We don't need an "altar of repose" each Thursday to answer Christ's plea. Jesus told St. Margaret Mary: In Gethsemane I suffered inwardly more than in the rest of my passion because I was totally alone ...
Holy Thursday is the magnificent Feast of the Institution of the Eucharist. It is also the Feast of Jesus of Gethsemane and the night of the Agony in the Garden. That is why after Holy Thursday Mass with its commemoration of the Washing of the Feet, the priest often brings the Eucharist to an Altar of Repose, to replicate Gethsemane. There, the faithful can spend some time “watching and praying” with Jesus as an answer to His call, “Could you not watch one hour with me?”
This call has beautifully haunted my entire life, from childhood. From those first nights, awake with one of the treasured gifts of my First Holy Communion, my Children’s Catholic Illustrated Bible, I would study the picture of Jesus, prostrated in the Garden of Gethsemane, as His apostles slept. This seemed a very good reason to keep my light on, long after I should have turned it off. Peter, James, and John were snoozing. I want to stay awake with you, Jesus, I’d think. My dear Lord had large drops of bloody sweat falling to the ground. He was in agony … I wanted to be there. And you know what? I still do.
There is a name for what I was drawn to at that tender age. It’s called the at-home Holy Hour.
Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, the famous saint of the Sacred Heart devotionwas requested by Our Lord in the 17th century to remember Gethsemane in a special way on Thursday nights. He said, “Here (in Gethsemane) I suffered inwardly more than in the rest of my passion because I was totally alone, abandoned by heaven and earth, burdened with the sins of mankind … In order for you to be united with me, in the humble prayer that I presented to my Father in the midst of all that anguish, you will arise between eleven o’clock and midnight … for one hour with me.”
Father Mateo Crawley-Boevey (1875-1960), more than 200 years after St. Margaret Mary, began promoting her teachings on the at-home Holy Hour. He referred to this as the “Sacred Heart Night Adoration Holy Hour in the home.” He called it, “the most beautiful flower of his work.” People devoted to night adoration knew, in Fr. Mateo’s time, that you could adore Christ at church at the crown jewel of all adorations: Eucharistic Adoration… but when you couldn’t get to church, you could do something really beautiful for Christ in your domestic church: the at-home Holy Hour.
So, yes … once upon a time, there was a devotion in the Church called Nocturnal Adoration in the Home, also known as the Catholic Holy Hour at Home. It was practiced by many faithful Catholics who wanted to respond to the sorrow of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane by answering Our Lord’s call to “watch and pray” for one hour with Him: to stay awake.
And though the home Holy Hour is a devotion that was once cherished … it became all but forgotten. I attest from personal experience that it is one of the most perfect devotions for our time. I say this because it can be prayed anywhere, does not require access to a church (only the domestic kind), and can bring a deep sense of purpose to any challenge or sorrow you are going through.
No matter what you are going through right now … the at-home Catholic Holy Hour can change your life for the better.
The at-home Holy Hour can pervade and improve each one of our hearts and homes.
How and when do I pray the at-home Holy Hour?
Go to www.catholicholyhour.com to receive a moving, guided Holy Hour for Holy Thursday. You can sign up for the “First Thursday of the Month” club to receive, every First Thursday, guided Holy Hours for your month.
For concerned Catholics, our lives should be a beautiful answer to what Jesus clearly asks of us. He asks us to feed the hungry … to give drink to the thirsty. He also asks us to “watch and pray” that we “might not be put to the test.” So what are we waiting for?