So after the great showing in Cambridge, MA, where “Catholics Answered Black Mass with Prayers of Reparation, the whole topic of Adoration has come up in my email — “how does one do a Holy Hour?” — so I thought I would repost this piece from a few years back. It’s one way to spend time before the Blessed Sacrament. There are no “right” ways. Sometimes, you just look at Him, and He looks at you. Like a sunburn, you feel the effects later.
When I go to Adoration, it is such a privilege and such a humility. I go there in poverty — unworthy of anything, but willing to be open, because I trust that all God wants of us is our willingness. Always with the reminder jangling in my brain: Weakness is sown, strength rises up.
It is part-and-parcel of the great paradox: when I am weak, then I am strong.
I am weak, often at my weakest, when I go to Adoration. But I know my prayer there — even though I have nothing of myself, am nothing — is made strong prayer, because it is made before the physical Presence of the Christ, and because he sees my willingness.
My first prayers are of Thanksgiving, for I am always grateful to have an hour in His Majesty’s Presence. I ponder all I am grateful for: husband; sons; in-laws; friends; employment; health; the ability to raise a cup of water to my lips on my own steam. These lead to prayers of praise, because gratitude enables praise, and our praise joins the prayers of the angels.
Prayers of praise are a reprieve from earth. They are a simple, direct, heavenward thrust of love.
Then, call me presumptuous, but I bring the whole world into prayer. The people on my prayer lists; the Holy Father; priests and religious, naming them when I can; nations; newsmakers; cities; states; continents.
And none of this, of course, is because I am holy; far from it. Just as faith is a gift, so is prayer — it is jostled out of us (or first into us) via the Holy Spirit because, “we do not know how to pray as we ought…”
The quiet within his Presence is where the Holy Spirit seductively, dangerously lurks, waiting to both soothe, then ravish us. Why do you think the world is so very noisy? It is to keep us from hearing the small, still voice of the Spirit.
My petitions seem endless:
“Lord, the one you love is sick…”
“Lord, the one you love is weeping…”
“Lord, the ones you love are overworked and fretful…”
“Lord, the one you love is lonely…”
“Lord, the one you love is under siege…”
“Lord, the ones you love are oppressed…”
“Lord, the ones you love are over-burdened…”
“Lord, the ones you love are slaves to hate…”
Like an emcee, I bring everyone in and then recede into the background, bowing low, imagining my own self nose-to-the-ground, almost prostrate, and daring not to look up. And praying:
That prayer wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea, I know. Some days it wouldn’t be mine, but sometimes it just flows. Prayer trumps everything.
“. . .help them to comprehend the truth and strength and inviolability of your love, the generosity of your mercy; show to them the outpouring of your grace, gift them with your healing and let them recognize it and trust in it, for your gifts bestowed are never rescinded. You, Alpha and Omega, in whom we live and move and have our being, spread forth your peace like sweetest honey to refresh starving hearts and weary spirits. Let your Light touch us, like consoling balm, to soothe and warm our chilled humanity, so that we might be opened to your justice and willing to be made whole. But I am no worthy intercessor, only a faulty and broken vessel trusting in your mercy. Consider not what I deserve in your sight but only the needs of these whom you love, these I bring before you, and for whom I, the least, plead. Let my prayer rise before you like incense, to carry these forward. Forgive my sins, especially my failures in love, my sins of omission (for you know those are vast and heavy) and cast them behind your back as your prophet Isaiah has promised, and with your grace may I do better. Jesus, Son of the living God, have mercy on me, the sinner, in your name I pray…”
There are things visible and invisible. A thought is a thing. A hateful thought is a thing, as is a loving one. A hateful thought offered up to an altar of the invisible is hate on a supernatural level, and it can only be confronted and overcome by love on a supernatural level.
Prayer is a force and it is real. Humble prayer has power because it is the prayer that seeks mercy and trusts God to handle the justice part. It is, “help us Lord, help us all, begin with me who am so broken and full of fault…” It is prayer become a “sacrifice of joy” — even if the sacrifice is submitted in a groaning song of pain or illness or longing — for to suffer with purpose, if we must suffer, is real prayer, loving prayer, and it is, as this young lady knows, and shares, here an offering.
And who gets through life without suffering? Perhaps we all get to suffer, so that we might all make the greatest of prayers.
Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.
With that rejoicing, then, the gift freely given is nothing less than “the sacrifice of joy.” To make an offering of your pain is to empower it, as Christ’s own suffering has power; it is to render it into something victorious and undefeatable.
Weakness is sown; strength rises up. Think about that, pray on it. Consider it in the season.
Though an army encamp against me
my heart would not fear.
Though war break out against me
even then would I trust.
There is one thing I ask of the Lord,
for this I long,
to live in the house of the Lord,
all the days of my life,
to savor the sweetness of the Lord,
to behold his temple.
For there he keeps me safe in his tent
in the day of evil.
He hides me in the shelter of his tent,
on a rock he sets me safe.
And now my head shall be raised
above my foes who surround me
and I shall offer within his tent
a sacrifice of joy.
I hope it is not presumptuous of me to share my prayer. But lots of my previous writing about Adoration seems to have been lost in moving, so I thought I’d post anew. Perhaps if you are not used to praying at Adoration, it’s a place to start.