Project Canterbury

Reservation and Adoration:
A Historical and Devotional Inquiry

Shirley Carter Hughson
Superior of the Order of the Holy Cross

The Holy Cross Press
West Park, New York

transcribed by Dr Elizabeth G Mellilo
AD 2000

Chapter XI
Reservation in America

The following is the detailed record, so far as obtainable, of Reservation of the Blessed Sacrament in the diocesan and missionary jurisdictions of the American Church. Added to the names of the jurisdictions are those of the Bishops in whose episcopate the practice has obtained. An asterisk (*) indicates perpetual Reservation. In dioceses not so marked the Reservation has been according to the needs of the sick.

This list has been prepared with great care. In no case has the name of a diocese or bishop been used except where direct evidence was in hand. To this end the author has had a wide correspondence with the bishops and parish clergy of the dioceses mentioned, and grave caution has been employed to avoid errors. If, however, any mistake has found its way into the list, he requests that he be immediately informed of it that correction may be made. He also asks to be notified of any omissions.

It has not been possible to get in touch with all of our one hundred and one dioceses and missionary jurisdictions. The result is therefore, that the figures secured represent a minimum of what has been done in the American Church in the way of Reservation.

In many dioceses, as is well known, Reservation is practises with the hearty sympathy of the bishops. In no instance, however, is the appearance of the name of a bishop in this list meant to imply responsibility on his part for the practice of his clergy. The responsibility, in any event, is, as we have seen, one that the Church lays upon the parish priest.

The above list shows that the Blessed Sacrament has been reserved in 84 out of the 101 jurisdictions of the American Church. In 29 of them Reservation has been confined to special occasions when the Sacrament was required for the sick. In 55 the Reservation has been permanent. That is to say, in more than half the jurisdictions of the American Church there has been perpetual Reservation, so as to be ready for sick calls at any hour, day or night.

After making the required deduction of certain names in order to balance repetitions caused by missionary bishops being transferred to diocesan jurisdictions, etc., there are left the names of 154 bishops in whose episcopate the practice has obtained.

In 18 instances the Reservation has been in Cathedral, or other churches or chapels under the personal charge of a bishop; and in six of these perpetual Reservation has been the rule.

In addition, I have letters from two bishops, one saying that he purposes instituting perpetual Reservation in his cathedral as soon as preparations can be made for it. The other writing of occasional Reservation, says: "I am sure, if necessary, it would be done at my Cathedral, although I do not recall just now a particular case."

A Southern Bishop writes: "I do not think the Consecrated Elements are kept continuously, though it has been my custom to temporarily reserve the Consecrated Elements when I knew of ill people in my parish. For this purpose, I deem it wise. I have learned my lesson by experience. The dying need the Sacrament, and the service of consecration is too much on many occasions. Therefore we should be ready. I never like the soul to pass away from the world, if possible, without the Bread of Life taken and received. As chaplain in a large hospital I appreciate this fact."

The records of one New England Cathedral, where occasional Reservation is practised, show in a single year (1917), 307 Communions of the sick with the Reserved Sacrament. This amounts practically to perpetual Reservation.

It is by no means to be understood that in all the above cases the bishops would, of their own motion, have instituted Reservation. On the contrary, some have protested, and others would have felt a relief at its discontinuance. But what is certain is that they were large-hearted and large-minded enough to realise that there were other spiritual needs and aspirations to be consulted besides their own; that it was unthinkable to try to force all their people into their own spiritual mould.

Even when they personally frowned upon such a practice, it is certain that they did not consider that in not seeking to stop Reservation in their jurisdictions they were conniving at what was illegal. To assume this would constitute a grave indictment against a host of devoted bishops.

It is also emphatically certain that they did not regard their course as doing violence to the mind of the Church, or in the slightest degree infringing the sanctity of the obligations they took when they were consecrated bishops in the Church of God. Any suggestion by implication, or otherwise, that such men could thus act against conscience, is intolerable.

Whether the practice in itself be regarded as right or wrong, surely no one, in the light of these facts, can say that reserving the Sacrament in the American Church is a novelty. If prescription applies to the question at all, would it not seem to run in favour of, rather than contrary to, the practice? What history reveals to have been practised amongst us for over 60 years, and to have obtained in four out of every five dioceses, under more than 150 diocesan and missionary bishops, coadjutors, and suffragans, of the American Church, cannot at this day be called an innovation.

1. i. Page 878

2. ii. Dowden, Annotated Scottish Communion Office, page 40

3. iii. Page 502

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