day on which Catholics celebrate the institution of the Sacrament of Holy Communion at the Last Supper, falls most often in April, and so it is no surprise that the Catholic Church dedicates this month to devotion to the Blessed Sacrament.

The Real Presence

Other Christians, most notably the Eastern Orthodox, some Anglicans, and some Lutherans, believe in the Real Presence; that is, they believe, as we Catholics do, that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ in the sacrament of the altar (though only Catholics define this change as transubstantiation). However, only the Catholic Church has developed the practice of Eucharistic adoration. Every Catholic Church contains a tabernacle in which the Body of Christ is reserved between Masses, and the faithful are encouraged to come and pray before the Blessed Sacrament. Frequent prayer before the Blessed Sacrament is a path to spiritual growth.

Eucharistic Adoration

The practice of Eucharistic adoration on earth not only brings us grace but prepares us for our life in Heaven. As Pope Pius XII wrote in Mediator Dei (1947):

These exercises of piety have brought a wonderful increase in faith and supernatural life to the Church militant upon earth and they are reechoed to a certain extent by the Church triumphant in heaven which sings continually a hymn of praise to God and to the Lamb "who was slain."

This month, why not make a special effort to spend some time in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament? It doesn't need to be long or elaborate: You can start simply by making the Sign of the Cross and uttering a short profession of faith, such as "My Lord and my God!" as you pass a Catholic church. If you have the time to stop for five minutes, all the better.

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Priest holding goblet and communion bowl
Brand X Pictures
In this Act of Adoration, we thank Christ for His continued presence among us, not just through His grace but physically, in the Holy Eucharist. His Body is the Bread of Angels, offered for our strength and salvation.

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Anima Christi

John Henry Cardinal Newman watches over his beatification. (Peter Nicholls/WPA Pool/Getty Images)
A large portrait of John Henry Cardinal Newman watches over Pope Benedict XVI's Mass and beatification of Cardinal Newman at Cofton Park, Birmingham, England, September 19, 2010. (Photo by Peter Nicholls/WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Soul of Christ, be my sanctification;
Body of Christ, be my salvation;
Blood of Christ, fill all my veins;
Water of Christ's side, wash out my stains;
Passion of Christ, my comfort be;
O good Jesu, listen to me;
In Thy wounds I fain would hide;
Ne'er to be parted from Thy side;
Guard me, should the foe assail me;
Call me when my life shall fail me;
Bid me come to Thee above,
With Thy saints to sing Thy love,
World without end. Amen.

An Explanation of the Anima Christi

This beautiful prayer, often said after receiving Communion, dates from the early 14th century. St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, was particularly fond of this prayer. The prayer takes its name from its first two words in Latin. Anima Christi means "the soul of Christ." This translation is by Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, one of the great converts to Roman Catholicism in the 19th century.

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For the Peace of Christ

John Henry Cardinal Newman's altar, untouched since his death. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
The altar and private chapel of John Henry Cardinal Newman, which has been untouched since his death in 1890, and will be visited by Pope Benedict XVI during his September 2010 tour of the United Kingdom. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

O most sacred, most loving heart of Jesus, Thou art concealed in the Holy Eucharist, and Thou beatest for us still. Now as then Thou sayest, "With desire I have desired." I worship Thee, then, with all my best love and awe, with my fervent affection, with my most subdued, most resolved will. O make my heart beat with Thy heart. Purify it of all that is earthly, all that is proud and sensual, all that is hard and cruel, of all perversity, of all disorder, of all deadness. So fill it with Thee, that neither the events of the day nor the circumstances of the time may have power to ruffle it; but that in Thy love and Thy fear it may have peace.

An Explanation of the Prayer for the Peace of Christ

When we come before the Blessed Sacrament, it's all too easy to be distracted, to let our minds wander to our cares and responsibilities. In this prayer for the peace of Christ, composed by John Henry Cardinal Newman, we ask Christ in the Holy Eucharist to purify our hearts so that we may be filled with His love. It is, therefore, a very good prayer to begin a period of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

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St. Thomas Aquinas' Prayer of Thanksgiving After Communion

Thomas Aquinas in prayer
St. Thomas Aquinas in Prayer, c. 1428-32. Found in the collection of the Szepmuveszeti Muzeum, Budapest. Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images

I give Thee thanks, O holy Lord, Father Almighty, Eternal God, that Thou hast vouchsafed, for no merit of my own, but of the mere condescension of Thy mercy, to satisfy me, a sinner and Thine unworthy servant, with the Precious Blood of Thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ. I implore Thee, let not this Holy Communion be to me an increase of guilt unto my punishment, but an availing plea unto pardon and forgiveness. Let it be to me the armor of faith and the shield of good will. Grant that it may work the extinction of my vices, the rooting out of concupiscence and lust, and the increase within me of charity and patience, of humility and obedience. Let it be my strong defense against the snares of all my enemies, visible and invisible; the stilling and the calm of all my impulses, carnal and spiritual; my indissoluble union with Thee the one and true God, and a blessed consummation at my last end. And I beseech thee that Thou wouldst vouchsafe to bring me, sinner as I am, to that ineffable banquet where Thou, with the Son and the Holy Ghost, art to Thy saints true and unfailing light, fullness and content, joy for evermore, gladness without alloy, consummate and everlasting bliss. Through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

An Explanation of the Prayer of Thanksgiving After Communion

St. Thomas Aquinas is known today primarily for his theological works (most famously the Summa Theologica), but he also wrote extensive meditations on Scripture, as well as hymns and prayers. This beautiful prayer reminds us that, while we are unworthy to receive Communion, Christ has still given us the gift of Himself, and His Body and Blood strengthen us to live a Christian life.

In this prayer, Saint Thomas expresses his gratitude for the gift of the Eucharist. When we receive Holy Communion in a state of grace, God grants us additional graces (sacramental grace) that strengthen our faith and our desire to do what is right. Those graces help us to grow in virtue and to avoid sin, draw us closer to God in our daily lives, and prepare us for an eternity with Him.

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Sacred Heart Statue, Saint-Sulpice, Paris
Sacred Heart Statue, Saint-Sulpice, Paris. Philippe Lissac/Photononstop/Getty Images

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a way to express our gratitude for His mercy and love. In this, prayer, we ask Jesus, present in the Eucharist, to purify our hearts and to make them like His own.

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Faith in the Eucharist

Pope Francis leads Eucharistic adoration.
Pope Francis leads worldwide Eucharistic adoration on June 2, 2013, at Saint Peter's Basilica in Vatican City. Franco Origlia/Getty Images

O, my God, I firmly believe that Thou art really and corporally present in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar. I adore Thee here present from the very depths of my heart, and I worship Thy sacred presence with all possible humility. O my soul, what joy to have Jesus Christ always with us, and to be able to speak to Him, heart to heart, with all confidence. Grant, O Lord, that I, having adored Thy divine Majesty here on earth in this wonderful Sacrament, may be able to adore it eternally in heaven. Amen.

An Explanation of the Act of Faith in the Eucharist

Our eyes still see bread, but our faith tells us that the Host that is consecrated during the Mass has become the Body of Christ. In this Act of Faith in the Eucharist, we acknowledge Christ's Presence in the Blessed Sacrament and look forward to the day when we will not only believe but see Him in Heaven.

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Petition Before the Blessed Sacrament

Eucharistic chapel, National Shrine of the Apostle Paul, Saint Paul, MN. (Photo © Scott P. Richert)
The Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament or eucharistic chapel in the National Shrine of the Apostle Paul, Saint Paul, Minnesota. (Photo © Scott P. Richert)

Believing all that Thou, my God, hast in any way revealed to us--grieving for all my sins, offenses, and negligences--hoping in Thee, O Lord, who wilt never let me be confounded--thanking Thee for this supreme gift, and for all the gifts of Thy goodness--loving Thee, above all in this sacrament of Thy love--adoring Thee in this deepest mystery of Thy condescension: I lay before Thee all the wounds and wants of my poor soul, and ask for all that I need and desire. But I need the grace to use well Thy graces, the possession of Thee by grace in this life, and the possession of Thee forever in the eternal kingdom of Thy glory.

An Explanation of the Petition Before the Blessed Sacrament

When we come before the Blessed Sacrament in any Catholic church, it isn't as if we're kneeling before Christ; we are actually doing so, because this is His Body. He is as present to us as He was to His disciples. In this Petition Before the Blessed Sacrament, we acknowledge Christ's presence and ask Him for the grace to serve Him as we should.

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Act of Love

Elevation of the Host during Mass at St. Mary's Oratory, Rockford, IL (Photo © Scott P. Richert)
Fr. Brian A.T. Bovee elevates the Host during a Traditional Latin Mass at Saint Mary's Oratory, Rockford, Illinois, May 9, 2010. (Photo © Scott P. Richert)

I believe Thou art present in the Blessed Sacrament, O Jesus. I love Thee and desire Thee. Come into my heart. I embrace Thee, O never leave me. I beseech Thee, O Lord Jesus, may the burning and most sweet power of Thy love absorb my mind, that I may die through love of Thy love, Who wast graciously pleased to die through love of my love.

An Explanation of the Act of Love to the Blessed Sacrament

Every visit to the Blessed Sacrament should include an Act of Spiritual Communion, asking Christ to come into our hearts, even when we cannot receive His Body in Holy Communion. This Act of Love, written by Saint Francis of Assisi, is an act of spiritual communion, and it can be prayed even when we aren't able to be physically in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.

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An Offering of Oneself to Christ in the Eucharist

A pilgrim wears wellington boots in the papal colors at Cofton Park. (Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
A pilgrim wears wellington boots in the papal colors celebrating the beatification of John Henry Cardinal Newman at Cofton Park, Birmingham, England, September 19, 2010. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

My Lord, I offer Thee myself in turn as a sacrifice of thanksgiving. Thou hast died for me, and I in turn make myself over to Thee. I am not my own. Thou hast bought me; I will by my own act and deed complete the purchase. My wish is to be separated from everything of this world; to cleanse myself simply from sin; to put away from me even what is innocent, if used for its own sake, and not for Thine. I put away reputation and honor, and influence, and power, for my praise and strength shall be in Thee. Enable me to carry on what I profess. Amen.

An Explanation of An Offering of Oneself to Christ in the Eucharist

We should leave each visit to the Blessed Sacrament renewed in our commitment to live a Christian life. This Offering of Oneself to Christ in the Eucharist, written by John Henry Cardinal Newman, reminds us of the sacrifice that Christ made for us, in dying on the Cross, and asks Christ in the Blessed Sacrament to help us to dedicate our lives to Him. It is the perfect prayer to end a visit to the Blessed Sacrament.