Adoration brings Scripture alive

  • September 21, 2011

OTTAWA - Many people find that getting away for a retreat is impossible due to time, money or family reasons. Even finding a free weekend can be difficult in our busy lives.

Aside from a day at my church during Advent and Lent, where parishioners gather for lectures, quiet time and a silent meal, I haven’t attended a formal retreat in more than a decade.

Instead, I have discovered the simplest, most flexible way for me to make a retreat is to find my way to the nearest adoration chapel and stay there for an hour or two. Over the past year, I have done this frequently. I have also been blessed with the grace to pray three novenas that included a minimum of an hour of adoration for every one of the nine days.

This habit began about a year ago, after visiting the relatively new religious community Famille Marie-Jeunesse (FMJ) and interviewing some of the young people who were preparing to make permanent or temporary commitments to consecrated life. What a joy to be with them. Not only did I see the love and happiness shining in their faces, there was something alive in the peace emanating from them that instantly lifted my spirits. Their prayer disciplines include at least: daily Mass, an hour of eucharistic adoration and the slow, meditative praying of the rosary that is one of the movement’s hallmarks. They also study the Word of God and the Church’s teaching.

Experiencing their life of prayer, and most of all sharing in the fruits of the Spirit so evident among them, I felt wistful. I joked about maybe having missed my calling, as I have always had a contemplative streak and have considered myself more of a Mary than a Martha.  

Was the FMJ mixture of contemplative and active life something I was meant for but somehow missed in my life?

After my time at FMJ’s motherhouse in Sherbrooke, I wondered if I could  incorporate a little more of a FMJ lifestyle into my active life as a journalist. Could I add to the prayer disciplines I already have, such as adoration?

St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Ottawa has an adoration chapel in its basement.  I was tempted to sign up to cover an hour or so a week but because of my unpredictable schedule, I registered to be a substitute adorer instead. I get a phone call every now and then to fill in for someone who can’t make it for their scheduled hour. Sometimes it’s on short notice. But I love those calls. I am being summoned to watch and pray with Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and I can’t wait to be with Him.

Sometimes, when driving home from Parliament Hill, I’ll get a little nudge, as if the Lord is saying, “Come and visit me. Sit with me for a while.” Once I went and found myself alone with Him. What joy! But I also realized the nudge was a summons that He might be left alone — which should never happen when He is exposed.

This past year has been especially stressful, but those hours in Our Lord’s real presence were oases of peace and consolation. I bring my prayer book, Ordo and Bible, and do the lectionary readings for the morning or evening office (or both if I missed the previous one) and the Scripture comes alive. It is so much easier to concentrate when I am so conscious of His presence and when I am directing these psalms to Him. I also pray the rosary, slowly, the way they do in FMJ, and sometimes I add a prayer intention on every bead in light of the various mysteries. 

We’re asked to remain silent in the chapel, so you might hear the clicking of beads, the rumble of the air conditioner or dehumidifier, the odd sigh or even the occasional snore, but when the room empties and it is just me alone with Him, I might sing a hymn.

As I go regularly now, I recognize many of the other adorers and while we usually don’t converse, there is a fellowship of love and peace that shows Jesus is also present as two or three gather in His name.

One day, someone passed me a handwritten note, introducing herself and telling me her husband was in the kneeler next to me. She is French Canadian, she wrote, and her husband is of Dutch descent. She thanked me for what I was doing, since she is one of the people who has called me to ask me to substitute for someone who can’t cover their hour. When it was time for them to leave, she came over to me and kissed me on both cheeks. It was like being kissed by the Blessed Mother.

Jesus also wants us to share with Him our joys as well as our sorrows. And He wants to share His joys with us. One of my favourite devotional writers, Oswald Chambers, writes in My Utmost for His Highest:

“Many people will confide their secret sorrows to you, but the final mark of intimacy is when they share their secret joys with you.

“Have we ever let God tell us any of His joys? Or are we continually telling God our secrets, leaving Him no time to talk to us?”

So I also spend time in silence, listening, gazing upon the vulnerable Lord under the guise of the Host, watching the monstrance gleam in the morning sun, letting Him transform me, knit my heart to His so that when I leave I am a little more able to love with His love, to be, like my friends in FMJ, a little oasis of peace and joy for the sake of others.

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