The most influential chapter of any book I have ever read has to be the one entitled “The hour that makes my day” in the autobiography of Venerable Fulton Sheen, Treasure in Clay. I remember reading it over twenty-three years ago as a seminarian and being so inspired that I too resolved, from that time on, to make a Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament every day. Apart from the Mass itself, this hour of prayer remains the fulcrum of my day even still.
Recently, I gave a talk to a group of promoters of Eucharistic Adoration in my diocese. These are the good folks who are involved in promoting Eucharistic Adoration in parishes. During the talk, I mentioned that while it is important to encourage people to commit themselves to regularly spending a Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament, it is also important to teach and guide them how to spend that time. Without this deeper catechesis, we can easily become bored, begin to fidget, and lose sight of what Adoration is all about. Without the necessary spiritual direction and guidance, we can forget that this precious time with the Lord is more about his desire to be with us than our desire to be with him. He is the one who longs for our company more than we long for him: “Could you not watch with me one hour?” (Mark 14:37). Here I offer a few guidelines of how we can make a Holy Hour by dividing it into three blocks of twenty minutes.
The first twenty minutes before the Lord really present in the Eucharist is a sacred time of intimacy between us and him. It is a time to just be present to our God who welcomes us and accepts us. In the words of a devout peasant in the parish of St. John Vianney, it is a time when “I look at him and he looks at me” (see CCC 2715). Our prayer before the Eucharist is a time when we lean on Jesus’ breast, like John did at the Last Supper, and allow his heart to speak to ours. The episcopal motto of St. John Henry Newman was cor ad cor loquitur (heart speaks to heart). We begin to grow in our “interior knowledge of the Lord” as we contemplate his words, his life, and his Real Presence before us (St. Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, no. 104). Here is the zone into which we are drawn in the first third of our Holy Hour, where our heart speaks to his. It is also a time when we listen to him and allow him to speak to us. This is a time when we can tell him everything about how we are and how we feel. It is a time to tell him about our day and to ask his help in ways in which we need it. Above all, it is a time to thank the Lord for his presence and action in our lives and to adore him for his goodness, truth, and mercy. It is also an opportunity to present to him the things we don’t understand, our sins, failings, and the worries that burden us. In this twenty minutes of our Holy Hour, we bask in the light of his love that never fails us.