Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters at Christmas
Sitting before the Holy Eucharist: “it is like sitting out in the sun. You may not feel the effect at the moment, but a little while later, you know you were singed.”
— Sr. Briege McKenna
It was by happening upon Adoration that my heart was turned, irrevocably, finally and for all time, toward Christ and the teachings of the Roman church. Driving by a neighboring church one day with the windows open I heard a peal of bells (it was noon, and the call for prayer; the Angelus) and thought I would like to pop into church – to make what used to be called a “visitation” to the Tabernacle – a brief pause for God in the middle of a hectic day.
As I opened the doors, what I found was an altar adorned with lighted candles and the Blessed Sacrament in its monstrance. It was as though I’d been hit with a barrage of something as penetrating as bullets but holy and full of love. I instantly fell to my knees, overcome, and remained there in sheer adoration and wonder. When I rose an hour later, it felt as though five minutes had passed, and since then I have tried never to miss an opportunity to adore the Lord in this quiet, intimate and powerful way.
Since I have begun regular attendance at Adoration, I have changed. Slowly. Glacially. But the change has been positive and lasting. It is sad that so much improvement is still needed, but I must be a tough case.
I once invited a friend to attend with me. She liked it for about ten minutes and then became antsy. Too much quiet; aren’t we supposed to be “doing” something at all times? People don’t know how to sit and simply be, anymore. We are so deeply attached to our iPods, cell phones, blackberries, radios, televisions – we don’t know how to shut it all down – perhaps because we are afraid to discover what we will hear in the quiet.
At first, what you hear in the silence is the endless monkey chatter of the brain: what to do, what needs doing, where to be – “I must do this, I hate doing that, oh, I forgot to set my TIVO, what to make for supper. I like that blouse she’s wearing…” If we can sit still long enough to get past that, we hear “I’m sad. I’m mad. I’m scared,” and sometimes, “I’m glad.”
That’s when Adoration becomes uncomfortable for many, when – in facing the Lord – you must also face yourself. As we heard from Chesterton, “the self is more distant than any star” – and most prefer to keep it that way. Silence forces a confrontation, for most of us an uncomfortable one. Adoration places the encounter in the physical Presence of the Lord, which just makes it all the more honest and thus thorough and grueling.
The old saying about Adoration is: “I look at the Lord, and the Lord looks at me.” True. But further, “I look at me through the eyes of the Lord.”
It is the same as Buddhists sitting in silence before their master; they look at the master, he looks at them, and there is instruction of a very personal nature. Loving, but intense, instruction. If you stick with it, you come to crave it.
The photo above comes from a Christmas card; the Holy Spirit Adoration nuns, like the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration and many other monastic orders, are dedicated to praying – for all of us – in the presence of the Lord. If the community is large enough, they schedule one member to “keep watch” through each hour of the day, praying before Christ. Usually, they make the public side of their chapels available for daytime adoration by the faithful. They offer an opportunity, for anyone who likes, to be quiet in the Presence of Christ, which is a silent but not empty presence.
Brad at Roman Catholic Vocations reproduces one woman’s heartfelt appreciation for such opportunities, and for “the pink nuns” whose chapel is nearby.
Several years ago, I was blessed to regularly visit the adoration chapel, thanks to a “Holy Hour swap” with a friend of mine.
Each week I would drop my children off at her house and head over to “The Pinks.” When I got back, she took her turn. Play time for the kids and prayer time for the moms — talk about a win-win situation!
It comes as no surprise, then, that my favorite part about the sisters’ chapel is the silence. The peace and warmth I find here have been especially welcome in the midst of the hectic seasons of Advent and Christmas.
At certain times of day, I can hear soft voices singing the Divine Office on the other side of a high wall to my right.
We don’t have enough quiet in our lives, and we have forgotten how to “keep watch” or to stay alert, as the shepherds were outside of Bethlehem. As our Holy Father said on Christmas Eve, if the shepherds had not been alert – keeping watch – they might have missed something glorious.
Radical Love (click on multimedia link and wait to load)
Working with the poor, in one’s own poverty. This seems, to me, to be the way to “reach” people and to “preach” to them; not by standing on streetcorners praying and singing “for the sake of others’ souls (which can be interpreted by some as condescending) and then going home, but by doing what Jesus did: “dwelling among” folks, and sharing their lives. I love these guys.
The vocation of marriage and family
An abbot and Rhodes scholar writes of the interior life and enjoying one’s own deep.