Back in July when I drove my car solo from Cincinnati, Ohio to my daughter’s wedding in Seattle, Washington, a drive of 2,640 miles over 40 hours of driving in four days, I posted thoughts, observances and inspirations on Reflections of a Lay Catholic each day. It had been years since I had made a drive like this on my own and, even though I would miss my wife and youngest daughter (who were flying to Seattle), I was looking forward to it immensely. Mainly I was looking forward to the quiet time, the absence of work and other responsibilities that tend to fill up my life. And, at some point it dawned on me that it would be a good opportunity for me, in my new found faith, to try to get closer to Jesus, to spend some one-on-one time with Him. After three days of driving and blogging about: attending Masses at the Cathedral Basilica in St. Louis, Missouri, St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Sioux Falls, South Dakota (including confession), and St. Therese the Little Flower church in Rapid City, South Dakota; the inspiring and friendly people I met at each church; praying the Rosary for the first time on my own, and seeing the beautiful countryside that is God’s creation, I felt I needed to explain why I was praying my way across America. So, in my post from day three, Bolo Ties, Rosaries and Rainbows, I explained that there were many people in my life who needed my prayers, one of which was my wife who would soon be having breast cancer surgery. And, I explained, that I tend to do my best praying, or at least it seems that way to me, while I am in church. I found, too, that the prolonged absences of distraction while I was behind the wheel allowed me to continue that praying throughout the day. A friend and follower, when reading that I was enjoying this alone time with Jesus, astutely claimed that it may very well have been that my whole trip unfolded in this way because He needed some alone time with me!
Don’t you love it when something simple gets turned around and you discover something even more beautiful than what you originally had?
In another recent post I mentioned how praying is something I’m still getting used to doing. I’m satisfied with the frequency but it’s the content that needs some work. I tend to ramble. I need to be more succinct so I can fit it all in when I only have a short amount of time. I have found, though, that my time in prayer is tremendously more satisfying, with less pressure on myself to “perform”, when I schedule to spend a full hour in Eucharistic Adoration once a week.
Before I go any farther, I realize there may be a few non-Catholics reading this and they may not have a good grasp of the significance of the Eucharist in our faith. So, let me say a few words about that. Catholics believe the bread and wine, the consecrated Hosts, are actually the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ. While many Christian denominations have a service that commemorates the Last Supper, with some distributing bread and wine (or grape juice) as a symbol, it is our belief that the Eucharist (the Blessed Body and Blood) is the real presence of Christ. The basis for this belief is found in Matthew 26:26-28:
“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.’”
So, what is Eucharistic Adoration you ask? Well, let’s say that while receiving the Eucharist during Communion at Mass is the best way to personally experience Christ within our parish community, Eucharistic Adoration gives us the opportunity to be with Him up close and personal, or one-on-one. We can experience this in two ways. The Consecrated Hosts reserved from the previous Mass are kept in the tabernacle, usually a small, ornate enclosure with a locking door resting on a table behind the altar. The easiest and most common form of Eucharistic Adoration is to stop by church at any time and genuflect (kneel) facing the tabernacle and acknowledge Christ’s presence.
A typical tabernacle
The second way, and in my opinion the most profound and satisfying way, is when the Blessed Sacrement is removed from the tabernacle and exposed for adoration in a monstrance, a sculpture with a glass enclosure that reveals the Host. Like the first example, adoration is accomplished by genuflecting in Christ’s presence and it is usually done for an hour. What is significant about an hour, you ask? Well, that comes from when Jesus, after agonizing in the Garden of Gethsemane, finds his disciples sleeping. Upon waking them He asks Peter, “So you could not keep watch with me for one hour?” – Matthew 26:40.
Poor Peter, he couldn’t seem to get anything right. Sometimes I feel like him. Do you?
Pope Francis I with a monstrance
The glory of Eucharistic Adoration is best described in the words of Blessed Pope John Paul II, “The Eucharist is a priceless treasure: by not only celebrating it (at Mass) but also by praying before it outside of Mass we are enabled to make contact with the very wellspring of grace…We must understand that in order ‘to do’, we must first learn ‘to be’, that is to say, in the sweet company of Jesus in adoration.”
I have had the opportunity on two occasions to spend an hour in adoration when the Blessed Sacrament was exposed. Both of those instances were during Christ Renews His Parish retreat weekends. But, this summer, I have spent several more hours on Saturday mornings in adoration, when the Eucharist was not exposed, as a time for sacrificial prayer in support of our church’s Adult Faith Formation group. One of the group’s responsibilities is to bring Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration back to the parish and in support of that effort we each take a day to fast and one hour a week to pray in adoration before the tabernacle. Our prayers are for help and encouragement to the parish community to discover the glory of adoration and for their participation. In order to have a successful program for a 24/7/365 Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration about 450 people are needed to participate.
Regardless of the reason I am in adoration, I always feel a sense of calmness, of comfort, and my thoughts come to me more clearly. I find when I am spilling my guts to, or just having a casual one-sided conversation with, Jesus, my words flow much easier than at any other time of prayer. Sometimes I am quiet and just soak up being in His presence. In author Kathleen Carroll’s words, “The best kind of friend is the one with whom you can spend time without having to say anything. You can just share the moment and enjoy each other’s company, knowing your relationship is deeper than the spoken word. That kind of silent communication is what takes place between you and Jesus when you participate in Eucharistic Adoration.”
The first couple times I spent an hour in adoration I knelt the whole time and actually spent the whole hour having a one-sided conversation with Jesus. That was hard to do, especially for an old man’s arthritic knees. And I would run out of things to say so I would repeat myself which made me feel a little stupid. After the second time, though, I observed other adorers spending about half their time kneeling and the other half sitting. I asked and learned that this was okay and that it was okay to not spend the entire hour in prayer. It is okay to spend time simply gazing at the Host, soaking up being in the presence of Jesus. It is okay to sit and consider the life of Christ and what He might say to you in light of your circumstances in life. It is okay to just sit and listen. Listen for that still small voice, that bit of clarity that will give you the direction for which you’ve been searching. It’s okay to bring your bible and read passages from it, or your prayer book from which you might recite some prayers special to the moment. And, I have found the more I spend that one hour a week in the presence of Jesus I tend to agree more and more with Mother Teresa’s sentiments, “The time you spend with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the best time 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, and will help bring about everlasting peace on earth.”
Most adults I know are married, have a significant other, and/or have children. Imagine the sadness we would have if we couldn’t spend at least one hour a week with the ones we love more than any others on earth. Then, imagine the ridiculousness of accepting that it would be okay to not schedule at least one hour a week to devote to the one’s you love the most. Now convey those thoughts over to our relationship with Christ. Can we not spend one hour per week getting to know Him better and letting Him help us get to know ourselves better? By doing so, will we not be able to love our families and friends here on earth more fully?
Some of you reading this might be from someplace far away from my home parish in Ohio. If so, and your parish offers the opportunity for Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration, I hope you will find it in yourself to give it a try. If your parish doesn’t, try to find one nearby that does and give it a try. I believe you will be amazed at the deeper devotion to Jesus you will experience. Then bring it back to your own parish. For those of you reading this who are in my home parish, I ask that you consider joining us in our effort to establish Perpetual Adoration and become one of the 450 people needed to make it become a reality. We are hosting Fr. Sean Davidson of the Missionaries of the Most Holy Eucharist this weekend and he will be giving brief homilies about the beauty of Eucharistic Adoration at each Mass followed by a mission talk next Tuesday. Please join us. I believe you will find, as Fr. Davidson says, “The adoration of Jesus in the Eucharist also leads to greater reverence at Mass, a deeper desire for personal holiness, and a stronger sense of union with the parish and the whole Church.”
When we get this off the ground, my hour is going to be from 5:00 until 6:00 a.m. on Monday mornings. You’re welcome to come join me.
Good night and God Bless.