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Catholic Dictionary




The solemn exposition of the Blessed Sacrament during forty hours, in honor of the forty hours the body of Christ is believed to have rested in the tomb. The devotion was introduced by St. Anthony Mary Zaccaria in Milan and Vicenza in 1527, and propagated by the Jesuits under St. Ignatius. Approved by Pope Paul III in 1539, Pope Clement VIII, in 1592, in his constitution Graves et diuturnae and the Clementine Instructions Pope Clement XI, in 1705, that were republished by Pope Clement XII in 1731 and established the correct form of the devotion. By the end of the eighteenth century, the custom had spread to many countries. St. John Neumann of Philadelphia (1811-60) was the first to hold the devotion in America with any degree of regularity. Where it is more feasible, the forty hours are interrupted during the night and the devotion extends over three days.