On the first Friday night of each month, more than 100 young people converge to do something a little different from typical college weekend night fare. They're spending an hour of their evening in eucharistic adoration.
Hosted by the St. Paul Seminary and archdiocesan vocations office, Cor Jesu draws on an old tradition - devotion to Jesus' sacred heart - and fuses it with contemporary yet contemplative worship music. Began in December 2006, Cor Jesu - Latin for "Heart of Jesus" - includes exposition of the Eucharist and adoration, a testimony, Scripture reading and homily, confessions, silence, music, night prayer and benediction.
Relating to Jesus
Although devotion to Jesus' heart dates back the Middle Ages, French Sister Marguerite Marie Alacoque popularized the devotion after reporting mystical visions of Jesus in the late 17th century. The devotion focused on God's merciful love.
In addition to private prayer, the devotion was popularly expressed through confession and reception of Communion on the first Friday of the month. It also countered Jansenism, a heresy that focused on humankind's sinfulness to the exclusion of God's merciful love, said Father Andrew Cozzens, who teaches at the seminary and helps coordinate Cor Jesu.
The devotion emphasizes a personal relationship with Jesus, he said. "To be Catholic isn't just to be in a club or to follow a set of rules, but to have a personal relationship with God," he said. Devotions lost prominence in the church after the Second Vatican Council, which encouraged greater emphasis on the Eucharist, Father Cozzens said, but they're important to maintain.
"They're in the power of the people," he said. "We're more free to do what we want to do when we're having a devotional holy hour than the Eucharist, which has kind of strict rules." Cor Jesu seeks to introduce devotional practice to a generation often unfamiliar with it, Father Cozzens said. "What we're trying to do with Cor Jesu is restore the proper balance," he said.
Because Cor Jesu is designed for young people, the evening is structured with prayer they find meaningful, he said. "This generation is so eucharistic. . . that it seemed like we should be responding in some way to this reality," said Claire Roufs, archdiocesan religious life liaison.
The evening's organizers want to create an atmosphere for intimate, individual prayer in a communal setting, she said. Music has proved to be an effective way to guide young people into worship, Roufs said. "You don't come and sing out your heart. You do, but from the internal," she said.
"To have music is almost a way of expressing what's on your heart vocally," added seminarian Nate LaLiberte, 22, whose attended Cor Jesu five times in the last year.
Susan Verly, 22, a senior at the University of St. Thomas, has been to four Cor Jesu nights. "When you see how much the Lord loves you, you also see how much you have to work on yourself because you're a sinner, but you also see that he loves you even over and above your sins," she said. Catholic Spirit