In this weekend’s Gospel, Jesus tells us to “Come away … and rest a while.” Our first thought may be, “That is what I do when I attend Mass.” That really is not the case. When we participate in the liturgy, we are working. We welcome, we sing, we process, we listen, we respond, we offer, we pray, we receive. The word liturgy comes from the Greek root words laos, the people, and ergas, a work. When we celebrate liturgy, we work for God.
This past year Bishop David Ricken offered each of us the opportunity to rest in the presence of Jesus. Bishop requested that each parish keep a monthly holy hour, with exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. While each parish has their own particular time for holy hour, there is still great unity among us, since each parish is making use of prayers and reflections that have been given to us by Bishop Ricken.
What might you expect if you attend a holy hour? It will begin with the Blessed Sacrament taken from repose in the tabernacle and placed into a monstrance. The monstrance is an elaborate vessel that provides a clear windowed area in which we can see the Blessed Sacrament. During the holy hour you will share in prayers, you will listen to readings and can expect a good deal of personal quiet time. Most likely there will be some singing and the holy hour will conclude with Benediction, which includes incensation of the Blessed Sacrament, a blessing over the people, and the recitation of the Divine Praises.
Perhaps the question most of us grapple with is “What will I do for a whole hour, in particular during those times when I am supposed to be quiet?” You can begin by choosing to kneel or be seated. Be aware that in a very particular and intimate way, you are in the presence of Jesus. Make use of some familiar prayers or page through the missalette and prayerfully read some of the hymns of adoration, like “O Sacrament Most Holy.” Go to some of your favorite personal prayers such as the rosary, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, or a litany. Make use of Lectio Divina (reading of the Scriptures with mediation and prayer) or use some of the time to read a spiritual book that you have brought along with you.
Bring before Jesus your gratitude for your family, your work, blessings in your life, special friends …. Lay the needs of the people before him, pray for our troubled world and those whose live in danger. Pray for those who are away from the church and the sacraments. Pray for the sick and lonely, the discouraged, our youth, the unborn, our country, its leaders. Pray for vocations to complete the work of Christ. Pray for the grace to know the will of God always in your own life.
At its most basic, the holy hour can be summed up in a simple story. A visitor attending exposition of the Blessed Sacrament noticed an old man whose gaze remained fixed on the monstrance for the entire hour. After the holy hour the visitor approached the old man and asked, “What were you doing that whole time?” The man replied, “I looked at Jesus and Jesus looked at me.”
If you are attending your parish holy hour, thank you for your prayerful unity with the people of our diocese. If you have yet to attend one, accept Bishop Ricken’s invitation to “Come away and rest.”
Zahorik is pastoral associate at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish, Oshkosh.