What is a holy hour?
It’s a little quiet time of love, adoration, and intimate communing with Jesus.
Sometimes it means 60 minutes spent with Him in church, with incense, bells, hymns, some quiet time for prayer and meditation, maybe some preaching, maybe some communal vocal prayer, all culminating in Benediction wherein Jesus, held by His priest while exposed in a monstrance (a metal sunburst), looking like a little wafer of wheat bread, blesses His people, and is then finally reposed in the tabernacle. The thing to remember is: Eucharistic adoration is a brief moment in time and (because the Holy Eucharist is Jesus Really Present) also the Timeless Moment of Eternity wherein you pour out your heart in love to Him and He pours out His Heart in love to you.
But why worship this way – in church, and with the Blessed Sacrament exposed?
+ It helps keep me honest. When I make it a habit, a routine, to visit my Eucharistic Lord on a particular day, at a designated hour, this may tend to make it harder for me to be forgetful, negligent. Commitment and accountability make my love real.
+ It helps keep me focused. Actually being in church, kneeling in front of a monstrance displaying my God – these circumstances support me in my struggle against the distractions, daydreams, and even temptations, that always plague my prayer time.
+ It calls forth from my heart an act of faith. Staring at what looks like a bit of dry bread, I can only know that this Thing is my Lord by the eyes of faith. I can only get some appreciation of the Reality by trusting in Jesus’ promise (Mt 26:26-29).
+ My spending an hour with Jesus in His lowly little disguise – in church, on my own time – is a preventative move against laxity in worship, religious carelessness, even irreverence, to all of which, in my weakness and dullness, I am ever prone.
+ The witness of my worship (as long I am careful to resist pietistic showing off, posturing as “a good example”) may, in fact, be a good example, a blessing, to those who see me, including priests and religious who may be “too busy” to make a holy hour.
+ My holy hour strikes a blow against Americanism, the bias of us utilitarian American Catholics for busyness, activity, productivity, progress, and profit (all of which actually does go on in one still, silent holy hour – but spiritually, not materially).
+ The meditation and recollection that, hopefully, I learn to practice during my holy hours are a good preparation for contemplation, the powerful, transforming mystical prayer that I can only experience as God’s free gift, and only upon His initiation.
Over 300 years ago, Jesus appeared to Margaret Mary Alacoque, a little French nun, and told her He wanted her to spend an hour with Him in the Blessed Sacrament on Thursday night in order to make reparation for sins – for all sins, but especially for the sins of bishops, priests, and religious, and most especially for the outrages, sacrileges, and blasphemies committed against Him in the Holy Eucharist. Reparation for sins, your own and everybody else’s too, must be part of your holy hour. For all the evil, rebellion, rejection, coldness, and indifference that Jesus’ Loving Heart meets in reaching out to most of his brothers and sisters, you make it up to Him with all the love, comfort, tenderness, and obedience that you can muster during your intimate hour together.
Why an hour?
A few hours before He was tortured to death (for you, and on account of your sins), Jesus, in agony, asked you to stay awake and pray with Him (You – and I, and all of us – are weak, sleepy Peter, James, and John in the Garden of Gethsemane). You fell asleep. Three times he asked for help; three times He found you asleep. Hear Him: “Couldn’t you stay awake even just one hour with me? Stay awake and pray so that you don’t give in to temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak (Mt 26:40-41).”
Heaven is not just a wonderful, beautiful, happy place to hang out with God. Heaven is Union with God; it’s being One with Jesus, and it begins here on this little blue planet – that’s why we call receiving Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament Holy Communion. In order to get to Heaven, you must already have become Jesus’ intimate, reliable, loving, up-close-and-personal good friend in this world. That means the Holy Eucharist. And outside of eating His Living Flesh and drinking His Precious Blood, there is no better way to grow into such a real and alive friendship than to regularly spend some love-time with Him, in the Holy Eucharist, in the warmth and quiet of His Own House.
Members of the Confraternity of Our Lady of Mercy commit to try to spend one hour each week in Eucharistic Adoration. That time of adoration can be before the Holy Eucharist exposed in the monstrance, or before Our Lord hidden in the Tabernacle. We may do it as a complete hour, or broken into several shorter times of adoration during the course of the week.