A childhood memory of my family gathered reciting nightly prayers emerges as I lock my car and hurry along the brightly lit walkway. I bend to enter the secret code into the keypad unlocking the door to the church. The Adoration Chapel is … cozy. I don’t feel the warmth of the room as much as I feel the warmth of the nearness of my mom speaking in a low voice while guiding my right hand to make the sign of the cross. We recite prayers that aren’t new to my 4-year-old ears, yet I struggle with the words. The love I feel in the moment floods in. Did it then? Or is it the memory that I love so much?
My parents must have been hoping to calm their four children into a quick sleep as well as instill the love of prayer. But my brother reaches to poke me in the ribs sending me into a giggle-fest that breaks the mood, gets us moved to separate sides of the bed and gently reminded to focus.
I carry those warm memories with me as I engage in this new-to-me weekly Adoration practice. It’s an opportunity to bring me closer to God, get me back to myself, shut out the world and spend much-needed respite in ‘the classroom of silence’ an expression borrowed from writer, Matthew Kelly.
Now is my chance to use this time to pray in a way that glorifies God in this chapel in His presence in the monstrance. It’s different than on my couch, at my kitchen table, in my bedroom, in my car, tending my flowers, or even at Mass.
I kneel to greet God. It feels awkward to bend both knees to the floor. Different from the curt genuflection before entering a pew prior to mass. I unpack my Bible, journal, silence my cell phone, peel off my jacket, kneel again, squeeze my eyes shut, and pause. As an empty nester, I’m often home alone while Greg works, and I relish that quiet. But this quiet wraps around me with an ear-ringing volume putting me on high alert.
I focus on the flickering candles, inhale deeply, exhale slowly.
Then a voice interferes with my prayers.
‘Hmm … Did you close the garage door?’
YES, I did.
‘Umm … you should have a cup of tea when you get home.’
It’ll be too late for tea when I get home.
Gosh … wonder if the grandbabies are sleeping?
Of course, it’s after 11 pm!
‘Is Greg, OK?’
I just left him 8 minutes ago!
‘Why would someone like you think you’re good enough to pray for an hour?’
My eyes pop open. What is going on?
“Please Lord, stop that evil voice who won’t let me concentrate or if it’s just me losing my mind then help me hear your voice,” I say aloud.
I turn my focus to the lovely statue of the Virgin Mother to the right of the alter; then recite the Hail Mary prayer in earnest.
‘You’re wasting your time. You could be home having that cup of tea!’
Shut up whoever you are! Get away from me! Then I invoke my guardian angel and St. Michael for protection.
I search for ways to concentrate. Forcing it is not working. Matthew Kelly’s advice echoes in my ear … ‘enter the classroom of silence – just sit, clear your mind, and listen for God’s voice.’ Yeah, right! It’s the mind-clearing part I can’t seem to get on with.
“I can DO this,” I say to the ceiling.
I pick up my phone and Google, ‘How to concentrate during prayer – Catholic.’
I scroll a bit and a simple practice that I sometimes loosely engage in grabs my attention. This simple practice with a not so simple Latin name – Lectio Divina or Divine Reading – lays out four steps to focus, internalize, and talk with God.
I remember my dad explaining it to me when I was in junior high. In my early teens, I challenged him to explain why prayer was important. I can’t believe he didn’t just smack me into the next decade, but I grew to realize that he loved prayer and prayed often. My dad relished an opportunity to educate. Whenever I was brave enough to ask, he gladly obliged.
This prayer process simplifies how to contemplate God’s word. It actively lets it wash through your mind to capture your imagination, help you to understand Bible passages, and expand one’s application of God’s word in your life.
It’s just the thing I need to calm my spinning thoughts and create space away from that voice in my head. As I read the details come flooding back to me.
Lectio Divina is four simple steps.
Lectio – just means to read. Pick a sentence or two – any sentence or two from the Gospels.
Meditatio – simple Latin translation on this one – meditate. Just think about it. Think about what you’ve read. Roll it around in your head.
Oratio – Literally means to pray. Talk to God about what you’ve read, what it means to you. There are no hard and fast answers here. Throw it out there and God will pick up the ball.
Contemplatio – just like it sounds – Contemplate. What do you want to remember about this scripture? Rest with it. Not a lot of pressure – just listen for God to guide you.
I search my Bible for a simple sentence to redirect my thoughts. I settle on Psalm 46:10. ‘Be still and know that I am God.’
As I follow the steps of Lectio Divina, I can focus and the crazy, interrupting voice in my head leaves me. I’m consumed with contemplation, wonderful thoughts, and a great conversation with God. He reveals to me that I don’t need to be productive in Adoration. I don’t need to accomplish anything. I need to let go of my Type A – get it done, attitude.
I just need to Be Still …
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.