The Holy Hour of Adoration
"The time you spend with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the best time that you will spend on earth. Each moment that you spend with Jesus will deepen your union with Him and make your soul everlastingly more glorious and beautiful in Heaven...." Mother Teresa
"You did not choose Me, but I chose you." -- John 15:16
It was a Sunday like any other nearly ten years ago when I answered a call that changed my life. Amid the announcements that typically follow our Sunday Mass was a plea for adorers, a call for us in the pew to consider signing up for one hour a week to help fill the hours needed for a perpetual adoration chapel that had been opened in our area. Because every hour of every day must have an adorer, all such Eucharistic chapels need at least 168 participants every week, not including scores of substitutes.
At the time I was expecting twins, (our fourth and fifth children) and directing the Religious Education Program at our parish. I felt a great satisfaction in doing work for the Church. I was sad knowing that soon with the arrival of the twins, I would have to give up that work. Sitting there that Sunday morning, I thought that volunteering for one hour a week was at least something I could still do for Jesus, so I phoned the coordinator and asked what hours still needed filling. I was given the 10 p.m. hour on Friday night.
That first evening I was feeling pretty good about this little sacrifice of my time. I remember not knowing how to act or what to do. I knew I was to genuflect on both knees, as Jesus was not only present in the Tabernacle at church, but was exposed for us to see. I went to one of the chairs with a kneeler attached, and said a simple hello to Jesus. After a short time I sat back in the chair, as I'd seen others do. Reaching for one of the books in the pocket of the chair in front of me, I began to read. My time with Our Lord was quiet, and I very much enjoyed that.
My second Holy Hour was much the same. I was still a little puffed up about this nice thing I was doing for Jesus. I felt warm and cozy alone with my Lord and through the spiritual reading, in the quiet, I felt a kind of guidance, like loving advice from Jesus.
But the next week, my third Holy Hour, I shall never forget, for that is the night I laughed with Jesus in the chapel. Just He and I. I had been there a short time, and began to simply speak to Our Lord. I was smiling as I sat there, feeling grateful. And then I began to laugh, for Jesus let me in on the joke: Suddenly it dawned on me that I began this endeavor with the idea that I was doing a favor for Him by volunteering and sacrificing my time. But all along it was He who was doing me the supreme favor, He who gave me the perfect sacrifice. It seemed Jesus had been waiting for me to "get it." Since that first intimate moment, Jesus has often let me in on such private jokes. And they usually involve a rightful blow to my ego or pride, the way that first revelation did.
"We can speak freely to God, drawing near to Him with confidence." -- Ephesians 4:19
The gift of Himself in the Blessed Sacrament is the God we can draw near to in confidence. For the peace and the intimacy alone, we should want to fly to Him at every opportunity. Nowhere on earth is it easier to talk to Jesus than in the fullness of His Presence in a Eucharistic chapel. But as is His nature, there is so much morel
In every Holy Hour, in every minute in His physical presence, Our Lord imparts grace -- soul-enriching grace -- the fruits of which are sometimes not immediately apparent to the adorer. I share my personal testimony because, as St. Peter teaches, I want to explain the "reason for the hope that is in me" (1 Pet 3:15).
My weekly hour of adoration did not disrupt our family life at all. By 10 p.m. the children are all in bed (more or less) and my husband and I are usually reading or watching TV. For any family events that might conflict with my Holy Hour, I easily obtain a substitute by calling family members or one of the many subs provided as part of the perpetual adoration program. No, the changes in my life were spiritual, and those spiritual changes became the basis for an ongoing conversion.
After each of my visits with Jesus, I left with a message or idea about how I could improve and really reach for holiness. During the week I would find Jesus was giving me opportunities to practice what He had taught me during the hour. One week I might try hard not to complain about things that go wrong (actually, I'm still working on that one). Another week I might vow to say yes to every request made of me without hesitation. Many mundane duties thus took on a different and fuller meaning.
I particularly noticed an increased readiness not only to accede to God's will but also to look for His will. This doing-God's-will stuff was challenging at times, but very quickly He showed me that if I gave in, it always turned out for the best. Once I remember looking up to Heaven, after realizing that God expected me to start Family Holy Hours in our area, and whining "You want me to do it, don't You?" That particular yes cost me a lot in terms of freedom and time, but only from a worldly standpoint. It was that work, in the midst of having my sixth and seventh babies, that proved to me there was absolutely nothing God would ask of me that He could not accomplish through me. And never would He let His work hurt my family.
Rather than having less time for all my duties, I experienced an increased ability to handle more tasks, while still enjoying a completely happy family life. Happy, not perfect, mind you. My husband has been very understanding of my Holy Hour and my extra church work. As a couple not united in the Faith (Darrell was raised Methodist, but practices no religion), we have had our share of glitches to work out He is reasonably patient about all our Catholic devotions. So, when it comes to outside activities, I work hard to keep any disruption of family life to a minimum.
At first I was not sure what DarrelI thought about my Holy Hour. But since he golfed once a week, we both had a sort of understanding that the Holy Hours (and my extra Masses and the inevitable meetings) were my time away from the family, just as golf was his. One Friday, at a family gathering, I found out that my dear husband understands more than I give him credit for I was slipping out to go to my Holy Hour, and one of my sisters-in-law quipped to my husband, "So, Darrell, is this when you get your peace and quiet?" (A gentle jab at my talkative nature, I suppose.) When I returned from my hour, Donna sweetly told me of my husband's response. He had answered very seriously, "No, this is when Carla gets her peace." I treasure that reply.
My parents began practicing a regular Holy Hour shortly before I did. They chose a spot in the wee hours of the morning, not because they enjoy waking up at 2 a.m„ but because, as a retired couple, they could handle it. I chose an easier hour but every so often my 10 p.m. can feel like 2 a.m. Once, after nodding off, I came suddenly awake, realized I'd been sleeping, and felt ashamed, apologizing to Jesus over and over. Then I had the image of a father watching his baby sleep. I knew Jesus was not really offended, but loving and understanding of my human limitations.
Since adoration began for me, and because of this continual conversion, Jesus has called me to run programs in churches, to Right to Life work, and to writing and editing, all with a very busy family life. People often ask me how I do it all, and I reply that it is by the graces of the Sacraments and the Holy Hours that I am able to do anything good. When we do not get in God's way, but co-operate with His grace, He Who is mighty does great things through us. Bishop Profugo of Lucena in the Philippines has said, "Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is not static, but dynamically active." How true! He is gloriously active!
"Here He waits for us with all the affection of His Sacred Heart.... strengthening the weak, comforting the afflicted, encouraging the depressed, enlightening the confused, and healing the broken-hearted." -- Come to Me In the Blessed Sacrament by M.J. Ramirez
Mother Teresa, a great supporter of Holy Hours, told how the Sisters of Charity came to practice daily adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The sisters were asking her for a daily Holy Hour and she was unsure, looking at the demands on the sisters' time each day, how they could fit in a Holy Hour. Mother Teresa said that after adding daily adoration, they had more vocations, more time for work, and more money for the poor. In other words, their ministry was blessed in every way.
Msgr. Joseph Ramirez of the Philippines, who has done so much to spread the devotion of perpetual adoration in his country and throughout the world, has written some moving letters in defense of Holy Hours, encouraging pastors to open perpetual adoration chapels. Since his crusade began, the Philippines have hundreds of adoration chapels, and the whole country has been blessed with an increase in vocations and a strongly Catholic faithful.
All these possibilities of what awaits us if we begin Holy Hours pale in comparison to what we owe Our Lord. The Holy Hour is not a simple task. Even the Apostles themselves had difficulty at what could be called the first Holy Hour, in the garden of Gethsemane. They found it no easy matter to keep Our Lord company. "Could you not watch with Me one hour?," He asked them. And I hear that question being asked of me, quite seriously: My Savior wants my company. Despite my limitations, my being tired or distracted, I fay to give Him my company, to watch with Him one hour. But the graces that are poured out upon us when we pray in the presence of Jesus cannot be overstated.
Many good Fundamentalists, on fire with love for Jesus, ask if Catholics have a "personal relationship" with Jesus. Oh, if only they had what we have. If only they knew what Catholics know. These sincere souls would fill our empty churches, anxious to spend time with the One they love! How thrilled is Our Lord with every Holy Hour made in His presence. How He longs to hold us during that hour. I have rested my weary head on His shoulder on many a Friday. I've laid my troubles at His sacred feet, and felt His hand caressing my tired head. I have laughed and cried with Him. I have felt His loving arms wrapping me in a sweet embrace of forgiveness.
The Church in her wisdom teaches us that Eucharistic worship "must fill our churches outside the timetable of Masses" and that "adoration of Christ in this sacrament of love must also find expression in various forms of Eucharistic devotion such as personal prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, Hours of Adoration, periods of exposition -- short, prolonged, and annual (forty hours) -- Eucharistic benediction, Eucharistic processions, and Eucharistic congresses" (Mystery and Worship of the Eucharist, 3).
It is commonly taught today that Jesus is reserved in the Tabernacle only for the sick. This is a very unfortunate way of speaking about Him, Who promised to "be with us always, even unto the end of time" (Mt. 28:20). I pray that the Holy Spirit will bless just one soul reading this and, through the Blessed Virgin Mary, will bring him to Jesus for his first Holy Hour of Adoration. I close with the words of Pope John Paul II: "Jesus waits for us.... Let us be generous with our time in going to meet Him in adoration and contemplation. ... May our adoration never cease."
Carla Marie Coon is a wife and the mother of eight in Johnson City, New York. She edits LifeNews for the New York State Right to Life Committee.
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