There is a story about St John Vianney, famously known as the Curé d’Ars (French for ‘pastor of Ars’, a town in France). The priest often came across a farmer in his church spending hours in front of the tabernacle, lost in silence. One day, Vianney asked the man what he was doing, and he replied, ‘Nothing. I look at him and he looks at me.’
When it comes to love, sometimes the simplest things are best. We don’t always know what to say or how to say it; we think we need to engage in some elaborate, complicated gesture of love, when really, the things people crave are quite simple.
A close presence is one of those things. For more than 20 years, St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne has opened its doors on Thursday nights for Six30 Holy Hour, inviting young people to come and spend time with Jesus in eucharistic adoration. We live in a very productivity-focused culture, making it hard to just sit and ‘waste’ time with God, but that’s exactly what he wants, and it can be life-changing.
Two Melbourne-based young adults, Klara Rawdanowicz and Joe Melhem, share with us how they fell in love with adoration, what it means for them and why they think more people should try it.
Joe, 25, was 14 or 15 when he first participated in eucharistic adoration—or the Rite of Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction—at his mother’s suggestion. ‘I was a full-of-attitude sort of kid,’ he says, ‘but I thought I’d go to see what it was all about.’
‘I couldn’t stay in there for five minutes,’ he admits. ‘I kept walking out to go on my phone.’
Even now, ‘post-reversion’, prayer is hard for Joe. ‘Prayer can be difficult, dry, boring, even though adoration is my favourite way to pray. I think it just means I need to confront things that are in my heart.’
Joe connects with something Fr Mike Schmitz, an American priest and YouTuber, has said about silence. ‘Silence isn’t usually the problem,’ Joe says, paraphrasing. ‘Silence is just a magnifying glass for what’s already inside of you.’
That silence and that prayer you engage in during adoration, you’re actually journeying into the inner things of your heart that are turbulent, but Jesus gives us the courage to go to the places we don’t want to go.
‘Because I am there with a God who loves me, it’s okay. I can go there. He loved me to death,’ he says.
Eucharistic adoration has also become an anchor for Joe when life spins out of control. It’s easy to forget who we are in Jesus, as opposed to who we convince ourselves we are.
‘When life gets really crazy and hits you for six, which it usually does, God reminds me of who I really am. He reminds me of who he thinks I am, which is loved and beloved and worth dying for,’ he says.
One of the surprising things regular adoration has done for Joe is increase his love for the Mass. He says, ‘If you stare at the Eucharist for long enough, you start to get a bit hungry. The longer you’re adoring the Eucharist, the more you want to consume it.’
Joe encourages people to give adoration a try if they want to change their life.
‘If you want to hear from God, if you want hear him speak loudly, go to adoration. If you want your life to change, go to adoration. If you struggle with the Mass, go to adoration.’
Klara, 23, admits that when she first heard that story about St John Vianney, she didn’t understand what it meant. It wasn’t until she gave herself over to adoration that its meaning became clear.
‘The meaning of time disappears when you are gazing at your beloved and he is gazing at you with the most peaceful, gentle but strength-filling gaze,’ she says. In adoration, we get to experience ‘the gaze of Love, in its purest form’:
Love that you will never find anywhere else on this earth no matter how hard you try and how long you search. Love that came down to earth, and stayed in the Eucharist, for you.
Klara was first awakened to the beauty and value of eucharistic adoration in Kraków, Poland, as a pilgrim for World Youth Day 2016. Only 16, she was moved deeply by the silence of thousands of people as they knelt before the Blessed Sacrament.
‘Although my personal faith journey was still in its beginnings at the time, witnessing that moment, something deep in me just knew that this stadium full of people adoring the Lord on their knees felt right,’ she says.
Following World Youth Day, Klara began attending Six30 Holy Hour at St Patrick’s Cathedral. She wanted to socialise with other young people, but it wasn’t long before she was taken deeper than expected.
‘There was something about gazing at Our Lord that I just couldn’t get enough of. He bought peace, nourishment, strength and a deep joy into my life,’ she explains. ‘His presence was life-giving and started bearing fruit in many aspects of my days.’
Notably, the more time she spent in adoration, the more of it she craved. ‘Very soon, an hour a week of adoration became simply not enough, and what I encountered in Six30 Holy Hour I craved in the rest of my week, too.’ Klara made as much use of the local chapel as she could, even if it was just ten minutes at the end of her day.
‘Even if my prayer in front of the monstrance is nothing but a deep and long, silent sigh of exhaustion, I always leave with a deeper peace and assurance of how abundantly God loves me, no matter what my struggles might be at that time.’
Regular eucharistic adoration is a constant source of peace for Klara, teaching her humility, patience, surrender and trust. For this reason, she encourages people to experience the joy of it for themselves.
Go visit your Beloved, stay with him a while, and let your heart be transformed, as mine has.
Six30 Holy Hour has recommenced at St Patrick’s Cathedral. Every Thursday night, the Blessed Sacrament will be exposed for adoration from 6.30pm to 7.30pm, followed by a time of fellowship. To stay up to date, stay tuned to the Six30 Holy Hour Facebook page.
Melbourne Catholic09 February 2023
Proclaim: Office for Mission Renewal07 February 2023