A couple Fridays ago was my children’s final school Mass of the year. It was a happy occasion of prayer and reverence, with kids so excited they could barely sit still in the pews. During the homily, Father Andrew gave the students three assignments for the summer:
1) Pray every day.
2) Go to Mass on Sundays, even when on vacation out of town.
3) Go to Confession at least once.
Pray every day? Check.
Mass on Sundays? No problem.
Confession? We can work it in.
Our family will try to add one more assignment to this wonderful list:
Spend time with the Lord in eucharistic adoration.
While Mass is the greatest act of worship for Catholics, eucharistic adoration outside Mass offers us another opportunity to spend time in the Real Presence of Our Lord. Christ, in his great humility, appears in the form of bread so he can be in every Catholic Church in the world. Whenever we need him, we can find him. He is present, in a tabernacle, waiting for us to visit.
The call spending time with Jesus has been part of Catholic tradition since the beginning when Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane, mournfully asked his disciples: “Could you not watch with me one hour?” (Mt 26:40).
That desire to be close to Christ continues today. Though the practice was not widely popular for many years following the Second Vatican Council, adoration has made a comeback in our country, along with other traditional practices such as reciting the rosary. Adoration can be as simple as entering a church and sitting quietly before the tabernacle, which marks the presence of Christ by the red vigil light.
In a more structured form of adoration, people take turns keeping vigil before the exposed Blessed Sacrament, which is held in a sacred vessel called a monstrance. You literally meet Jesus face to face.
Exposition may be in a church or in a separate chapel, and is often referred to as a holy hour, though there is no required length of time for worship. Parishes may have annual, monthly, weekly, daily or perpetual adoration — meaning the eucharistic adoration continues non-stop, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Parishes with eucharistic adoration outside of Mass — such as my own — enlist parishioners to sign up for time slots to ensure the Eucharist is never unattended.
Newcomers to adoration — or someone not accustomed to spending long periods of time with the Lord, such as younger children — might consider stopping in for just five or 10 minutes. This duration may increase over time, or not: time with the Lord is never wasted. According to St. Alphonsus Liguori, “…in a quarter of an hour’s prayer spent in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, you will perhaps gain more than in all the spiritual exercise of the day” (from his book The Holy Eucharist).
Adoring the Blessed Sacrament in silence is traditionally called mental prayer or contemplation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines contemplative prayer as “Nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us” (No. 2709). These are the words of St. Teresa of Avila, one of the foremost writers on contemplative prayer.
This “sharing between friends” or mental prayer during a holy hour may include reading and meditating on Scripture, offering prayers of petition and thanksgiving – the word Eucharist is derived from the Latin eucharistia, meaning “thanksgiving”], praying the rosary, performing an examination of conscience, journaling, reading about the saints, and other spiritual reading. The purpose isn’t to do a bunch of reading, but to focus one’s mind in the Lord’s presence.
In the busyness of being a spouse, parent, employee, and the other hats we wear depending on the day, we can often feel short on prayer time. Consider slowing down a bit this summer, along with the pace of the season, and spend more quiet time with our eucharistic Lord. Whether “hidden” in the tabernacle or exposed in the monstrance, the Lord is patient. He’s waiting for us.
Reprinted with permission from FathersforGood.org (c) Knights of Columbus.
Copyright 2012 Julie Filby