Seven years ago last month, late one Friday night—or rather, early one Saturday morning—I was in a car with another college student I had only met the night before, heading south on Interstate 81. Our destination was St. Francis of Assisi Parish, about a half-hour south of the university we attended. He had volunteered for the 2 AM shift at their perpetual adoration chapel and asked if anyone wanted to come along. It was only the second time I had ever gone to adoration, but I jumped at the chance.
We arrived a little door on the side of the church, knocked, and entered the tiny chapel, which still smelled of incense from whenever they had last had benediction. I knelt down, said a rosary, and brought my needs before God—but then something else happened. I ran out of things to say. I had nothing left to do but be with Jesus.
The hour challenged my patience. When the 3 AM bell rang, I found myself relieved.
We repeated our trip every other week for the rest of the school year. For the first few months, I felt guilty about how much I longed for the 3 AM bell, but as the year wore on, the time became more and more joyful.
The biweekly hour didn’t take long to spill over into the rest of my life. In order to be alert that early on a Saturday morning, I had to prepare. I would sleep from 9 PM to midnight and then drink tea and read the Bible. It just didn’t feel right to do what everyone else was up to on a Friday.
Slowly but surely, Jesus would use this little hour to change my life. Each drive down, each little pilgrimage to see our Lord, prepared me to do bigger things to be with him.
I am certainly no hero of prayer. If I hadn’t just written about myself, I doubt anyone else would. But I think it is true for us all that if we allow our prayer to become inconvenient, to carry us beyond the contrived limits we put on our relationship with God, something unexpected might happen: we might meet the living God. And that meeting will change everything.
Image: Vincent Van Gogh, Starry Night over the Rhone