By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published October 10, 2013
I was thrilled when Pope Francis talked briefly about his prayer life in a recent interview. In addition to saying a daily rosary, celebrating Mass and reading the breviary, he spends an hour each evening in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Frankly, I was overjoyed when the pope admitted that he sometimes gets distracted during adoration—and at times may even fall asleep! His words got me thinking about the excuses I’ve used to avoid adoration, which may ring true for you as well:
1. It’s so hard to sit there for an entire hour. There’s no denying that it can be tough sitting there, but there’s nothing keeping you in the chapel for an hour—unless you’ve signed up as an official guardian with a time commitment. The rest of us can start small with, say, 15 minutes, and then gradually work up to more time. You may never get to the point of spending an hour, but that’s OK. It is not a marathon event. And even a few moments spent in the Lord’s presence can make an enormous difference in your life.
2. It’s boring. Many people view the prospect of doing nothing as mind-numbingly boring. But there’s no law saying you can’t actually do something while you’re in the chapel. This doesn’t mean checking Facebook on your phone, but it’s perfectly permissible to read a book or write quietly in a journal. A priest once told me that during adoration, we are like children sitting at the feet of a loving father. And why would our father object to his children reading a book?
3. My stomach will growl and that can be embarrassing. I don’t have an easy solution for this one, although it does help to master the art of coughing whenever your digestive system decides to pitch in with unexpected comments. Rest assured you won’t be the first person to experience this particular glitch.
4. The other people drive me nuts. True, sometimes there may be someone who fidgets or sniffs or coughs (see #3) or generally annoys you. I remember years ago being in a small chapel praying with the Missionaries of Charity, and there was a little boy in corduroy pants wandering around. His pants kept making loud swishing sounds. Afterward, the mother was so apologetic, but the sister just smiled and said, “Jesus loves the little children.” I figure that he loves the adults too, even those of us who fidget.
5. My mind wanders. Well, welcome to my world! In the chapel I sometimes find myself plotting my next mystery and figuring out which fictional character to kill off. Then I realize these are probably not the most pious thoughts to have before the altar, so I rein in my mind. And this works for about five minutes until it is off and running again, fantasizing about what flavor of ice cream to get that afternoon. Here’s the thing about minds: They like to run around. They always have and always will. But if Pope Francis admits to being distracted at times, I guess we are in good company.
6. I get sleepy. This too is part of being human, and I doubt if the Lord will mind if we nod off now and again. Just try not to snore.
7. It feels lonely. Some people go absolutely bananas in a room that is completely silent—and I admit it can be disconcerting being stuck with your own thoughts as company. But it helps to think about adoration as a process of healing. At first you might want to run screaming from the room—to escape your own endless loop of mental babble—but over time the thoughts do slow down. And you will come to realize what it’s taken me years to see. Even if you are the only person in the chapel, you are not really alone. You are with Jesus Christ, the one called the light of the world, and his love beams forth from the altar as brilliantly as the sun.