On the first Easter evening, the disciples Jesus met on the road to Emmaus urged him to stay with them — without recognizing him.

But the Eucharist helped them see.

When he blessed and broke the bread and gave it to them, St. Luke recounts, “With that, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; but he vanished from their sight” (24:31).

Did those disciples see a seed of Eucharistic adoration being planted?

Today we don’t see Jesus in the flesh, as the Emmaus disciples first did, but we do see him in his Eucharistic presence at Mass, know he’s in the tabernacle, and look upon him in a monstrance for adoration. “The worship of the Eucharist outside of the Mass is of inestimable value for the life of the Church,” Blessed John Paul II wrote in his 2003 encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia (On the Eucharist in Its Relationship to the Church). “The Eucharist is a priceless treasure: By not only celebrating it, but also by praying before it outside of Mass, we are enabled to make contact with the very wellspring of grace,” John Paul continued, then quoted Pope Paul VI: “In the course of the day, the faithful should not omit visiting the Blessed Sacrament.”

It was not always so. Conventual Franciscan Friar Father John Grigus, former spiritual director of the Pope John Paul II Eucharistic Adoration Association, explains that, historically, for many centuries, Eucharistic adoration was more or less limited to monasteries of men and women whose focus was prayer. They had special devotion to the Blessed Sacrament.

But now God makes himself available to ordinary laypeople within parishes “so the faith might arise anew with the Blessed Sacrament.”

The pastor of Holy Family Catholic Church in Peoria, Ill., has seen the positive proof of adoration: Father Grigus sees “many blessings on the families as people bring their children, blessings on parishes, and increased vocations to good marriages and good solid vocations to the priesthood and religious life. It begins with the individual who comes to spend time with the Lord. He grows in deeper faith in the real presence of Jesus. As a result, their commitment to the Mass deepens and life in the family changes.”

Holy Family parishioners Jerry and Lisa Sanderson can attest to that. When moving to Peoria in 2001, they looked for a house where they could walk to both school and church.

“We got a bonus when we discovered there was a perpetual adoration chapel right across the street from us,” Lisa Sanderson says. “Because we are so close, we fill in quite a bit [for assigned times], and our children often join us.”

As she says, “We should have a desire to go and give to the Lord our time and attention. But he is never outdone in generosity. He gives back more than we ever give, and then we can go and give more to others.”

She tells of the time a friend asked if miracles happen in their adoration chapel. “‘Of course,’ I said. If I go in with one attitude, I come out with a new-and-improved version. If I go in empty, I come out full. My heart is always renewed and refreshed. The desire is to give to Our Lord and not to get. But somehow we always get more.”

The Sandersons see the effects with their four children. Their son went to World Youth Day, and their middle children are more eager to go to daily Mass.

Lisa believes adoration impacts unborn children, too. “I spent a lot of time in the chapel when she was in utero,” she says of 7-year-old Mary Therese, who makes her first Communion this year. “And I feel to his day that makes a difference.”

The mother sees a peacefulness and quietness of spirit in her young daughter. And when they recently asked her what she liked about adoration, Mary told her parents, “We are in God’s presence, and he is a present to us. We have time for quiet and silence. He listens to us, and we listen to him.”

Even a 7-year-old can understand what Pope Benedict XVI was driving at when he told priests in Poland — and all of us — in 2006: “In a world where there is so much noise, so much bewilderment, there is a need for silent adoration of Jesus concealed in the Host.”

In his 2007 apostolic exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis (On the Eucharist as the Source and Summit of the Church’s Life and Mission), Benedict recommended in catechetical training and “especially preparing for first holy Communion, children be taught the meaning and the beauty of spending time with Jesus and helped to cultivate a sense of awe before his presence in the Eucharist.”

Like his predecessors, the Holy Father heartily advocates Eucharistic adoration. He wrote: “The act of adoration outside Mass prolongs and intensifies all that takes place during the liturgical celebration itself.” He continued, quoting himself: “It is precisely this personal encounter with the Lord that then strengthens the social mission contained in the Eucharist, which seeks to break down not only the walls that separate the Lord and ourselves, but also and especially the walls that separate us from one another.”

Adoration breaks down that wall and allows works of mercy for others. In Holy Family’s adoration chapel, the Divine Mercy Chaplet is recited daily at 3pm. One beneficiary of this spiritual work of mercy before the Blessed Sacrament was Jerry Sanderson’s uncle, who suffered from cancer. Doctors gave him only three months to live. Not only did he live another three years, but, more importantly, he returned to the Church and went to weekly Mass and received the sacraments again.

And Jerry’s grandmother — who lived to be 100 — was a regular weekly adorer at her own parish’s adoration chapel from the time it was introduced there in 1983 until she entered a nursing home in 2002.

“Eucharistic adoration seems to bring life in so many ways,” says Lisa Sanderson. “It does make a difference.”

Blessed Mother Teresa knew that too. Some of her quotes are posted outside the Holy Family Chapel, including: “We can’t do physical works of mercy unless we spend time in meditation, listening to the Lord.” She also said: “The time you spend with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the best time you will spend on earth. Each moment that you spend with Jesus will deepen your union with him and make your soul everlastingly more glorious and beautiful in heaven and will help bring about everlasting peace on earth.”

“All the answers are in the tabernacle,” says Catholic author and speaker Matthew Kelly. “Jesus has the answers to your questions and the solution to your problems.”

In his recent booklet, The One Thing, he recommends stopping by your church for 10 minutes every day for two weeks, sit as close as possible to the tabernacle, and speak to Jesus about whatever’s on your mind, or simply sit there with him.

“After two weeks, tell me if you are not a better version of yourself,” Kelly writes. “I believe you will find that you are more patient and joyful, more considerate and compassionate — more human.”

Father Grigus suggests that people go to Eucharistic adoration at least three times. “Make a visit once a week for at least three times, and you’ll get hooked on it,” he predicts.

As John Paul II urged in his 1980 letter Dominicae Cenae (On the Mystery and Worship of the Eucharist), “The Church and the world have a great need of Eucharistic worship. Jesus waits for us in this sacrament of love. Let us be generous with our time in going to meet him in adoration and in contemplation that is full of faith and ready to make reparation for the great faults and crimes of the world. May our adoration never cease.”

What better time to take that advice to heart than during Eastertide?

Joseph Pronechen is the Register’s staff writer.

DID YOU KNOW? The Church gives us a bonus gift for Eucharistic adoration: a partial indulgence granted under the usual conditions for those who visit the Most Blessed Sacrament to adore it; a plenary indulgence granted under the usual conditions if the visit lasts at least half an hour.