Two young Pentecostal men from a small Siberian village some distance from Magadan needed a place to stay as they went in search of work. To help them out I invited them to stay with me in the church for a few days. I also invited them to pray with me before the Blessed Sacrament in the evening for a Holy Hour.

After the first holy hour one of the young men had a shocked expression on his faced when he asked ‘What was that?’

I told him we had been praying before the Lord Jesus Christ in His sacramental form in the Holy Eucharist. To which the earnest young man responded by telling me that he had participated in many worship services but this first experience of Eucharistic Adoration was by far the deepest and the strongest he had ever felt the Lord.

Now for the past 20 years and more I have been making a morning and evening Holy Hour in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. During these pray times I experience a deep personal intimacy with Jesus. This of course is not to say that sometimes my prayer-time is dry and empty of feeling. Nevertheless I persevere in worshipping Him and give Him my best moments at the beginning and my best moments at the end of every day. Through this practice Jesus then is the centre of my every day. He is the centre of my life.

As with the case of my young Pentecostal friends, I often invite people who want to deepen their faith to simply spend an hour with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Its effects are powerful. Indeed I know of many priests and a number of bishops who have come to realise that the perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is the most powerful renewal tool they have in their parishes and dioceses. St. Pope John Paul understood this and called for it as indeed did Blessed Mother Teresa.

Obviously to pray before the Blessed Sacrament presupposes that one believes that Jesus is really present in the Holy Eucharist. However as was the case with my two young Pentecostal friends it sometimes happens that one’s non-Catholic belief in Christ can become more fully alive when one comes to meet Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

The late Fr. Benedict Groeshel used to tell the story that as a young Franciscan noviciate, he entered the dark monastery chapel in the middle of the night, having decided he should pray since he couldn’t sleep. As he knelt before the altar he felt that someone else was in the room. A little frightened, the young Benedict turned on the light and at once his eyes focused on an older priest, his abbot, praying in ecstasy before the Blessed Sacrament. He watched his superior for a few moments and then, embarrassed, he turned off the light and left.

Father Benedict says in those few moments, ‘he saw the presence of Christ reflected in the face of a holy man’ and he never forgot it throughout his long life.

Virtually every time he spoke Archbishop Fulton Sheen encouraged the faithful to make a holy hour with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Once Archbishop Sheen was asked what inspired him to adopt the practice of make a holy hour. Was it a Pope? Some Priest? or a Saint? It was a Saint he said, a little unrecognised Chinese girl of eleven years of age.

He then explained that when the Communists took over China, they imprisoned a priest in his own rectory near the Church. After they locked him up in his own house, the priest was horrified to look out the window and see the Communists proceed into the Church, where they went into the sanctuary and broke into the tabernacle. In an act of hateful desecration, they took the ciborium and threw it on the floor with all of the Sacred Hosts spilling out. The priest knew exactly how many Hosts were in the ciborium: thirty-two.

When the Communists left, they either didn’t notice or didn’t pay any attention to a small girl praying in the back of the Church. But she saw everything and so that night the little girl came back. Slipping past the guard at the priest’s house, she went inside the Church. There she made a Holy Hour of prayer, an act of love to make up for the act of hatred.

After her Holy Hour she went into the sanctuary, knelt down, bent over and with her tongue received Jesus in Holy Communion, since at that time it was not permissible for laymen to touch the Sacred Host with their hands. Thereafter each night the little girl continued to come back to make her holy hour and receive Jesus in Holy Communion on her tongue.

On the thirty-second night, after she had consumed the last of the thirty-two hosts, she accidentally made a noise and woke the guard who was sleeping. He ran after her, caught her, and beat her to death with the butt of his rifle. This act of heroic martyrdom was witnessed by the priest as he watched grief-stricken from his bedroom window.

Archbishop Sheen was so inspired by the story that he promised God he would make a holy hour of prayer before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament every day for the rest of his life.

Let us never underestimate the power of prayer and value of Eucharistic Adoration.

 

Fr. Michael Shields, ACN Evangelist-at-large, Siberia


This article can be found in Mirror 0715.