By Amber Kinloch & Vir Christi
Over the past several years, I’ve encountered a number of pamphlets and articles discussing how to spend a Holy Hour. “Start small,” is a common piece of advice. “Try just 15 minutes or half an hour.” “Pray the Rosary or Divine Mercy Chaplet. Read the Bible. Bring a list of intentions to pray for.”
All of this is fine advice. What I find, though, is that these writings are essentially focused on how to fill up your time during Adoration. They don’t really help you understand how to pray during Adoration, to enter into a deeper communion with God.
Imagine if you prepared a list of topics to discuss with a friend before every meeting with them. You might cultivate some sort of relationship with them, but if you could only carry on a conversation while referring to that list of topics, your friendship won’t go very deep. The same thing happens when we get stuck on ritualistically praying a certain set of devotions during Adoration. We limit how deep we can go in our conversation with Jesus.
Vir Christi and I, both regular adorers, discussed the problem and came up with some ideas for drawing greater fruit from your time in Adoration.
Cultivate a Period of Silence
I am not always the best at beginning a Holy Hour well. Sometimes I hustle into church, drop down briefly on both my knees before the exposed Eucharist, and head to a pew, not fully comprehending or appreciating Whose Presence I’ve entered. I kneel down and my mind is full of distracting thoughts as I jump into praying the Rosary, the Divine Office, or some other formal prayer. It hardly sets me up for an intimate conversation with Jesus.
Vir Christi reminded me that it’s important to create a period of silence at the start of Adoration. He compared it to going to the gym. You don’t just run off to the gym. First, you change into exercise gear and grab your gym bag. You make sure you have water, a sweat towel, and whatever else you need. At the gym, you warm up with some stretching exercises. Only then do you hop on the treadmill for a run.
Likewise, you have to settle yourself for prayer. Arriving early and silencing your cell phone before entering church is a good first step. Next, be conscious of how you walk in. If you’re young like me and inclined to be hasty, slow your pace. You’re going to meet Jesus, not run a race!
Kneel down when you enter and stop. Don’t look around to see who else is there. Focus. Center your whole mind on Jesus, taking time to absorb that you have entered His Real Physical Presence.
Walk quietly to your pew, eyes and thoughts still focused on Him. Begin your time in Adoration listening in quiet stillness to God. There is time enough to talk with Jesus about all those things weighing on your mind. For now, just be present to your Creator.
Be Aware of Your Physical Posture
I’ve been making an effort recently to pay attention to my posture during periods of prayer. As we’ve discussed before, humans are creatures composed of body and soul. What we do with our bodies, therefore, affects our souls. If I’m slouched over in the pew, eyes half-closed, in a position comfortable enough to fall asleep, that’s hardly going to cultivate a prayerful attitude in me, is it?
To that end, I’ve been trying to kneel more during Adoration, making sure to keep my body upright. It’s the same when I sit. Likewise, I try to mind what I’m doing with my hands. Keep them still and don’t fidget—easier said than done, I know!
A friend who’s a young mom reminded me that it might be hard to do this when you have child(ren) to watch. Or there’s my mom. She likes to get up and walk back and forth along the back wall of the church, as sitting or kneeling for long periods is hard on her back. Even in these cases, though, we can still do little things like walking slowly and keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus as much as possible instead of letting them wander around the church. The point is to try to focus. It will help you cultivate a more prayerful spirit, and when you find yourself distracted to no end despite your most valiant attempts, at least you can offer Jesus your best effort physically.
Take Time to Say Goodbye
Imagine if you were visiting a friend. The time’s up for your visit and you snatch up your coat and rush out the door, not bothering to bid them farewell. It’d be beyond rude. Yet often people do this to Jesus. They get up, make a hasty genuflection, and hurry out of the church without a backwards glance.
Don’t do that. Take your time saying goodbye, perhaps with another period of silence or a certain prayer. Thank Jesus for this time you’ve had with Him. Genuflect or bow reverently at your pew and again at the door of the church before leaving. When you step outside, try not to launch right into the bustle of life. Take some time to carry that silence and peace of Adoration with you into the world. Checking your phone for texts can wait a couple of minutes.
Make a Regular Commitment if Possible
I find that people are reluctant to regularly spend time in Adoration. They will go to Adoration when they’re feeling low and talk about how wonderful it was, but they won’t make a firm commitment. They spend extra time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament only when they feel like it, missing out on so many graces.
There are many, perhaps, who can’t commit to a regular Holy Hour due to a tight schedule, working multiple jobs, caring for elderly parents or children, etc. If you’re among these people, I understand. There are many more, though, who could commit and don’t.
(Side note: If your parish doesn’t offer formal Adoration where the Eucharist is exposed in the monstrance, I still encourage you to go spend time before the tabernacle. Our Lord may be hidden from sight, but He is still present physically. You might also encourage your priest to offer regular Adoration if it can reasonably be done.)
It is sad at parishes where Adoration is offered frequently to see so few people taking advantage of it. Imagine if someone fell in love and thought they might marry another person. Wouldn’t it be strange, then, if they only spent time with the other person when they felt like it? It would. We expect people in love to make time to regularly see each other, even at the cost of sacrificing time that could be spent on other things they enjoy doing.
If this is so in our human relationships, how is it that people are so stingy with God? He hasn’t just given us everything. He is everything. Life has no meaning at all without Him.
Someone might object: “But I pray at home, work, etc. Why should I spend extra time in church? Isn’t God present everywhere?”
Yes, He is. But He is physically present in the Eucharist. As we all know, physical presence matters. A Zoom meeting is nothing compared to an in-person visit. So it is with Our Lord.
Jesus took on a human nature. He is truly present, Flesh and Blood (as well as Soul and Divinity) in the Eucharist. He longs not just for a spiritual union with us, but even a physical one. Simply to be in His Physical Presence, even without receiving Him in Holy Communion, imparts graces that can never be matched by a mere spiritual presence.
If we truly love Jesus and are seeking Him, we will find ourselves wanting to be with Him more and more. You don’t have to commit to an hour at a time. But if you reasonably can spend extra time with Him, why don’t you? Why not start by lingering after Sunday Mass for 10–15 minutes? Or drop in after work every day for a short visit.
God remains a Prisoner of Love in the Blessed Sacrament for our sake. He pines for us to come and keep Him company and lavishes unimaginable graces upon us in return. How can we excuse ourselves from answering His plea?
Amber writes from the bunker of her living room. There she hunkers down with her laptop and a blanket while keeping an eye and ear tuned in to the activity of family life. Music set on loop keeps her energy flowing as she muses on the deeper happenings of ordinary life and what food to restock the fridge with.
Vir’s heart has been on fire for the Church from day one, and he dreams of the day when Constantinople will be a city again. He has a competitive drive satiated by sports and board games, but is also just as happy to sit down and read a good book for hours on end.