Busted Halo
feature: religion & spirituality
January 4th, 2013

Adoration of the… Um… Er


(CNS photo/J.D. Long-Garcia, Catholic Sun)

When I came into the Catholic Church ten years ago, there were a number of things I was a bit unclear about, including: the Pope, the Council of Trent, when exactly to kneel with everyone else so that I did not stick out like a foolish person with no wit, and — Eucharistic Adoration. Not only did I not know what it was, I could barely say it.

I remember seeing our priest carrying the monstrance (another baffling thing I could barely say – it’s the special vessel used to carry the Blessed Sacrament) down the aisle, with the end of his sleeve wrapped around its handle like a good housewife holding a hot handle with an oven mitt. What’s with the cloth covering and all?

“Holy,” a friend whispered to me in church, “it’s a sign of how holy the monstrance is because it’s carrying the Blessed Sacrament.”

OK, I thought. I knew about the “real presence,” and, unlike many Catholics today, I actually do believe in it, though to say I understand it would be woefully wrong.

Basically, the whole idea of kneeling in front of a monstrance and somehow either adoring the Sacrament or witnessing to its Presence never held much appeal to me. If I am truthful, as a former Protestant this seemed weird to me. It smacked of idolatry and the mysterious otherness of the Church which I still struggled with from time to time, even though it was that very mystery which helped draw me into the Church a decade ago.

There I knelt, gazing on the golden sunrays around the Host, just being. When I glanced at my watch, I realized a half hour had swept past, without my knowing it or marking it. I’d entered a time with no time, and was shocked to find myself back in a world of hours and minutes once again.

For reasons which I do not understand, I’ve been eyeing our parish bulletin and its announcement of the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament happening every Friday. I might have asked myself, “Why would I want to do that?” but I have become used to the opaqueness of my inner life and try not to fret too much about it.

So, off I set several weeks ago to participate in Adoration. Was I wearing the right clothes? I worried. Probably skinny jeans and a sweatshirt were not proper; let’s go with church clothes, I decided. I slid into a pew near the front. I looked around. Definitely it was a crowd of mostly older ladies, praying, some telling their Rosaries, and some taking turns to kneel in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I emptied my mind of judgmental words and discomfort at what felt alien and strange to me. I emptied myself, looking up at Jesus hanging on the cross with the monstrance in front.

And something happened. Unlooked for, unbidden. A sense of Presence. Of Mystery. Of almost a slight twitch of electricity in the air. It filled my heart, and the words came inside, “This is not about you, this is about Me.” So much of the time when I worship Jesus (and God and the Holy Spirit), it is about my asking for things from God — to fix my kids, to fix me, to enable me to write brilliantly, and, of course, to help the wounded, the poor and the downtrodden. I saw that this was a time to give back to God, to give thanks, to just sit and be with him.

Knees creaking but heart full, I left after about a half hour, signing out in the book as I left, almost like someone signing out after a hospital visit.

I went again two weeks later and knelt, moving my seat when the poor lady behind me began to sneeze and wheeze. I didn’t want my religious feelings to be compromised by sniffling. And there I knelt, gazing on the golden sunrays around the Host, just being. When I glanced at my watch, I realized a half hour had swept past, without my knowing it or marking it. I’d entered a time with no time, and was shocked to find myself back in a world of hours and minutes once again.

I guess this is one way God gives us gifts, even though we don’t always recognize them. To be without time; to feel the presence of Spirit — two spaces of unlooked-for grace and abundance.

Am I hooked? Yes. I probably won’t be able to go every Friday, but I am going to try and carve out time for the time without time, for the God of Surprises who comes to us in ways we can scarce imagine.

[Published on: April 24, 2012]

The Author : Annie Turner
Ann Turner is a passionate convert to the Catholic faith, who is also passionate about life in general, small dogs, food and wine, friends, nature, and the blessing that comes from just showing up and being a witness with other people. Follow Ann's faith journey & more at: itsthegodthing.blogspot.com. Ann is also the published author of over forty children's books. She loves to hear from her readers.
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  • Ona

    I am late to the conversation, but if I may add a comment? I am a new Catholic, and like one person above have a background in eastern meditation. I also live in a foreign country, so when people tell me there’s this or that at church next week I often don’t exactly know what’s going on – I just show up and see what happens.

    The first time I went to First Friday (Hora Santa) I was amazed. I was amazed by the beautiful Presence, by how deeply God’s loving presence grew in the silences between the prayers (I would love longer silences after communion during mass!) and also by the priest kneeling with us. It was deeply moving. I love the Adoration. When I can I go to other churches that have perpetual Adoration. God is with us everywhere, but there is something very special about time set aside with others to worship together.

    And I had to laugh at the comments about noisy other people – I think God chuckles a bit, too, with those who wriggle and fuss, who sing off key, who forget to turn off their phones. I smile and remind myself He loves all of us, not just the quiet or self-disciplined people.

    This is a lovely website. Thanks.

  • Richard

    A favorite scripture quotation to pray during Hour is this: “This we have as an anchor of the soul,n sure and firm, which reaches into the interior behind the veil,where Jesus has entered on our behalf as forerunner, becoming high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” Hebrews 6:19-20 Also, Saint Peter Julian Eymard who will be a saint 50 years in December 2012 was declared at his canonization to be “Apostle of the Eucharist” by Pope John XXIII in 1962. Any of the nine pocket-size and inexpensive Eymard Library volumes is so rich with insight into the Eucharistic mysteries that you need only read a few sentences or a paragraph before you will find yourself diving deep into the reflection on the Real Presence before you on the altar. (One of his briefest pieces of advice for those wishing to begin an holy hour is simply: “Adore Jesus through Jesus Himself!” My the Sacred Fire of the Eucharist consumes us. ” “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!” Luke 12:49 +Peace+

  • Connie

    The Lord does work in mysterious ways. Years ago after losing my husband, I enjoyed daily mass and my weekly hour of adoration. Today I am helping a friend by sitting in for her at adoration. It isn’t coincidence that this article caught my eye and helped ready me for my visit. Thank you, Ann.

  • Gina

    Ha ha – love this entry. The only thing I’d like to add is that the humeral veil (the shawl-like vestment the priest wears that has pockets for his hands when he holds the Monstrance) serves a key purpose that goes a little further than just reminding us of how holy the vessel is.

    During Benediction (and procession), when the priest takes the Monstrance into his hands and “blesses” the crowd, he covers his hands to show that it is Christ Himself who blesses us as He is fully present courtesy of the Host contained within the Monstrance.

    But your oven-mitt comment made me laugh. You’re so right! Ha ha ha.

    Beautiful entry. So glad to have read it. Blessings to you!


  • AdorationServants

    Regarding distractions in the chapel especially from other adorers, I find the advice of the Little Flower in her book Story of a Soul helpful. She tells how another nun kept making noises day after day after day such that she wanted to turn around and tell her to be quiet. Instead she offered up the distrcations and they became to her a joyful symphony. Eucharistic Adoration with Exposition is organized by the Church not so much for private devotions but rather for public. So while I myself love my weekly scheduled 1AM-3AM holy hours and the quiet time with the Lord, I also try to thnak the Lord whenever I am in the chapel each time I am distracted by another adorer because that reminds me that others are coming to the Lord.

  • AdorationServants

    Your “bad experience” can surely be offered up. Remember that we are all sinful humans even those trying to organize devotions. None of us are treated worse than our Lord was and when we are, we don’t often expect it. Dont let a “bad experience” fester and keep you from the Lord.

  • AdorationServants

    My thoughts on John’s fears:
    The EUCHARIST is the “Source and Summit” (CCC 1324 quoting Lumen gentium). The Eucharistic is GOD. I have never seen anyone who is devoted to Eucharistic Adoration neglect the Mass. They often go to daily Mass. Fearing adoration will take away from the Mass is scrupulous.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Patton/592034163 Andrew Patton

      Indeed, if you are not participating in Eucharistic Adoration at Mass (during the Consecration and/or the Ecce Agnus Dei), perhaps you shouldn’t receive Communion. Examine yourself to affirm that you really do believe in the Real Presence and demonstrate this faith by adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament before receiving Him, lest you commit sacrilege by eating and drinking without discerning the Body.

  • Ann Turner

    Good heavens, Anne, what an unfortunate experience! I would be tempted to say something to the pastor of this parish about not feeling welcome, so that they can expand this practice to include people who have not registered. Unfortunately, it’s experiences like this–and sometimes with Reconciliation–that turn people off of our church. And John, I agree with you about having Adoration be an action and not a thing. But I do find that the contemplative practice of Adoration fuels me to go out into the world and be more present to others, as the Mass is also meant to do. It rearranges my inner weirdness, making me want to be more Christ-like in my daily life.

  • Anne

    I had a bad experience two Holy Thursdays ago at a church near me (not my regular parish) that has a perpetual adoration chapel. At the end of the Holy Thursday liturgy, the Sacrament was taken to the chapel at the head of a procession that went outside and then back into the church, a beautiful sight. The line moved into the chapel from an outside door and then back out into the church gathering space. There were a few dozen chairs in the chapel, only a few of them occupied, and I decided to sit for a moment and say a Hail Mary. I literally got only halfway through it before one of the sitters took me by the elbow and escorted me out! Apparently the only people who were supposed to sit were the ones who had signed up previously to do so! I have not been back there since.

  • John

    As a teacher of 38 years in Catholic Schools I was surprised when the administration decided to do Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament every First Friday for the entire student body (7-12). My first reaction was that it would fail (I’m kinda a negative Nelly). But much to my surprise I learned that young people desire a respite from the hub-bub of daily life and like to sit quietly and reflect (sometimes sleep) about life and I hope the Eucharist. I saw a real value in Adoration of the Eucharist. The survey’s tell us that only a small majority of young people believe in the “real” presence of Christ in the Eucharist. If you question them you will find that most believe, “he’s in there somehow” even if they don’t know “transubstantiation.” So I am saying that I see a real value in Adoration!
    My problem is with the Mass. The Church tells us that the Mass is the, “source and summit” of the Church not Adoration and the Mass is the highest form of prayer. The Mass is also an action, a recreation, one which we are told to “Go forth, Go and announce the Gospel, Go in peace but all of them tell us to “go” to do something, hopefully spread the Good News. I also look at the Mass as an action something we are doing and in the doing causing it to happen again but in an non-bloody way. Poor old Martin Luther leveled this biting criticism to the 16th Century Mass by saying, “You’ve turned an action into a thing.” Vatican Council II corrected this. I have nothing against Adoration unless it takes away from the Mass and the Masses call to action. At any Mass I am with people who do’t agree with my politics, buy into my theology, share my sexual orientation or my understanding of the Bible. The only way I can become one with such a motley crew is to completely die to myself, and then I begin to experience the presence of the risen Jesus in each and all of them. What might our church be had we not turned the Eucharist into a thing. Don’t let Adoration turn the Eucharist into a thing but let it be the action Jesus gave us!

  • Ann Turner

    Donna, I went to the Annunciation Chapel in Florence, Ma., First Fridays, from 8:30-12:30. You can check it out on the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton website to make sure, or even call the Rectory there.

  • Deblette

    Our church has perpetual Adoration. My Holy Hour is the most precious time of the week for me. I am close to other churches with perpetual adoration so I can spend some time with Jesus any day, but the hour that is just Him and I is where I can just lay before Him, pour out my heart and be cradled in His peace and love. Spending time in Adoration will change a persons life and perpetual Adoration in churches will change the congregation. I would urge all churches to institute perpetual Adoration.

  • Donna B

    Which church did you choose to attend for this ? And what time ? ( your former classmate ).

  • Doug

    I also love Adoration. It’s such a peaceful time for me. We have a Christ Renews His Parish (CRHP) retreat four times a year (twice for men, twice for women) and have Adoration 24×7 during the retreat. I love having a middle-of-the night slot and having the chapel to myself with Gregorian Chant playing.

  • Jim Thomson

    I never understood it either, though a cradle Catholic. However as an older adult I became involved in yoga & meditation, and have come to love those practices. When my parish re-instituted Eucharistic Adoration, my exposure to those practices gave me the background to see the value and to have that experience of silence; and to understand how it works and how it enriches our spiritual lives.

  • Mike Teixeira

    What a great description of Adoration. “…time without time…”

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