Saturday, July 23, 2005

The Holy Hour


Recently, I was in a Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, and decided to do a Eucharistic holy hour. Now, being of a somewhat forgetful nature (just ask fj), I forgot to bring my breviary and Bible with me, so I looked on their bookshelf to see if they had one or the other to at least do some spiritual readings, even if I couldn't do lauds. One book that I came across was Twenty Holy Hours, an out-of-print book by Mateo Crawley-Boevey. Having prayed one of those hours and given a quick glance at several of the others, I can say that it is a pretty good book. My one complaint was that it took me only 45 minutes to pray, but in its defense, the book is designed for a group prayer. Also, most of the holy hours are for First Friday devotion (exactly 12 out of the 20, in fact. Go ahead, ask me how I calculated that one. I dare you.), but I'd say that using it solely for a First Friday is more of a suggestion than a liturgical requirement here.

And now my oh-so-subtle segue from a book on holy hours to the holy hour in general.

Personally, when I do my holy hour, I like it to have a certain amount of structure. I've got a routine that I worked out, and I like it pretty well. That, incidentally, is probably one of the best arguments I've got against those who say that the early Christians just spontaneously had mass whenever and did whatever came to their hearts without any standardized liturgy: its a whole lot easier to worship and be focused on God when you aren't focused on what you should do next. Frequently I do it either before a tabernacle or a monstance with the Blessed Sacrament in it, but not always.

Quite a bit of what I do and how I do it during the holy hour is influenced by Bl. Fulton Sheen's The Priest is Not His Own, where he is talking about the priest and his spiritual life. When I start, it will almost always be with the LOTH. Even if I am doing it at a time outside of lauds or vespers time, such as the middle of the day, I'll use the hour appropriate to the time. Call me old fashioned, but I like to start out with prayer united to the Church.

After this, I may do some spiritual reading, typically either from the Bible or some of the non-Scriptural readings from the Office of Readings (usually 1-2) in the back of the breviary. Recently, I've also been reading from both the Summa and the Catechism on the virtues (right now, its courage, since I'll admit that I'm a bit nervous at the moment about leaving everything and everyone that I know behind to go to the novitiate). Fr. Pacwa, I know, will sometimes read prayerfully an encyclical by John Paul, particularly appropriate since he wrote much of them while in the Presence of the Lord. Others I know have read parts of Augustine's Confessions. Your basic rule of thumb for the reading is going to be:
a) make sure it is by a Catholic, preferably a saint. While Aristotle's Metaphysics and Nicomachean Ethics were huge influences on the writing of Aquinas, and are certainly good works of solid philosophy, I just can't see that providing spiritual nourishment, which is not always the same thing as intellectual satisfaction.
b) make sure it is something you can pray over. If you are in Adoration, make sure it doesn't lead your thoughts far from the Eucharist. On that note, don't read too much, or you will probably get concerned with reading, as opposed to praying. Brief and to the point are better. The whole purpose is to give you something to reflect upon prayerfully.

Next comes one of my favorite parts, the rosary. My personal preference when praying the mysteries is to use a Scriptural Rosary booklet. The one I have is a bit old, distributed by the Padre Pio Prayer Group, taking the Scriptural quotes from Douay-Rheims. Any translation will do, really, just make sure that if you do use a booklet, it has an imprimatur.

After all this, I finish it all off with a brief version of the Jesuit examination of conscience. Basically, there are five parts to it:
  1. Thanksgiving (after this, I typically say a 'Glory Be')
  2. Intentions (usually an Our Father and a Hail Mary after this, plus one Our Father for any special or novena intentions)
  3. Experience- how have you experienced God's love today
  4. Contrition- how have you responded inadequately to or rejected God's love (this, for the relativists reading right now, would be what theologians refer to as "sin", a real thing that people can actually do) An act of contrition would be an appropriate thing to end this part with.
  5. Hope- pray and focus on both how you will correct the sins you went over in "contrition", and ask God for a particular grace or spiritual gift-patience, humility, etc.

Obviously, you should feel free to do what suits you best. Sometimes in adoration the best thing is to just sit there for a bit and meditate or do some contemplative prayer, an excellent guide to which can be found towards the end of the CCC. Perhaps one of the biggest things though: don't worry if it has been more than an hour by the time you finish. Jesus isn't worried, so you shouldn't be either.

And one final note, since I could find nowhere else to mention this: just because you're not a priest, member of a religious order, or hoping to be either of those two, doesn't mean that you can't do a holy hour. Lay people should absolutely pray as often as their scheldule permits.

+Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam+

"And he cometh to his disciples, and findeth them asleep, and he saith to Peter: What? Could you not watch one hour with me?"
-Matthew 26:40


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