Throughout my formative years in high school (preparatory seminary), all prayer began with The Adoramus — a traditional Franciscan prayer. To this very day, all prayer in Franciscan houses begins simply with the words: “We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You, because by Your Most Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world.” This well-known prayer in the Church is generally used to mark the Stations of the Cross as one moves from one to the next.
As we move into the Easter season and more fully into the season of the Church, as it were, the Prayer of Adoration becomes a fuller expression of our awareness of the presence and nearness of our Divine Lord. Meditation (mental prayer) before the Blessed Sacrament, either exposed in the monstrance or reposed in the tabernacle, is, for faithful Catholics, one of the signature means of direct contact with Jesus Himself. Quiet prayer centers our minds and hearts on the reality of the person of Jesus Christ alive in our midst. Meditation is not an easy means of prayer for many people. I remember, as a seminary spiritual director, how many seminarians would come to me wringing their hands in frustration, trying to “get a handle” on the process of making a Holy Hour or simply spending 15 minutes in such quiet prayer. In one sense, we all need to be reminded that we are creatures of our environment. So many of us believe that we have to “do” something to receive something. We often enter prayer with a sense of action, how we “have to pray,” or “talk to God.” This can become frustrating because, for many of us, we are convinced that God is distant and we don’t know what to say. That is our first mistake —
We don’t have to say anything! I offer for your consideration in this regard, two saints who are champions of “silent prayer”: St. Mary Magdalene and St. John Vianney. We begin with St. Mary Magdalene because she is probably better known to us due to her particular attraction to Jesus during His public life on earth and, even more especially, in His life after His resurrection from the dead. St. Mary Magdalene is commonly called the “Apostle to the Apostles.” This incredible title reminds us that it was she who first saw Jesus in the garden after He had risen from the dead. She is bold in seeking Jesus in His public ministry and even bolder seeking Him after His brutal murder and crucifixion. Presuming the Risen Jesus to be a gardener, she asks where He had taken the body of the Crucified Savior so that she may take it and reverently bury it. I am always stunned by that idea. She was going to take the body of Jesus by herself and carry this dead weight to some safe place. What a woman! Jesus rewards her true strength with the first vision of Himself risen and glorified and enjoins her to be the first missionary of this amazing news. Thus, St. Mary Magdalene no longer needs the physical presence of Jesus to know that He is with her — she has a new presence in her heart. She is filled with the risen presence of Jesus and thus she is filled with the Good News of her salvation and the salvation of all creation.
St. John Vianney, the patron saint of priests, was a parish priest in Ars, France. He was born in 1786 and died in 1859. There are so many heroic and wonderful stories about the Cure of Ars, but one that suits our purpose here comes from an observation the saintly priest made one day concerning one of his parishioners, who every day would go into the church, spend some time and leave again. One day, the saint questioned the man about what he did during his time of prayer. “Nothing,” he said, “I just look at Him and He just looks at me.” The saint knew the beauty of true friendship. No words were necessary between those whose hearts spoke fully to each other. Meditation before the Blessed Sacrament requires no words, although there are many wonderful prayers that have come to us in our heritage of faith that we may find suitable to initiate such meditation. Easter season is a fine time to enter into this magnificent form of prayer. The awareness of the living presence of Jesus in the Eucharist reminds us of His incredible desire to be with us. Moreover, it fills our hearts with the truth of His promise to take us with Him to be happy and complete forever in heaven! Alleluia!
By Bishop William Patrick Callahan