Forty Hours Devotion

This week (April 3-5, 2016), the New Brunswick Oratory is conducting the Forty Hours Devotion (Quarant’ Ore) for the first time, here in St. Peter’s Church. This devotion, which was so dear to our Holy Father St. Philip Neri, is a fitting activity to include in our observance of his 500th anniversary.

The Forty Hours Devotion goes back at least to Milan in the late 1520s; some sources credit its spread to St. Anthony Zaccaria. With more certainty, we can say that St. Philip Neri played a strong role in introducing the Forty Hours in Rome, beginning in the 1550s. In the United States, St. John Neumann introduced the Forty Hours in 1853, when he was serving as Bishop of Philadelphia.

The heart of the Forty Hours Devotion is Eucharistic Adoration, which can be viewed today, as in St. Philip’s time, as a strong statement of belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. It is also a powerful way of invoking God’s blessing and protection, especially in the face of crises and threats such as war, epidemic, or famine. Adoration flows from the Sacrifice of the Mass, and at the same time draws us to the Mass in order to receive Him whom we have adored.

Why Forty Hours? This number has a great significance as a sacred period of time. In the Old Testament, the flood at the time of Noah lasted forty days and nights, and the Israelites wandered for forty years in the desert before reaching the Promised Land. Jesus fasted and prayed for forty days before beginning His public ministry; this became the model for our observance of Lent. According to St. Charles Borromeo, the Forty Hours Devotion refers to the amount of time Jesus spent in the tomb before the Resurrection.

Our observance of the Forty Hours Devotion will last two full days, from Exposition at the end of the 8:00 pm Mass on Sunday evening until Benediction at the end of Vespers at 7:30 on Tuesday evening. We are blessed to have Oratorian Bishop Robert Byrne, Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham, England, preaching all three nights.

We hope you can join us!

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