“‘God Dwells in the Praises of His People’ (Ps 22:3): Our Praise and Worship Holy Hour”
by Cristina Genung
Every month on a weeknight evening, we gather as women of St. Gertrude parish, along with guests from around Cincinnati, to adore Christ in the Blessed Sacrament in our school chapel, a time in prayer together as daughters of the King, in an intimate space with he who so longs to be with us in this intimate way. The first time I can remember experiencing Eucharistic adoration, although it probably wasn’t my first time, was the summer after I graduated from high school. My mother signed my sisters and me up to help organize an event. She couldn’t really tell us what it was. It turned out to be the first Youth 2000 retreat in the United States, at the University of Dallas campus. We worked all week to prepare for the weekend retreat that would be led by the Franciscans of the Renewal from the Bronx, New York and would be attended by young people from all over the country. My life changed that weekend. I experienced the meat of our Catholic faith in a very concentrated and powerful way that weekend through Masses, rosaries, Reconciliation, talks about Mary and the Eucharist and Confession, with the incredible experience of adorating Christ in the monstrance atop a “burning bush” in the center of the retreat space during all the prayer times. That weekend set the stage for the rest of my life as a Christian. Having grown up as part of a charismatic group, I had experienced heartfelt prayer and worship all my life, but never within the context of Adoration (that I could remember) and together with so many of the treasures of the Catholic faith. I saw Jesus in the Eucharist for the first time with the eyes of my heart and began to fall in love. I would never go back to my old way of praying. I wanted more. More of him. And I knew this was how he wanted me to experience his love.
When we moved to Cincinnati, my friend of many years Elizabeth lived here and wanted to revive womens’ praise and worship together at our parish. I felt that God was calling me to share what he had taught me about worship. I knew that I wanted to give those who came to pray with us, some who perhaps had never experienced adoration of the Blessed Sacrament before, an experience of praying before the Lord both by singing worship music that helps us to open our hearts in a way we’re not normally apt to do and express to him all that is in our hearts, just as the authors of the Psalms did, our love, our longing, our praise and our need, but that we would also utilize the incredible wealth of prayers of the Saints of the Church and enter into the rhythm and liturgical life of the Church through the Liturgy of the Hours. This has proved to be a recipe for truly beautiful and powerful holy hours. As I always say, we don’t need to reinvent the wheel, the Church gives us everything we need to live the life of faith and to deepen our love of Christ. Her prayers are so beautiful!
While it is heartbreaking that we are unable to physically go to Mass or meet in person for our monthly Women’s Holy Hour, we need prayer just as much if not more during this time and joining together in prayer is especially helpful as we seek to live the life of faith under new circumstances. Thanks to technology which allows us to “meet” online, we were able to do just this on Thursday evening, which is when we would have normally met in our chapel. We began by invoking the Holy Spirit…Come Holy Spirit and fill the hearts of your faithful….our music leader Laura led us in songs of worship. In God’s loving Providence, Father Ignatius, who is quarantined alone at the Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Center in order to continue to visit the sick and has access to a Eucharist chapel exposed Christ in the monstrance so that we could gaze upon him via video while we prayed. Friends and family joined us from different parts of the country, as well as many of our usual attendees from St Gertrude. We were able to make our petitions heard to the group and join in praying for them, for the world, for the sick, for our families, for our Church. Our hearts were joined in love for one another and in loving trust in God who has all that we need and so wants to provide. And Father Ignatius, being in the presence of the Eucharist, was able, in his priestly offering, to unite all our prayers and worship to our Eucharistic Lord, simultaneous to our pouring out our hearts in song and prayer to the Lord. As Father said afterwards, “I felt we were all connected while being brought up the mountain into the cloud of God’s self-manifestation.” After all, Jesus himself is what we need most.
I have felt particularly thankful for the opportunities this strange and in many ways difficult time offers us. We can show our Lord that we so desire to be with him, that this virus and this quarantine can’t stop us. We will pray in our homes, in solitude and with our families, asking Mother Mary to intercede for us and meditating on the life of her son through the mysteries of the Rosary. We will read his Word, living and eternal, and relevant to us in every age and leg of this journey. We will gather together in the ways that we are able, to adore and worship him, to lift each other and our needs to him. We will pray the Mass in communion with priests all over the world. We will learn to live in more continual contemplation of Christ. We will do all of this because we need him and because we are grateful for our family, the universal Church, his Body, and we know we are not alone. We will not despair, we will live in hope.
As I watched the Holy Father give us his blessing from St Peter’s Square and entered into that beautiful time of prayer with the faithful all over the world, God brought to my mind a project I had been working on before the virus hit and everything began to come to a halt. And it occurred to me that although we make efforts every Lent to retreat into the desert of this time of year in the liturgical life of the Church, it can be very challenging to do so with the normal busyness of life. There’s always so much to do that takes us here and there and everywhere. But for many of us, most of the things that kept us from stillness have been put on hold. We have a chance to enter into Lent in a way perhaps we never have. We have an opportunity to dive more deeply into the heart of Christ, to let him shelter us from the worries of the temporal world and let him love us as never before. And by doing so, there is no doubt that we will be changed. He never leaves us unaffected. The world struggles to see beyond the sickness and death. We who know Christ see with the eyes of faith. Eyes which continue to be freed from the scales of sin to witness the hand of God that moves over humanity in remarkable ways. We are able to see, in our limited way, how he is moving in our own lives, in our own hearts, how he is transforming us. And although we may only be able to catch a glimpse of how he is changing us, still, we know that he is. So when we return to the projects we had begun before this pause, we will bring more of him to all the work his has called us to. We will have more of him to bring to a broken world. We can more lovingly be his hands and feet, salt and light. This is the truth of what is possible when and if we allow the movement of Grace to flow freely in our lives. It’s like a river and we can sit on the shore or we can jump in with both feet and let it rush us to his heart.
We invite you to join us, men, women and children, to pray with us for our next online Holy Hour on Easter Monday, April 13th at 8pm-9pm.
Join the Holy Hour HERE.