“So you could not keep watch with me for one hour?” (Mt 26:40).
For many years after my conversion, I never went to Eucharistic adoration. For me, it was shrouded in mystery. What did one do for an hour? Were there rules? Was anything forbidden?
When I heard the plaintive words of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel, it was during a Lenten service. Of course, I’d read the Passion passages before, but now they haunted me. Why couldn’t I spend an hour with Jesus in adoration of his real presence? I decided to look into it and read what others had to say.
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There were many online articles with suggestions. The one that stood out was, “Be there.” Let go of the world and know that Our Lord is present. “Listen.” Be still and place yourself wholeheartedly with him, as if you were in the garden that fateful night. What does he have to say to you?
Other suggestions were: read Scripture or other spiritual writings; praise; give thanks; ask for forgiveness; worship; simply pray. One well-used prayer of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is, “O Sacrament most Holy, O Sacrament Divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment thine.”
In other words, it was a personal preference. Nothing was right or wrong as long as it was done with reverence and gratitude. I was ready.
At our parish, there’s a side door with a secret code if you want to sit with Jesus when the church is locked. I used the code and slipped inside the cool stillness of the church, making my way to the chapel.
Two other worshippers were already there, one quietly read the Bible while the other prostrated herself in front of the host. They were strangers, but I felt our kinship. I found a spot and knelt to pray: “Holy Spirit, help me. I’m here to pray and to listen.”
I stared at the beautiful monstrance that held the host, and I was struck with wonder that Jesus would welcome me to spend this time with him. Even my mind, which was always so cluttered, stilled in awe. After a while, several Catholic school children came in with a religious sister. They knelt and prayed, and then went out again. How wonderful it was that this was a part of their day.
As I “listened,” the Surrender Prayer came to mind. “O Jesus, I surrender myself to you. Take care of everything.” I felt led to say other favorite prayers: the Rosary, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, and the Seven Sorrows of the Mother of God. What a sacred place to pray, in the presence of Our Lord. I know that he is always present to us, but this was special, as if I could feel the Holy Spirit embracing me.
When I left, it was with a sense of indescribable peace that I hadn’t felt in a long time. I wanted it to be a part of my life, so I tried to go on a regular basis. But after a while, other things got in the way, and it wasn’t so regular.
Then one Wednesday, when I had other plans, I felt a strong compulsion to go to adoration. I didn’t know why, but I had to go.
I entered the church with the code. There were two women in the chapel, but they left shortly after I arrived. I liked the feeling of being alone with Jesus and spent more time listening. Mostly, I heard assurances of his immeasurable love for each one of us.
It dawned on me that he gave us the Eucharist because he loves us so much that he wants to be with us physically as well as spiritually. Maybe this isn’t news to other Catholics, but it made a difference in the way I approach Communion. When we partake of the Eucharist, we unite ourselves to the Cross.
I finally noticed that no one else had come in during the hour. In our parish, parishioners volunteer for a specific time so that Jesus will never be alone, like he was in the garden. Now, I knew why the Holy Spirit had urged me to be there: The person assigned to this hour couldn’t make it that day. I was so glad I’d come. I’ve since learned that there’s a veil next to the monstrance; if you have to leave, and no one else is there, you must cover the host with its veil. If you arrive and the host is covered, you must remove the veil.
I’ve read surveys that state 70% of Catholics do not believe in the Real Presence. This is heartbreaking. They’re missing so much. My constant prayer is that all Catholics understand and believe in the Eucharist, and finally, all Christians. For with each Holy Hour we make, we receive special graces: restoration, sanctification, transformation, reparation and salvation.
“All of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:18).
Note: The years 2022-24 mark a three-year National Eucharistic Revival in an effort to help Catholics and other Christians understand and believe in this sacred sacrament. We encourage you to take this revival as an invitation to visit Jesus in your local church or chapel more often.