Praying onward, with more longing

Yesterday, some of my elder FSPA sisters and our prayer partners rang in the celebration of 140 years of perpetual adoration at St. Rose Convent in La Crosse, Wisconsin. They collectively chimed the bell 140 times plus, to mark the beginning of the 141st year of non-stop prayer, once more. This is a sacred anniversary that we celebrate with joy and gratitude. (You can watch the ritual of bell ringing here.)

What is our tradition of perpetual adoration?

Since August 1, 1878, at least two people have kept vigil in front of the Blessed Sacrament exposed, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For most of my congregation’s history, this practice was maintained by us FSPA. Now, over 175 prayer partners help us pray for the needs of the world, including the requests that people send to us.

Here’s a nice picture of Sister Sarah and I praying in our Adoration Chapel. (You’ll have to trust me that those are the back of our heads!)

When I lived and ministered in La Crosse, my adoration hours were the most sacred, grounding part of my routine.

Now that I am “out on mission” and ministering hours away from the Adoration Chapel, the rhythms of this prayer happening in the background of my community life remains a grounding force that enlivens my service and motivates me to be bread unto others. Praying in our chapel when I am home in La Crosse is a touchstone for me, a sacred communion that helps me steadily respond to God’s constant invitation to love.

I like this infographic that summarizes our tradition, even though it’s a bit outdated. (Last year, we prayed for over 30,000 intentions from all over the world!)

prayer infographic

What do we do during our adoration hours?

Well, we pray! In all sorts of ways. Some of us pray rosaries, some read the Bible or pray the Divine Office.

We start and end every hour with a particular prayer:

O Sacrament Most Holy,

O Sacrament Divine,

All Praise and All Thanksgiving 

Be Every Moment Thine.

Eucharistic Heart of Jesus,

Furnace of Divine Love,

Grant Peace to the World.

This prayer is then followed by the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi before the adorers enter into silent prayer side-by-side.

There are prayer books at each kneeler in the chapel that many of spend time with, including prayers that are written particularly for adoration. We pray with the list of intentions near the altar, compiled and organized by Sister Sarah, who is our perpetual adoration coordinator. We meditate and listen to God and enjoy his holy presence.

Sister Sarah has created several excellent videos about prayer, and adoration in particular. The series, called “Adoration Talk,” does a great job of explaining our practices and teaching the tradition.

Here’s a sample, a video that outlines and explains what we mean by adoration.

One of the things that Sister Sarah says in the video is that “in adoration, we become both very intimate with the mysterious presence of God and, at the same time, we are longing for more.”

Prayer is an energy of longing. We pray because we long for peace, for healing, for miracles. We pray because we are filled with an energy of hope — with belief that Christ’s resurrection continues to transform all of creation. We long to be closer to God, and we long to be healthier and holier humans who reflect God’s light and love in our actions and being. We long to transform, into better parts, images of the Body of Christ for today’s hurting world.

And so, at the start of the 141st year, the vigil of perpetual adoration continues onward. 24/7, hour after hour, we will cycle through the chapel. We will kneel and bow. We will pray and listen.

As we do, we give God all the longing in our hearts and open up to be transformed.

Franciscan Bookshelf: “One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are”

By Messy Jesus Business guest blogger K.P.

Eucharisteo always precedes the miracle.”– Ann Voskamp

51lWAOBT9rL._SX342_BO1,204,203,200_The concept of eucharisteo, as Ann Voskamp explains in One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, is a practiced and disciplined form of perpetual adoration: a choice to thank God in every season, every action, every moment. As she describes in this interview with The High Calling, it is “the word that can change everything”: thanksgiving, which “envelopes the Greek word for grace, charis. But it also holds its derivative, the Greek word chara, meaning ‘joy.’ Charis. Grace. Eucharisteo. Thanksgiving. Chara. Joy.”

Last week, I made my covenant affiliation to the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration and participated in the program’s live-in for five days prior to that ceremony. On Wednesday morning we were visited by two sisters who spoke passionately about perpetual adoration. I confess that, prior to the live-in, I found perpetual adoration to be the most mystifying and distant aspect of my community’s charism. I have sat in the perpetual adoration chapel many, many times, and I’ve experienced peace; I’ve prayed and felt the effects of my prayers; I’ve left prayer requests for others. And I felt that I understood—intellectually—the significance of perpetual adoration and the way it has marked the history and experience of the FSPAs in La Crosse, Wisconsin. But I did not fully understand this ministry and its immediate application to my life. I was grateful that others dedicated their time to adoring the monstrance—not just FSPAs, but countless affiliates, prayer partners and occasional visitors. But I did not understand how or why I should make this a regular, meaningful part of my own spiritual journey.

One of the sisters that morning spoke fervently of perpetual adoration as a form of being prayerfully active in the world, and I recalled immediately Voskamp’s own word for such a practice, eucharisteo. Voskamp’s text is meaningful to me because I credit her book—and my dog-eared, much-loved copy—for introducing me to the power of the everyday spiritual practice. It was after I read One Thousand Gifts that I began to explore lay orders and other spiritual communities and disciplines; it was after I watched interview after interview with Voskamp that I began to recognize and appreciate mundane holiness and the need for loving presence in every moment. One Thousand Gifts helped me understand that I would be remembered for how I loved, how I brought peace—not for what I owned or accomplished. In this way, I would place Voskamp in powerful company: her book was as quietly revolutionary, for me, as was Shane Claiborne’s Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical and the work of Richard Rohr. Her revolution is a whisper. A silent, persistent prayer of gratitude. A microaction, prompted by a profound call to her own version of perpetual adoration.

And so, even though Voskamp is not Catholic nor is she Franciscan (though I believe that, as we say, she has a “Franciscan heart”), her word eucharisteo remains with me as I begin my new journey as an affiliate of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.

God likes hearing from us

At the start of each school year I have my students fill out a survey in order to get to know them quickly.  It’s a long survey with all sorts of questions about their families, what they like to do for fun, their favorites, and, most importantly, their faith. I’ve done this for at least five years, and the results are always interesting. Plus, it really helps me know my audience.

This year something in one student’s response stood out. The student admitted to believing in God. But then, in the section where they check the prayer types they do, there was a hand-written statement: “I’ve never really prayed before.”

I was fascinated. I don’t want to single out the student and cause embarrassment, so I have not asked any follow-up questions. They seem prayerful during our class prayer time now, so I’m hoping they’ve prayed some now!

Here’s the deal. We may over-complicate a lot of things, but prayer doesn’t have to be complicated or long.  God just loves hearing from us. And, it’s really good for us. Here’s a video about a sister in my community and her zesty prayer life. I love what one of the other sisters says in the video about not knowing how many times a day she prays; that’s totally true for me, too.

Prayer is powerful. And, it’s effective. This blog post summarizes some of what I was thinking, about God hearing our prayers for peace for Syria. We have to keep praying. God always hears us and responds. Although we might not like the response, we can keep in mind that it is God, who sees the big picture and is a Great Parent, can make the best judgment about how to take care of us.

If you don’t know how to pray, here’s a tip:  Start simple. Tell God hello. Say thank you. Acknowledge something beautiful. No matter what you say or how you say it, God will be delighted to hear from you.  And, remember that God is always with you and loves you very much!!

still in God’s presence

Today marks 134 years of Perpetual Adoration in my community’s chapel.

I am honored and amazed that I have had a small part in upholding this sacred tradition.  In the past year, I was also thrilled to play a role in the development of this book:

I will never understand how Christ is present in the Eucharist. I don’t really want to understand. Mystery and wonder seem to increase my faith, somehow.

What I know, though, is that Christ is present.  I experience a hushing presence of God in our adoration chapel that causes me to be still and pray.  It’s awesome and powerful.

I love God. And, I love the opportunity that adoration provides to uphold the ancient God-given order:

Be still and know that I am God!

I am exalted among the nations,

exalted on the earth.   Psalm 46:11

Thanks and Glory be to God! Amen! Amen!

praying plus living

When I was a kid I learned that I am supposed to pray without ceasing. Naturally, I scratched my head and wondered how I could and still have a life.

Now I am a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration, which permits me to do just that–to pray always and still have a life, a really great life!

I can’t easily explain how it is that I pray always, but I’ll try.  It’s really a mystery, though, and it totally rocks.

My community is always in prayer.  For over 133 years, 24/7, two adorers have been praying before the Blessed Sacrament.  Our adoration chapel in La Crosse, Wisconsin is one of the holiest places on earth.  There’s so much power there.


 

Yet, I’m not there, technically. I mean, my body isn’t.  I am off  “on mission” teaching high school in a foreign land (Chicago’s south side).  The work I do gives me life and energy; it is a true blessing to get to know God at work in the hearts of youth.  Miracles are ordinary and I am so used to the devotion of my students that I forget to be inspired by their faith.

At times, the work I do wipes me out.  I become envious of those who are able to truly work eight-hour work days and have time to do the things in life that shouldn’t seem like extras:  growing and cooking one’s own food, making art and crafts, reading novels, writing letters.

Fortunately, I keep finding time for the “extra” of prayer.  The  rule of this life that I have committed myself to insists that I never get so busy that the spirit of prayer is extinguished.  It’s a mystery to me how that works, in the mess of all the labor and to-do lists.  I pause several times a day to just lift my heart in praise. I go to daily mass and read the ancient psalms out of the divine office.  And, I unite with my community in the adoration chapel in La Crosse.  Whether I am conscious of it or not, I am connected and this blesses me.

Last Saturday I went home and prayed with my sisters and, again, the power of the prayer blew me away. It was a different type of prayer this time, it was a huge commitment party. Sister Sarah, who also blogs here, professed her final vows. Congratulations Sarah!! 

Gathered together to celebrate Sister Sarah: Mary of the Angels Chapel, Sept. 24, 2011

I think every eye was dropping tears during the mass. I am pretty sure every heart was moved, inspired, and in awe.  God is so good, and it is so exciting when people say yes to the goodness with their entire lives!

And, I believe that many people were healed.  It’s a mystery to me, but it is a mystery that I shall cling to.  One of the great powers of prayer is that it heals and gives life.  On Saturday I went to mass with a back ache, yet during the commitment celebration I realized my back felt completely better.  It’s a simple thing, but I am so, so grateful!

Turns out, having a life and praying without ceasing is not too tough after all.  The powerful prayer heals me and blesses me, and leaves me in awe. It’s a mystery how it works but it’s a mystery that I’ll hold.   As I hold the mystery I remain aware: I am really glad to be part of it all.