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40 hours of prayer

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Classes pause for three days at the beginning of November for the 40 Hours Devotion at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa. The 40 Hours refers to hours of adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament done over a three-day period, placing Jesus Christ at the center of our lives and reminding us that everything we do needs to start and end with him.


This devotion was started by St. John Neumann, the fourth bishop of Philadelphia, at their first diocesan synod in 1853. It begins on All Saints Day and finishes with the celebration of the patronal feast of the seminary, St. Charles Borromeo, Nov. 4.


Seminarians are assigned three holy hours throughout the 40 Hours, one with our class, one with our diocese and a personal one. This includes covering late-night hours. During these days, we also pray more of the Liturgy of the Hours. We add the recitation of the Office of Readings a little after midnight, and the psalms are beautifully chanted and led by the choir. Praying together like this builds community with our brother seminarians.


For me, these hours of silent adoration are a good reminder of the words of St. John Vianney, “The priesthood is the love of the heart of Christ.” In the monstrance, in the Blessed Sacrament exposed, we find his pierced heart that was sacrificed for us and inspires us to sacrifice for him and for his people.


The closing ceremony of the 40 Hours Devotion is the high point. It includes sung solemn evening prayer and a candlelit Eucharistic procession between the two main chapels on the seminary campus. Oblate of St. Joseph Father Gregory Finn, preaching during the closing ceremony last year, encouraged us that just as our candles lit up the darkness as we processed out of the chapel, so must we, who have just spent multiple hours with our Eucharistic Lord, make his light shine forth in a dark world.


Petroski, who is from St. Ambrose Church in Annandale, is in his second year of theology studies at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa. 


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018