Greetings to dearest Sisters in Christ! Blessed Christmastide and New Year of the Lord 2022. An inescapable, generous shower of graces persists in this glorious season! “Be not afraid! Open wide the doors to Christ! … become the saints of the new millennium!” (St John Paul II).
Behavioral science intimates that many of our actions merit us the title: creatures of habit. A fascinating finding suggests a tendency for most of us to begin and end our very days in mirrored-fashion. For instance, some brew a cup of coffee in the morning, then sip tea or wine at night. Others commence the day with a vigorous run, then wind down with evening stretching exercises. My friend, Bridget, once shared that as a child every morning and night she knelt for prayers at the side of her bed. For decades she has kept up the practice. “Things would be off kilter if I missed either one”. For Bridget, her bedside prayers offered while kneeling serve as bookends, of sorts, to buttress her day.
While our Holy Hours as Seven Sisters are unique-to-each, over time many have asked for assistance on beginning the Hour. Given the echo aspect of human behavior, the response might answer how to end the Hour, as well. A simple trifecta of actions is proposed: blessing with holy water, acknowledging God’s presence, and seeking God’s guidance.
#1-Holy Water: Whether entering an Adoration Chapel, the Church itself to pray before the Tabernacle or, if homebound, preparing to offer the Hour at home, holy water is the perfect, far-reaching beginning! Signing oneself with the cross, powerful on its own, is enhanced with the use of holy water. This sacramental has long been promoted. Around 130 AD Pope Alexander in his Apostolic Constitutions wrote: “We bless salt and water for the people, that all who may be sprinkled therewith may be cleansed and sanctified.” The Church has encouraged its pious use to strengthen and guard us and our prayers. In his book, Holy Water, Fr Heinrich Theiler, informs that the first prayer uttered over the salt used in holy water commands that ‘every delusion and wickedness of the devil, and all unclean spirits… fly and depart.’ The prayer pronounced over the water speaks of the blessed water as a shield against the assaults of spiritual wickedness and a protection from temptations. St Teresa of Avila, Doctor of the Church (and Doctor of Prayer) shares this in her autobiography (Chapter 31): “From long experience I have learned that there is nothing like holy water to put devils to flight and prevent them from coming back again. They also flee from the cross, but return; so holy water must have great value. … I have myself felt an extraordinary consolation when I have used holy water. It is certain that I have felt a great joy and inner peace which I cannot describe, a joy with which my soul was quite refreshed. This is not merely an effect of the imagination, nor a rare occurrence. I have experienced it frequently and paid special attention to it. On these occasions I feel like one who, suffering intense thirst, takes a glass of water and is quite refreshed.” Holy water is an extraordinary gift through the Church. It requires a priest to bless it – a splendid connection for the Seven Sister – and ideal way to begin and end the Hour!
#2-Acknowledging God’s presence: Silence, sweet silence, is our initial gesture of recognition and respect that we are in the presence of the Almighty. Most enter the Adoration Chapel and assume a kneeling position with both knees and profound, unrushed bow. St Augustine stated that “one should adopt the bodily position best calculated to move the soul.” This may change over the arc of our lifetime, but regardless, the gesture(s) should be a conscious tribute that one is in the presence of God, of the Other. “I adore Thee, O Christ, and I praise Thee.” … “I love you with all of my heart, my God, my Lord.” … “O Sacrament most holy, O Sacrament divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment Thine.” Slow, deep breathing and closed eyes can help settle one’s body for this audience with the King. Donning a mantilla or veil during Adoration is a beautiful calling for some women. It has the potential to remind of one’s humility before God and revitalize one’s awe of the intimacy of the love of God through the Blessed Sacrament.
#3-Seeking God’s guidance: It behooves us to remember that these Holy Hours are God’s idea. Every week we intentionally respond to Him: “Can you not watch with Me one hour?” (Mark 14:37). Being and remaining open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit for the course of the Hour for God’s Will and Way will help focus and enliven the prayer efforts. Be assured as St Jeanne Jugan reminds: “God will help us. The work is His.” This sets the Hour as a rich time of cor ad cor loquitar (heart speaks to heart), anticipating divine guidance in prayer for the good of the priest/bishop for whom we appeal.
At the conclusion of the Hour a mirrored response can be applied in an attitude of gratitude. #1 – for God’s specific guidance in our prayers, #2 – for His Presence and nearness, and #3 – ending the Hour as begun, with a blessing using Holy Water. Appropriately, the acronym WOW could serve as a memory jog for this simple, power-packed trifecta:
Water (holy) – consecrating the beginning, fortifying the finish
Our Lord – acknowledging His Presence
Will/Way – seeking/following Our Lord’s Will and Way for the Holy Hour
St Athanasius said of St Anthony of the Desert (Feast Day: Jan 17) “…he always looked upon himself as a beginner, as if every day were the first in which he was serving God, and as if in the past he had done nothing good and was but just setting foot in the way of the Lord, taking the first steps on the road to Heaven.” What a humble, refreshing way to consider sure bookends of our Holy Hours!
United in prayer and mission…that our prayers may find the heart of every bishop and priest…… eternal gratitude continues as you each remember to offer a wee Hail Mary for me every day…. “One Ave Maria makes hell tremble” (St John Vianney). Pray that I will not ‘spoil the beautiful work that God has entrusted…’ (St Teresa of Calcutta) … your kind emails and notes and phone calls and generous support always arrive to my heart door at the right moment! Your financial sacrifices are for 100% furtherance of Apostolate. THANK YOU! The letters of testimony are so beautiful and edifying! What glory is given to God through your writing! Eternal gratitude is mine for YOU! Be assured of my continued daily prayers for you at the altar.