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The Holy Hour

(Biography: Father Gerald Fitzgerald)

by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

Father Gerald had a keen awareness, bordering on mystical experience, of Christ's abiding presence in the Holy Eucharist. When he drafted the Rule of Life for the Paracletes, he directed that they spend, "A personal Holy Hour daily, spent whenever this is possible in a chapel where Our Blessed Lord is present eucharistically. This is your Holy Hour given with Mary to Jesus." (Paraclete Customs, p. 10).

In his conferences to priests, whether his own Paracletes or others, he returned to the same directive: spend an hour a day before the Blessed Sacrament, besides the Mass and Divine Office. His praise of this practice and the promises he assured those who followed it, were lavish, almost extreme:

  • A priest is to have an intense personal love of Our Lord. "Nowhere will that come to you, dear Fathers, so swiftly as in your quiet hours of adoration." (D-146).

  • A priest wants numerous graces from God. "Give God that hour and, if one places one's soul in the spirit of faith, of profound faith, in the presence of one's God, you will be surprised, pleasantly surprised, happily inundated by the graces your soul most needs." (D-146).

  • A priest is looking for support in his spiritual life. "If we ourselves can be faithful to a holy hour of prayer, especially a holy hour in the Eucharistic sunshine beneath the face of Christ in the golden Monstrance, and beneath His hidden sorrowful countenance, hidden beneath the veils of the tabernacle, we shall have a perpetual fervor . . . If you are devoted to the Blessed Sacrament, you will never be long tried by dryness or the typical afflictions of spirit." (D-151).

  • A zealous priest must give up many natural pleasures and satisfactions. He therefore looks for supernatural compensation. "In your holy hour you will find the source of this joy. Here are the fountains of the Savior in which we must come to bathe our tired and parched souls and refresh our thirsting hearts." (D-152).

Recommended Method

If the holy hour is so important, it is well to know how to make it, at least to have some framework within which to pray before the Blessed Sacrament.

What Father Gerald recommends is only a suggestion. He recognizes that "as a soul advances in the spiritual life, all formal framework becomes less important." Still, it is useful for a priest to have some method available, for himself and for others whom he urges to under take this basic Eucharistic devotion.

One method is based on the four word aspiration and prayer, Adoro Te Rex Gloriae, I adore Thee, King of Glory. The idea is to divide one's holy hour into four quarters: "You spend the first in adoration; you spend the second in thanks; you spend the third quarter in reparation; and finally you spend the last quarter in giving something to God." (D-152).

Adoration. Every prayerful posture of the soul before God should begin with adoration. In fact every prayer, no matter what other form it may take, is basically a form of adoration.

The soul abases itself before the Divine Majesty and repeats quietly either verbally or in its own depths that offering: ‘Adoro Te – I like the repetition: Adoro Te – adoro Te -- devote. I adore You – I adore You – I adore You – with devotion. My God.’ Now if a man has any depths of intellectual concept he does not need to get beyond that word God. My God! Thou Who hast brought me out of nothingness. (D-152-153).

All around us, in the world of nature, are countless reasons for adoration. Or better, all around us the universe of space and time is adoring its Maker.

We see the majesty of the mountains round about us: we have our ear gradually attuned to the harmonies and symphonies that are going around – even down into the insect world. There is the whole voice of nature and it is a harmonious voice: little robins breaking their hearts with joy in the morning and saying thanks to God in the evening when they sing their vespers and compline. The majestic beauty of the moon as it moves – a symbol of the Mother of God, taking its light as Mary takes all from God, taking all its light from the sun – Mary takes her glory from the Son of God – and casting it into the dark; the beauty of the stars set as so many candles upon the altars of the universe. (D-153).

So it is. "All except God's rational creatures, do adore, according to their nature, even the stars singing in their orbits as they obey with exactitude the law of their Creator." Sublime thought, but also terrifying, that "All but men and angels, all but fallen men and fallen angels obey the rule of their Creator, the raison d'etre of their being."

This brings us back to the first purpose of the holy hour, to adore the Divine Majesty. Why should adoration before the Blessed Sacrament be specially commended and, for Father Gerald, be commanded to God's priests? The reason is not far to seek. It is hidden in the mystery of the Incarnation.

Father tells the priest that, by the power of his ordination, he brings down on earth today the same fullness of the Godhead corporally that came down to Palestine at the dawn of Christianity. This Godhead is therefore present near him, as near as was the Savior to His earthly contemporaries when they heard Him say, "I and the Father are one," or as was Thomas when he bowed down in adoration before the Risen Savior and acknowledged Him as "My Lord and my God."

We realize that this great infinite majesty of God has been gathered up and placed in the womb of a Virgin maiden and then by the beautiful, mystical extension of her virginity in fruitfulness of the virgin priest of the Catholic Church and wombed in the golden tabernacle with the very same purpose that God the Creator without whom was made nothing that was made, from the bosom of His Father to the bosom of Mary and now to the bosom of the Church where we by our submission to the discipline of the Church have been privileged to bring forth in the fruitfulness that makes us even more than Joseph fruitful to God the Father in the bringing of His Son into the world: Et Verbum caro factum est et habitavit in nobis – and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. (D-154).

Recognizing who is present on the altar, the priest responds accordingly, and prays, "I adore Thee."

Petition. If adoration is the first attitude of a believing soul in the presence of the Word Incarnate, petition is the logical second. As a person realizes whom he is addressing, that it is the Lord of the Universe, here in human form; and he pauses to reflect on his own great misery, almost without reflection he will ask the Savior to give him what he needs. Where to begin? Begin by asking Jesus, Who is God, for His love.

What is the most precious thing that a man can have? To love Jesus. Without any doubt, without any qualification. To love God is God's greatest gift. As a matter of fact, the man who truly loves God with the proper motive, loves God for Himself, already possesses God and is already sure of heaven. For to love God is heaven – it is to possess heaven by anticipation. And not to love God is the commencement of hell. That is why there is so much unhappiness in the world.
So ask above all for the grace to love God and that will please Our Lord very much. It surprises Him for so many people to come to Him and ask Him so many things. Like the father in a family or a mother – the little ones come in during the day: Mother can I have a cookie – Mother, can I do this, Mother, can I do that? But suppose one little precocious child, very sweet and very thoughtful, didn't ask anything and the mother or dad said: All the others have asked for something, what do you want? And the little one said: Daddy, I just want to love you – I don't want anything except your love. Where is the father that would not catch up the little one and hold it tight to his heart? Where is the mother who would not be touched to the depth of her being by her little son or daughter who wanted nothing but to be loved?
This is the better gift, this is the gift that harmonizes with the philosophy and spiritual program of St. Theresa: she was avid and she was asking for the better grace, and the supreme grace is caritas – to love God. "In the bosom of the Church my Mother," she said, "I will be love." That is what she aspired to. (D-155, 156).

Passing beyond the petition to love God, who is in the Eucharist as man out of love, priests are encouraged to pray for other priests, especially for those who are spiritually sick.

Father Gerald was always making references to the priest-guests at Via Coeli. He knew how desperately they needed the Eucharistic prayer of their brothers in the priesthood.

It just happens today that we had perhaps a record – the telephone rang more than five times – we have five priests about to come to Via Coeli – and what a sadness, for out of five priests, four of them are coming other than the first time. They are returning defeated, wounded, and we must set to work again. So we need the grace not to be discouraged; we need the grace to go on and on and on; we need the grace to whisper to Our Lord: "Lord, You never were discouraged even though You knew that even up to the Last Supper, Your chosen disciples whom You trained Yourself would still be disputing who was going to be first in the Kingdom." They would be so slow to understand even in the Resurrection. Does not the dullness of the hearts of His Apostles call forth a cry from the Heart of Jesus? Does He not say: Slow of heart – ought not Christ to have suffered and so enter into His glory?
Or as He upbraided them when He came through the barred doors in His glorified Body, on Easter Sunday and He rebuked them for their tardiness to believe. So we must never be discouraged by human nature. And the only way not to be discouraged by human nature is to look with a very fixed look towards the Divine Master. Remember all the times that He has forgiven us – that He has pardoned us individually and out of the greatness of His patience with us, learn to be patient with these men of God who failed God over and over and over again.
Is it not true that only by great patience that Jesus has conquered in our individual lives? And if we then – if Christ has triumphed in our souls by patience, shall we find a better way to let Christ triumph for us in the souls of others? Then by patience upon patience upon patience – even when it is necessary for us to dismiss someone, let it not be because of our impatience, but because it has become evident that patience towards an individual must be sacrificed for the common advantage of the Community as a whole. Ask for priests who are dying obdurate and are refusing the sacraments, so that they may at the last moment capitulate to God's grace and be saved. (D-156, 157).

But the prayer should be not only for priests. "Ask for your brothers and sisters in the world, ask for non-Catholics the grace of conversion, ask for dying sinners the grace that they make a little act of faith, perfect charity in their hearts." Then on a personal note, "Pray for the next one of your dear ones to die. Then when the telegram comes saying that someone has died suddenly, what a consolation. You don't know who, but you leave it in the hands of God."

Reparation. The next stage in the holy hour, which may actually pervade the whole sixty minutes, is the practice of reparation.

Preoccupied as he was with the moral failures of priests, Father Gerald specially urged priests (and all the faithful) to offer their prayers and trials for priests.

What reparation (is needed) for the sins of priests. O how precious to Christ is a priest who comes to Him and offers with his bare soul to wipe the terrible spittle and filth that unworthy priests cast each day upon Our Lord. It is true that the physical sufferings of Our Lord are at an end: but the source of those physical and mental anguishes that He bore in the Passion are today and tomorrow and all the tomorrows till the end of time. And it is effectively true that if I make reparation today, Jesus will see that reparation together with Veronica's reparation as He went the Way of the Cross. I went with the angel of consolation to Gethsemane – I went with Simon of Cyrene and lifted the cross from His aching shoulder – I was in the consolation that His Mother spoke to Him as He passed by – I was in the eyes of John when John lifted his lily face as a chalice to meet the eyes of Divine Love.
Learn the art of reparation and then the very little things that bother you, the little trivia of human limitations around us, the little contradictions and disappointments, can all be gathered up and offered in reparation – they become the myrrh of life. (D-158)

This art of reparation is mainly the practice of resignation. We resign ourselves to the trials and difficulties God sends us, and thereby expiate for the offenses committed against Him. Prayer before the Blessed Sacrament serves the purpose of motivating our wills and prayerfully uniting ourselves with Christ in the Eucharist, whose very presence on earth is a form of reparation.

Love. The final disposition of heart with which to keep the holy hour is affective charity.

In Father Gerald's vocabulary, gratitude and love are almost the same. We love God because He has so loved us. We thank Him for His goodness to us by our "goodness" to Him, that is by giving Him our hearts.

Speaking to priests bound to a life of celibacy, the exhortations to the love of Christ in the Holy Eucharist take on a special significance. "When you give your love to God you give Him that for which He created your heart: the reason He refused to give that heart up to the daughters of men." As a priest prays before the tabernacle, he is exercising his liberty in a way that no irrational creature can.

It is true the stars give their light and glory, but they cannot do otherwise. The birds sing their songs, but they cannot do otherwise; the flowers cannot help but be beautiful; the orchards cannot but be fruitful according to a fixed law. But you and I, dear Fathers, we can voluntarily, willingly give something to God. And what can a man give to God that He does not already possess? We can give Him our love. (?-???).

This is consistent with the Church's traditional understanding of the four ends of the Mass: adoration, petition, reparation and grateful love. Worship of the Holy Eucharist reserved on the altar should take on the same four ends. As a priest gets into the habit of making his daily holy hour, his daily Mass will take on a deeper meaning. It will also gain for him, other priests, and the faithful the graces that the Redeemer intends to confer through the sacrifice-sacrament of the Mass.

Handmaids of the Precious Blood
Cor Jesu Monastery
P.O. Box 90
Jemez Springs, NM 87025

Copyright © 1998 by Inter Mirifica

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