Note: Adoration is a Eucharistic practice in the Roman Catholic, Anglo-Catholic and some Lutheran traditions, in which the Blessed Sacrament is adored by the faithful. Adoration is a sign of devotion to and worship of Jesus Christ, who is believed by Catholics to be present Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, under the appearance of the consecrated host, that is, sacramental bread. From a theological perspective, the adoration is a form of latria (supreme worship offered to God only), based on the tenet of the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. When the exposure and adoration of the Eucharist is constant, 24 hours a day, it is called Perpetual Adoration.
Dozing on my sofa under a cozy fleece blanket, Stella’s heavy Pitbull head resting on my thigh, the lilting alert on my phone urges me into action. I’ve been anticipating the notice for a few hours. I purposefully chose a light melody so it wouldn’t startle me. Who sets an alarm for 10:30 pm, anyway?
Tonight, is my first time attending Perpetual Adoration solo. I’ve participated in group Adoration at various times throughout my life mostly because it was a school requirement or holiday group practice. I’ve never actually chosen, by my free will to participate for a full hour, until now.
I toss the blanket aside heading to my bedroom to dress. “Can I wear pajama pants?” I ask Stella. ‘Seems very disrespectful’ she indicates with a wide yawn.
Donning several layers of appropriate clothing, I anticipate every possible temperature range to accommodate my newly menopausal hormone swings. I gather my supplies: my dog-eared Bible, my purple journal, a Post-It Note filled copy of Matthew Kelly’s Rediscovering Jesus, my earbuds, and a gel pen make up the stack. I’m not confident I can fill a full 60-minutes praying with Jesus.
I have more extra material loaded, bookmarked, tagged on my phone than I could cover in weeks of reading, listening or browsing. I check my Spotify account to be sure my spiritual playlist hasn’t mysteriously disappeared. ‘I must be insane’ I mutter toward Stella. She’s staring at me with a scowl – or that could just be her regular Pitbull face. ‘What are you doing at this hour?’ she conveys with droopy ears and sleepy eyes.
Picking up my stack, I kiss Greg as he naps in his recliner, pat Stella and go to my car. Can I do this? What if God thinks I’m ridiculous? I attended the informational meeting a few weeks ago, learned how to use the security keypad to enter the building, how to be reverent and respectful, how to complete Adorer duties. I say the secret numbers of the security passcode aloud as I punch the car’s ignition in the frigid garage.
The drive to the church takes literally two minutes. ‘I can walk to Adoration when the weather gets warmer,’ I say to the dashboard. Then, thinking twice I realize walking the five and a half blocks at 10:45 pm might be a little scary. Back home after midnight might be even scarier.
I park the car as close to the sidewalk leading to the entrance as possible. Why am I anxious? I played in this parking lot as a child. Dashed through it on my way home from school as a teenager. Sprinted home from a friend’s house located on the edge of the parking lot when I cut curfew too close. There are countless occasions visiting the backdoor of the rectory to chat with various priests, delivering Christmas presents, Easter goodies, assisting with tasks assigned by the school principal, standing with Mom and Dad waiting for Father Bolland to open the door for my first communion meeting. Conversing with Father Daukus when Greg and I picked up our signed marriage license. Stopping by to visit Father John Stringini when preparing for my children’s baptisms or helping Mom clean the house. Organizing events for the wildly exciting St. Patrick’s annual Jamboree a couple of decades ago. Counseling with Monsignor Dan Deutsch when my children were in elementary school. And so many other priests and deacons over the years. Numerous memories run through my mind, comforting me.
The walkway is brightly lit and every possible nook and cranny is illuminated to deter any late night creepers – animal or otherwise. The glare of the light guarantees someone or thing lurking can be easily spotted. A security camera peers from the edge of the wall. ‘At least they’ll see me being dragged off,’ I say aloud as I grin at the camera.
Bending at the waist, I punch the code in sequence. Listening for the sound of the door releasing, a buzz and a click prompt me into action. Diving toward the handle, I don’t know how long an interval I have to pull it open.
Safely inside the foyer, I help the door close behind me ensuring against an unlikely malfunction. My heart thumps as the warmth of the building wraps around me. I move down the brightly lit hall toward the beautiful new chapel dedicated to Saint John Paul II. Once at the chapel door I’m sweating through my t-shirt, four layers down.
Unwinding the scarf that has turned from snuggly to strangulating, I exhale as the air caresses the back of my neck.
I peer through the etched glass and see a fellow Adorer seated toward the front of the chapel. I dutifully sign my name on the register. Silently turning the knob, I notice a holy water font to my right. In one smooth motion, I try to quietly step inside the room, dip my finger lightly in the holy water, keep the door from shutting too loudly and balance my stack of reading material.
But what happens is I turn into Kramer from Seinfeld. Arms and legs flailing, the door shuts with an echoing thud, I put my hand a little too deeply into the holy water font splashing it, my books begin sliding in four different directions, I’m tripping over my scarf as my eyes unhurriedly adjust to the faint light. I lunge toward the closest row of seats clumsily dumping my wares on a chair before they scatter to the floor. My fellow Adorer turns to see the source of the ruckus, I sweetly smile at her.
The heat in the room is similar to a well stoked sauna. I kneel on both knees as a sign of respect, greeting and reverence for the place I am visiting. Jesus is looking me directly in the eye. I hope he’s laughing or at least smiling.
The zipper on my coat sounds as loud as a buzz saw in this holy place. I hold my breath, pull it fast pretending the clacking isn’t reverberating off the newly painted walls. I’m modestly stripping off layers of clothing. The other Adorer has her parka zipped to her neck, scarf on and calmly praying. She doesn’t appear to be sweating at all!
I kneel. ‘Please Lord forgive me. I apologize that you have to spend the next hour with me. I’ll do my best not to be annoying, disrupting or disturbing. So far so good, right? But you know me, Lord, I’m new at this and maybe it’ll be amusing to you. I sure hope so. Thank you for allowing me to be here.’
The room is lit with a spotlight on the monstrance, four candles on the alter two and the light of street lamp streaming through a bank of windows on the west facing wall. My companion Adorer rises to go as her hour is complete. We briefly chat and wish each other a good night. I hear the door quietly click behind her. My heart leaps into my throat. I’m alone with Jesus. Just the two of us. I’m here in a completely secure building outfitted with lights, security cameras and locked doors. Still, I’m anxious.
I examine a beautiful statue of the Virgin Mary to the left of the alter and a cardboard cutout of St. John Paul II to the right. His statute is arriving in a few weeks. I feel exposed. Retreating to my seat, it’s time to sit with Jesus fully present in the monstrance.
I chose to do this practice to make space in my life to be alone with Jesus. To listen for his voice. I do it in my home, but this is a special opportunity. I opted for the eleven o’clock hour to push me out of my comfort zone and offer my time to Christ. Day time hours are popular with many parishioners, but they don’t fit well with my schedule or my capacity to slow down, clear my head and just BE.
I hit my knees, praying aloud, “Jesus, be with me. Help me to listen, learn and pray with you.” Still uneasy, I recite my go-to prayer to calm me:
St. Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray. And do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, By the power of God, cast into hell Satan and all evil spirits who prowl throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.
“Jesus you know I’m horrible at this so please guide me. Help me to concentrate, listen for your voice.”
I sit back in my chair. Shut my eyes. Inhale deeply. Exhale slowly to quiet my breathing. I meditate in the silence, letting it wash over me. Triumphantly, I open my eyes after a while. I’ve prayed and have done a great job focusing on Jesus. In my conceit I know he’s happy I’m here. Time has really flown. I have a sense of accomplishment. Placing my cell phone into my purse I peek at the time … 11:13.