PETE: In your book 21 Ways to Worship: A Guide to Eucharistic Adoration, you lay out some great tips for Eucharistic Adoration. What inspired you to write about this particular topic?
VINNY FLYNN: Actually, it’s a pretty funny story. 21 Ways was a “surprise from the Lord,” a reminder to me that He’s in charge, and that His agenda doesn’t always coincide with mine. I had no intention of writing this book. It wasn’t even on my radar screen. I was busy trying to finish the second book in my 7 Secrets series: 7 Secrets of Confession.
Then, this past April, I was asked to give a talk at a church in Michigan — a church where I had spoken many times before. I happily said yes, but then thought to myself, “I’ve been there so many times. What can I possibly talk about that they haven’t heard before?”
Glancing through some of my files, I came across a folder with notes I had made a few years earlier for a book or talk to be entitled 21 Ways to Worship. It was to be a practical “how to” guide, a personal sharing of specific things to do during Eucharistic Adoration — for beginners who aren’t really sure what Adoration is all about, and also for veteran adorers, looking to “step it up a notch.”
I decided to use this as the theme for my talk, thinking that I would just share a few of the 21 ways. I ended up giving a brief explanation of each of them, and the response from people was so enthusiastic that I felt that God was telling me it was time to do it as a book.
It was a blessed project right from the start. I felt completely immersed in grace in a way that I have never felt before. Everything just fell easily into place: the writing, the editing, the design and layout, the covers, the endorsements, the negotiations with Ignatius Press. It was as if God was saying, “Yes, I know you’re trying to finish the Confession book, but that’s not my agenda, right now. It will have to wait, because I want this book out now.”
PETE: Why do you feel Eucharistic Adoration is so important?
VINNY FLYNN: Wow! I could write a book about that — oh, wait …
Seriously, there’s so much, it’s hard to know where to start. Perhaps taking a deeper look at the question itself would help. Sometimes when people hear the words “Eucharistic Adoration,” there’s a tendency to think about it in an impersonal or abstract way, as a type of worship, a task, or an obligation, something we should do for God. But it’s not about doing something; it’s about being with Someone.
So with that in mind, what the question is really asking is, “Why is it important to make time to be with Jesus, person-to-person, one-on-one, just Him and me, with no distractions?”
Pope Benedict stresses over and over that the Eucharist “is not a piece of a body, not a thing.” It’s a person, the person who loves us more than anyone. Why Adoration? So we can get to really know this person. And that takes time, just like any other relationship. You can’t really get to know a person if you only spend an hour a week together. You can’t grow in your relationship without spending time with the other person. Pope Benedict says that communicating with Christ “demands that we gaze on Him, allow Him to gaze on us, listen to Him, get to know Him. Adoration is simply the personal aspect of Communion.”
PETE: What has your personal experience been with Eucharistic Adoration?
VINNY FLYNN: Change. Adoration changes me, in so many ways. The more I spend regular time trying to encounter God as a person, the more my whole way of relating to Him changes. He’s not a theological concept, not an “imaginary friend.” He’s real, and quiet time in Adoration helps me experience Him in real ways. Gradually, I learn to be real with Him, to let the masks fall away. I learn not to be fake with God, not to be formal or “politically correct,” not to pretend anything, not to say things I think He wants to hear. And the more I get to know Him and relate to him in this personal way, the more I want to become like Him.
A lot of this change is not conscious, not the result of anything I do or don’t do. In the chapter entitled “Get a Tan!”, I compare God’s love to the sunshine, and I refer to Adoration as radiation therapy. The closing lines of a prayer I include in that chapter summarizes pretty well what Adoration is for me:
“I am here to Son-bathe, Lord, to expose myself to the healing rays of Your love and become more like You. Please let it be done, hour by hour by hour.”
PETE: What is your greatest wish for this book? What do you want readers to take away from it?
VINNY FLYNN: My greatest wish? I’d like to see this book in every adoration chapel in the world. I’d like to see it in the hands of every priest, ever seminarian, every deacon, every CCD or RCIA teacher, every Catholic. I want to get it in as many hands as possible and fill the adoration chapels. God is there — in person — waiting for us at each moment, whenever we can make the time. He’s there loving us, no matter what’s going on in our lives, how we’re struggling, what mood we’re in, or how close we feel to Him. He’s waiting there with His hands full of graces to pour upon us.
Our last three popes have been telling us, over and over, that we need to personally encounter Jesus, and there’s no better way to do this than spending time with Him in His Eucharistic presence.
Pope John Paul II repeatedly emphasized that Christ, in the Eucharist, is giving us His own way of living. When we receive the Eucharist — and when we continue our adoration of the Eucharist “outside of the Mass” — Christ’s whole way of being passes into us: His perceptions, His values, His attitudes, His way of thinking and relating to people. Through the Eucharist we become more like Christ, so that we can actually begin to live the Gospel message and pass it on to others.
Pope Benedict XVI adds that, as we “assimilate” Christ’s way of being, His Eucharistic presence “transfigures” us, transforms us so that, through us, He can transform the world. He even says that “without Adoration, there is no transfiguration of the world.
Pope Francis, too, stresses the need for this personal encounter with Christ. In the opening lines of his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, he writes, “The Joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. … I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ.”
“Our church doors,” he writes, “should always be open, so that if someone, moved by the Spirit, comes there looking for God, he or she will not find a closed door.”
What do I want readers to take away from 21 Ways to Worship? An increased desire to respond to what Pope Francis calls one of the important challenges of our time: the development of “a personal and committed relationship with God which at the same time commits us to serving others.”
PETE: I hear you are currently working on a new book. Can you share any details?
VINNY FLYNN: Sure! There are two, actually. One is a Eucharistic prayer book that my daughter Erin and I have been working on, tentatively entitled A Host Lifted in Me. It will be a collection of old and new prayers to use during Eucharistic Adoration and throughout the various parts of the Mass. I’m especially anxious to get this finished, because I want it for myself!
The other book is the third book of the 7 Secrets series, 7 Secrets of Divine Mercy. I did the complete outline and chapter notes for this book at the same time I was outlining the previous book, 7 Secrets of Confession. I decided to do the confession book first, so all the files for the Divine Mercy book have been sitting in a briefcase, waiting for me to get going on it. Hopefully this year!
PETE: Time for my signature ending question. This is a blog about books. What is currently on your bookshelf to read?
VINNY FLYNN: Well, I love books, and usually have a stack of them I’m reading all at once. You can probably relate!
1. The first is the apostolic exhortation I mentioned by Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel). This is going to be on my reading list for a long time. It’s a book I need to keep reading and re-reading — there’s so much here!
2. Encountering Christ, also by Pope Francis. It’s a collection put out by Scepter Press of homilies, letters, and addresses he delivered as Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, from 2009-2013.
3. The Road of Hope, by Cardinal Thuan, published by New City Press.
An amazing collection of 1001 short, powerful, spiritual directives written by the Cardinal when, as Archbishop Van Thuan, he was imprisoned by the Communist government in Vietnam. For thirteen years, his writings were smuggled out of his cell and circulated among his people.
4. Let Us Become Friends of Jesus, a collection of Pope Benedict’s meditations on prayer, compiled by The Word Among Us Press from the pope’s eight years of audiences, homilies, addresses, and writings. Can’t get enough of Pope Benedict!
5. Resisting the Devil, by Neal Lozano, published by Our Sunday Visitor. Sounds a bit scary, I know, but Lozano’s books are not at all fear-based or “doomsday” oriented. He presents easy-to-understand, practical ways we can all learn to deal with the demonic influences that surround us and that often go undetected.
6. Golf’s Sacred Journey, by David Cook, published by Zondervan. A bit on the lighter side, but it came to me highly recommended, so I’m anxious to dig into it.
Dr. Cook is a well-known sports psychologist, speaker, and life coach, and the book is more about life lessons and the importance of meaningful relationships with God and other people than it is about golf — but if he can improve my game, I’m OK with that, too.
Vinny is known to many as “the man who sings the Divine Mercy Chaplet on EWTN,” this father of seven has been involved in a ministry of mercy for over forty years, using his gifts of teaching, writing, counseling, music, and prayer to help people understand the teachings of the Church and open their hearts to the healing touch of God’s love. He is also the author of 7 Secrets of the Eucharist and 7 Secrets of Confession. You can find out more about Vinny at his website http://www.vinnyflynn.com/.