The Church has, for many centuries, granted a partial indulgence to those who make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament on Thursdays. On the first Thursday of the month, with certain conditions having been fulfilled, the indulgence was plenary. While that particular Thursday plenary indulgence is no longer available, we can still receive a partial indulgence on Thursdays or on any day for making a visit to the Blessed Sacrament and spending some moments in prayer. (There’s a lot more to be said on indulgences, so I’ll post about this topic more in the future.)
Why a visit to the Blessed Sacrament on Thursdays? After all, it’d be nice if we visited the Blessed Sacrament every day, and not merely for a brief visit, but even for a holy hour. But for many people, it is not possible with the demands of their daily life. For families it can be especially difficult, with work schedules, school schedules, and so many other demands. Nevertheless, we must carve out time for the Lord, and perhaps – apart from our daily prayer time at home – we could also find a way to visit Him, really and truly present in the Most Blessed Sacrament, once or twice a week in addition to going to Mass at minimum on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation.
So we need to answer the question, Why on Thursdays? Because that is the day that Christ instituted both the Holy Eucharist and the Holy Priesthood. Without priests, there is no Eucharist. Without the Eucharist… it is a terrible thought! What would our lives be like? It is good, therefore, to develop the habit of calling to mind these significant times throughout the year; each Thursday, we should give thanks in a special way for the gift of the Holy Eucharist. We should pray for our priests, both those who serve us now and those who have helped us throughout our lives. We should pray for vocations. Parents with generous, open hearts will even pray that at least one of their own sons be called to the priesthood!
A visit to the Blessed Sacrament is a very beautiful practice. It does not have to be long. You don’t have to say a lot of prayers. Some days, perhaps, it will be sufficient simply to sit or kneel there for a few moments and just be with the Lord. And that is the point; to be with Him. Not that we can’t ever not be with Him – He is always near. But in the Holy Eucharist He is present to us in a special way – really, truly, and substantially – allowing Himself to be held “prisoner” in our tabernacles and monstrances so that we may draw near.
Think of how lonely our Lord is in some of our churches! Folks rush in for Mass (some of them, talking with their neighbors, instead of to the Lord, before Mass begins); some people leave immediately after communion, others during the final hymn, others the moment Father has stepped into the vestibule, others the moment the final hymn is over. Very few come early to pray quietly and very few stay afterwards to give thanks. And then, for long stretches of time each day, there is no one there in the church! Yet the Lord remains, waiting for us to come! He makes himself entirely available to us!
Now I know that some churches are locked during the day also, and so it’s sometimes harder to stop in for a quick visit. But if that is the case for your parish, check around to the other churches in town and see if they are open for prayer. Teach your children the importance of visiting Christ in the Eucharist. It is something they will always remember, and will hopefully practice as adults and hand on to their own children. And you will benefit from it as well. You console our often “lonely” Lord by your presence, and He will bless you for it.