A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE NOCTURNAL ADORATION SOCIETY
The Nocturnal Adoration Society developed from the practice of night adoration of the Blessed Sacrament during the Forty Hours devotion. At a time when the church was threatened by widespread heresy in the nations of Europe and by an invading hostile force in the East, Pope Clement VIII, in 1592, instituted the Forty Hours devotion in the city of Rome in order to offer incessant prayer to the Lord, imploring his help and his grace for the protection of his people menaced by such grave danger.
Two centuries later, in 1809, another crisis threatened the church. In the aftermath of the French revolution, in the political and religious upheaval in Europe, Napoleon had risen to power and had made Pope Pius VII his prisoner. A priest in the city of Rome, Father Giacomo Sinibaldi, was inspired to gather together groups of men to pray in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament during the night hours in the churches of Rome, where the Forty Hours devotion was in progress. The response to his idea was so enthusiastic that in a short time there were groups meeting for prayer every night of the year in the churches where the Blessed Sacrament was exposed.
Ecclesiastical approval was given to these adorers, and in 1810 the Nocturnal Adoration Society came into existence. Its center was the Church of Santa Maria in Via Lata in Rome. In 1851, the Society was approved as a pious union, and in 1858 it was raised to the status of an Archconfraternity, with authority to establish Nocturnal Adoration Societies elsewhere.
During the civil unrest of 1848, Father Hermann Cohen, a Carmelite monk and Jewish convert, obtained approval from the archbishop of Paris to form a Nocturnal Adoration Society in that city. In 1863, he started a society for nocturnal adoration in London. The cause for his canonization has been introduced in Rome.
From France, the Society spread in several directions. It was founded in Madrid, Spain in the year 1877. Its growth in Spain was so extraordinary that in a short time there were 500 centers with ore than 100,000 members. From Spain, the Society traveled to the countries of South America and to Mexico. From Mexico, it crossed into Texas and California in the United States. The national headquarters for Mexico is in the Church of San Felipe de Jesus in Mexico City.
At the same time, the Society was spreading from Paris to Canada and the United States. In 1881, through the efforts of a publisher in Montreal, Louis Joseph Délorme, who had come in contact with the Society during a trip to Paris, a group was formed in Montreal. Today, the national headquarters for Canada is Montreal.
Through the efforts of another layman, Dr. Thomas Dwight, the Society came into existence in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1882. The following year, Father William Barlett started a Society in Baltimore, Maryland. Established independently of one another, these initiatives were inspired by the Society in Paris.
New York city saw the beginnings of nocturnal adoration in connection with the Forty Hours devotion. Several parishes in the city had organized groups of men who spent the night in prayer during the Forty Hours and on Holy Thursday. In 1903, with the sanction of Archbishop Michael Corrigan, the Society was organized. In 1912, Cardinal John Farley sought and obtained affiliation with the Archconfraternity in Rome. On the occasion of the silver jubilee of the Society in 1928, the Archconfraternity authorized the Society to affiliate other centers in the United States. In 1929, Cardinal Patrick Hayes established a national headquarters in the church of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, Saint Jean Baptiste, and appointed the Pastor as the National Director of the Society.
Today, the Nocturnal Adoration Society is established in 36 countries and counts over 1,000,000 members. The President of the International Society at the present time is Mr. Angel Rodas of Madrid, Spain. In the United States, local chapters of the Society are to be found across the nation, including Hawaii. The national headquarters is located at Saint Jean Baptiste Church.