Question: During a homily about doing battle against the devil, a priest said that the…
The hour that makes the day holy
There’s a story about Archbishop Fulton Sheen getting locked in a church in Chicago one evening and ultimately climbing out a window to get out. The pastor had forgotten Sheen had asked to go in to do his daily Holy Hour. “I asked permission from a pastor to go into his church to make a Holy Hour about seven o’clock one evening, for the church was locked,” he wrote in “A Treasure in Clay.” “He then forgot that he had let me in, and I was there for about two hours trying to find a way of escape. Finally I jumped out of a small window and landed in the coal bin. This frightened the housekeeper, who finally came to my aid.”
I remembered that funny story when I saw a recent Pew Research Center study on what Americans know about religion. It found that only 50% of Catholics in the U.S. understand how the Church teaches that the bread and wine become the body and blood of Jesus during the Mass. Even worse, 45% think they are merely symbols, and the other 4% aren’t sure.
Sheen gave three reasons for making a daily Holy Hour. He emphasized that it “is not a devotion; it is a sharing in the work of redemption.” Pointing to Scripture, Sheen saw the hour as “union with the cross to overcome the anti-love of sin.”
He explained that “Our Blessed Lord used the words ‘hour’ and ‘day’ in two totally different connotations in the Gospel of John. ‘Day’ belongs to God; the ‘hour’ belongs to evil. Seven times in the Gospel of John, the word ‘hour’ is used, and in each instance it refers to the demonic, and to the moments when Christ is no longer in the Father’s hands, but in the hands of men. In the Garden, Our Lord contrasted two ‘hours’ — one was the evil hour — ‘this is your hour’ — with which Judas could turn out the lights of the world. In contrast, Our Lord asked: ‘Could you not watch one hour with me?'”
Then, of course, there is the fact that “the only time Our Lord asked the apostles for anything was the night he went into his agony.” Can’t we hear him ask us, “Out of his anguished and lonely heart the sigh: ‘Could you not watch one hour with me?'” Sheen notes that he didn’t ask for an hour of activity, “but for an hour of companionship.”
And finally, “The third reason I keep up the Holy Hour is to grow more and more into his likeness.” Sheen quotes St. Paul: “We are transfigured into his likeness, from splendor to splendor.” If we spend time with Jesus, people just might see him when they see us.
The Pew study also found that only 55% of Catholics knew Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount. But what value would that fact be if our hearts were not on fire with the knowledge of his love? As my friend, Ed Mechmann, put it in a blog post about the news, “How can we love God if we barely know him?” How can we come to know God if we can’t see him right there before us in the Eucharist? How will we ever come to know the love he has for us? How will we show this to others if we don’t know this core reality of our faith?”
If you read this, go to the nearest tabernacle. If you have Eucharistic adoration opportunities near you, even better. If you’re in the know, don’t leave Jesus alone. Bring someone with you, and invite others to share in his presence. Recatechize. It doesn’t have to be as comic as the occasional Sheen story, but it should be as loving.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and editor-at-large of National Review.