By Bishop Fulton Sheen.
Since this Sunday we celebrate the solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, it is also appropriate to talk about here our practice of Holy Hour before the Presence of the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. I am posting here, the meditation of the late Bishop Fulton Sheen, on the beauty of “Holy Hour” with the Lord. This would be in three parts, which would be posted today and for the next two days. The first part speaks about the Bishop’s resolution to keep the Holy Hour as one source of his spiritual energy to keep his priestly life meaningful and fruitful. The Second part tells about the purpose of Holy Hour. In the third part, the Bishop spoke about the good effects and the benefits that the Holy Hour had not only for Bishop Sheen’s ministry but also to other people.
Though the Bishop has long gone but his thoughts are still relevant today and even more helpful for us this time when this traditional Catholic practice of Holy Hour has slowly taken out of the life of many Catholic Parishes in the world.
Here is Bishop Fulton Sheen’s reflection on “Holy Hour”.
The Hour that makes my Day
On the day of my ordination, I made two resolutions:
I would offer the Holy Eucharist every Saturday in honor of the Blessed Mother to solicit her protection on my priesthood. The Epistle to the Hebrews bids the priest offer sacrifices not only for others, but also for himself, since his sins are greater because of the dignity of the office.
I resolved also to spend a continuous Holy Hour every day in the presence of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.
In the course of my priesthood I have kept both of these resolutions. The Holy Hour had its origin in a practice I developed a year before I was ordained. The big chapel in St. Paul’s Seminary would be locked at six o’clock; there were still private chapels available for private devotions and evening prayers. This particular evening during recreation, I walked up and down outside the closed major chapel for almost an hour. The thought struck me- why not make a Holy Hour of adoration in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament? The next day I began, and the practice is now well over sixty years old.
Briefly, here are some reasons why I have kept up this practice and why I have encouraged it in others:
First, the Holy Hour is not a devotion; it is a sharing in the work of redemption. Our Blessed Lord used the words “hour” and “day” in two totally different connotations in the Gospel of John. “Day” belongs to God; the “hour” belongs to evil. Seven times in the Gospel of John, the word “hour” is used, and in each instance it refers to the demonic, and to the moments when Christ is no longer in the Father’s Hands, but in the hands of men. In the Garden, Our Lord contrasted two “hours”-once was the evil hour “this is your hour”- with which Judas could turn out the lights of the world. In contrast, Our Lord asked: “Could you not watch one hour with Me?” In other words, He asked for an hour of reparation to combat the hour of evil; an hour of victimal union with the Cross to overcome the anti-love of sin.
Secondly, the only time Our Lord asked the Apostles for anything was the night He went into His agony. Then He did not ask all of them…perhaps because He knew He could not count on fidelity. But at least He expected three to be faithful to Him: Peter, James and John. As often in the history of the Church since that time, evil was awake, but the disciples were asleep. That is why there came out of His anguished and lonely heart the sigh: “Could you not watch one hour with me?” Not for an hour of activity did He plead, but for an hour of companionship.
The third reason I keep up the Holy Hour is to grow more and more into His likeness. As Paul puts it: “We are transfigured into His likeness, from splendour to splendour.” We become like that which we gaze upon. Looking into a sunset, the face takes on a golden glow. Looking at the Eucharistic Lord for an hour transforms the heart in a mysterious way as the face of Moses was transformed after his companionship with God on the mountain. Something happens to us similar to that which happened to the disciples at Emmaus. On Easter Sunday afternoon when the Lord met them, He asked why they were so gloomy. After spending some time in his presence, and hearing again the secret of spirituality= “The Son of Man must suffer to enter into His Glory”- their time with Him ended, and their “hearts were on fire.”
The Holy Hour. Is it difficult? Sometimes it seemed to be hard, it might mean having to forego a social engagement, or rise an hour earlier, but on the whole it has never been a burden, only a joy. I do not mean to say that all the Holy Hours have been edifying, as for example, the one in the Church of St. Roch in Paris. I entered the church about three o’clock in the afternoon, knowing that I had to catch a train for Lourdes two hours later. There are only about ten days a years in which I can sleep in the daytime; this was one. I knelt down and said a prayer of adoration, and then sat down to meditate and immediately went to sleep. I woke up exactly at the end of one hour. I said to the Good Lord: “Have I made a Holy Hour?” I thought His angel said, “Well, that the way the Apostles made their first Holy Hour in the Garden, but don’t do it again.”
One difficult Holy Hour I remember occurred when I took a train from Jerusalem to Cairo. The train left at four o’clock in the morning; that meant very early rising. On another occasion in Chicago, I asked permission from a pastor to go into his Church to make a Holy Hour about seven o’clock one evening, for the church was locked. He then forgot that he had let me in, and I was there for about two hours trying to find a way of escape. Finally I jumped out of a small window and landed in the coal bin. This frightened the housekeeper, who finally came to my aid.
At the beginning of my priesthood I would make the Holy Hour during the day or the evening. As the years mounted and I became busier, I made the Hour early in the morning, generally before Holy Mass. Priests, like everybody else, are divided into two classes: roosters and owls. Some work better in the morning, others at night. An Anglican bishop who was chided by a companion for his short night prayers explained: “I keep prayed up.”
[N.B. Tomorrow’s post will be on the Purpose of the Holy Hour, as Bishop Sheen wrote].