Facebook’s ‘Memories’ feature is like having your very own time machine as it reminds you where you were, what you were up to and who you were with on that particular date in the past. This can be a great source of amusement (and sometimes embarrassment). Yesterday, I was treated by Facebook to a feast of photographs of my best friend and me, in celebration of our eleven years as Facebook friends (in reality we’ve been friends for around seventeen years).
The photographs documented eleven years of adventures together including numerous birthday parties, weddings, day trips, World Youth Day in Sydney, pilgrimages to Lourdes and a holiday to Spain to name a few treasured moments. What the photographs did not show was the wiping away of tears during some of life’s darker moments; illness, our grandparents’ funerals and the heartbreak of ended romances.
Reflecting upon all these memories, the exciting, the sad and even the sedate, it is very clear that my best friend and I share a great love; an intimacy and a deep understanding of one another. I know what is important to him, what really matters. I know what he is passionate about, what his hopes are and what he’s scared of. Our shared experiences have brought us to know one another so very well, but that would never have happened had we not shared our lives.
Discernment demands a similar relationship of great love; of intimacy and of deep understanding, but with He who calls you, He who already knows you intimately, He who brought you in to being. How can such a relationship be achieved if we do not spend time with Him?
“Jesus has made Himself the Bread of Life to give us life. Night and day, He is there. If you really want to grow in love, come back to the Eucharist, come back to that Adoration.”
St. Teresa of Calcutta
Eucharist Adoration, for me, is the perfect time to grow in intimacy with the Lord and to engage in dialogue. However, spending an hour in silence before the Blessed Sacrament can be challenging if you’re not used to it or sure what to do. Staying focused, staying in prayer, for a period of time can be tricky so it is good to have a structure to keep you right.
It is part of the Pauline life to spend time daily with the Blessed Sacrament. The Daughters of St. Paul call this their “visit” and I can think of no better word to describe it. I’ve spent time with some sisters who visit the Blessed Sacrament for a brief moment to say good morning or goodnight, or even to say goodbye if they are going out somewhere. It is clear that these visits to the Blessed Sacrament are visits to someone familiar, someone with whom there is a shared intimacy and a deep love.
The Daughters of St. Paul have a structure to their hour’s visit and I’ve found it a useful one to adopt. Of course, you might have another way that works for you, but if you’re struggling then you could use this method as a starting point. At the centre of Pauline spirituality is Jesus Master – Way, Truth and Life and their visit to the Blessed Sacrament, to their love, is structured with this concept at its roots.
The hour is divided into three sections, each lasting around twenty minutes. In their prayer book it says:
“First part: in honour of Jesus Truth, to obtain an increase of spiritual knowledge and faith.
Second part: in honour of Jesus Way, to obtain help in the practice of virtue.
Third part: in honour of Jesus Life, to obtain the graces necessary for our spiritual work or our particular needs.
This is a broad outline. However the following can never be omitted: spiritual reading in the first part; the principle examination of conscience of the day in the second part and the rosary in the third part.”
In practice the first part is about reading sacred scripture and then taking the time to reflect upon what’s been read and listen to what God is saying to us in that moment.
“Gaze upon him, consider him, contemplate him, as you desire to imitate him.”
St. Clare of Assisi
The second part is the examination of conscience, where we reflect upon how we are living our lives and if we are living in a way God wants us to. That’s not just about sin, as it is also about learning how we can grow and taking the time to give thanks for the graces we have received to do so.
“The Eucharist is a priceless treasure: by not only celebrating it but also by praying before it outside of Mass we are enabled to make contact with the very wellspring of grace.”
Pope St. John Paul II
The third part is where we bring to the Lord what is on our hearts; the questions, worries, anxieties, the asking for guidance, the giving of thanks. The Blessed Virgin Mary can be our companion when seeking intimacy with Christ and so a good way to conclude the hour of prayer is with the Rosary; for when we are trying to grow in love and understanding with Christ it is good to turn to She who carried Him in Her womb, raised Him with a Mother’s love, experienced a heartbreak like no other when she saw Him die on the cross and from whose heart spilled joy at His resurrection.
“To fall in love with God is the greatest romance; to seek him the greatest adventure;
to find him the greatest human achievement.
In discernment, we seek God’s will for us. Discernment is a love-filled response to a question asked of us. To find the answer we must find Him, love Him and listen to Him. Such an adventure can be aided greatly by spending time with Him in Eucharistic Adoration. Blessed James Alberione, the Founder of the Pauline family, found his vocation in front of the Blessed Sacrament, will you?