HAMDEN, Conn. — A Christmas gift a lay Catholic group is assembling for Pope John Paul II has elements of time and eternity. The time element is 100,000 hours; the eternal element is the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

The gift is a spiritual bouquet — a promise by as many people as possible to commit to time in Eucharistic adoration, praying for vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

The lay group, the Vocation Action Circle of Regnum Christi, is encouraging people to sign up on its Web site, www.vocation.com, and hopes to record 100,000 hours of adoration by Christmas Eve. The project and the Web site are supported by the Legionaries of Christ.

“Jesus said to pray the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into the field,” said Jackie Gonzales, national director of Vocation.com. “Our goal is to get people involved from all over the world. We know that there are enough people to go before the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament to reach our goal.”

“We figure we need about 1,000 adoration hours a day from now until Christmas,” Legionaries of Christ Brother Branigan Sherman said in mid-September, when fewer than 4,000 adoration hours had been reported to the Web site. “We hope to get religious communities and parishes involved. The number is just a goal. We think we'll reach it and more, but the important thing is to promote Eucharistic adoration for vocations.”

Regnum Christi, an ecclesial movement of apostolate founded by Father Marcial Maciel of the Legionaries of Christ, has more than 7,000 members in North America who perform an hour of Eucharistic adoration each week, he pointed out.

“If we get them and their families involved, we'll be well on our way,” Brother Sherman said. “The key is getting people to register their hours.”

The Vocation.com site, launched last year, shows the names and locations of those who have committed to certain hours. It posts the number of hours reported and the number of individuals and groups registered. It also has prayer services that can be used by individuals or groups and a free poster that parishes can use to promote adoration for vocations. The site has information on discerning a vocation and an interactive feature in which inquirers can type in questions and have them answered by Legionary Father Anthony Bannon, the order's North American territorial director.

Father Bannon told the Register that the adoration initiative is an ideal way to get everyone in the Church involved: Young men and women can pray to discern a vocation, and those who are older or married can pray that more young people will respond to God's call. Sending the results as a spiritual bouquet to the Pope is also appropriate, he said.

“I am personally convinced that his example and action, his visits to youth of individual nations and his World Youth Days, are the greatest influence on the growth of vocations today,” Father Bannon said. “The gift of adorations is a gesture of support, gratitude and love that comes from the heart.”

Gonzales said the project is also a gift to Catholics because it promotes holiness in the Church.

“We need it, the Church needs it,” she said. “We hope that people will go before the Blessed Sacrament not only to send this gift to the Holy Father. We hope they will form a habit of adoration that will continue to benefit themselves and the Church.”

About the need for vocations, she added, “It's the future of the Church. It's increasingly difficult for young men and young women to hear and respond to the God who still calls. Our aim is to focus attention on this fact and have everyone go to Jesus directly for guidance.”

Life of the Church

Other groups are organizing spiritual bouquets for the Holy Father on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of his pontificate. A family in London hosts a Web site on which more than 1,000 parishes around the world have pledged to offer Mass in thanksgiving on the anniversary of his election, Oct. 16. More parishes can register at www.jp2-jubilee.org.

The Pope's most recent encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia (The Church of the Eucharist), issued on Holy Thursday, April 17, emphasizes the unbreakable link between the Eucharist and the priesthood, and stresses that only an ordained priest can celebrate Mass and perform the consecration that changes the elements of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ.

The encyclical also calls adoration of the Blessed Sacrament “of inestimable value for the life of the Church. This worship is strictly linked to the Eucharistic sacrifice … It is the responsibility of pastors to encourage, also by their personal witness, the practice of Eucharistic adoration, and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in particular … This practice, repeatedly praised and recommended by the magisteri-um, is supported by the example of many saints” (No. 25).

Time before the Blessed Sacrament was key to his own vocation, Brother Sherman said. While attending Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, he spent time each day in the adoration chapel on campus. “That's where I encountered Christ most powerfully outside of Mass,” he said. “I began speaking with him about the most important things, what I should do with my life, what I have been created for.”

He said the bouquet of adoration hours is not only a Christmas gift for the Pope. It also seeks to reveal the deep spiritual dimensions between Christ and the priesthood.

“There is a connection between Christ coming as a man in human flesh in Bethlehem and a man becoming another Christ, an alter Christus, as a priest at ordination,” he said. “The priest stands for the life of Christ, and in the Blessed Sacrament which he brings about at Mass, the life of Christ, Christ himself, is present. By our adoration initiative for vocations, we hope more men will hear the call to become another Christ in the world.”

Stephen Vincent is based in Wallingford, Connecticut.