The Night Watch
"When we are before the Blessed Sacrament ... let us shut our eyes and open our hearts; and the good God will open his. We will go to him, and he will come to us, the one to give, and the other to receive. It will be like a breath passing from one to the other. What delight we find in forgetting ourselves that we may seek God." - St. John Vianney
I usually try to keep my overnight adoration hours private. For non-Catholics, and probably for some Catholics, the fact that I leave my house in the middle of the night to drive to a chapel and pray sounds crazy. Plus, humility is a a virtue I always need more of, and I never want my hours of adoration to be seen in a prideful way. However, we are in the midst of three-year Eucharistic Revival as instituted by the U.S. Catholic Bishops in response to a decline in belief and reverence for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. I want to do my part to inspire others to love Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament more and more. I have a deep faith in the True Presence and my hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament, especially overnight, have had a profound impact in my heart and in my family. I pray you might be moved to draw closer to Jesus with your own time in Adoration. Feel free to reach out to me to learn more!
In 2016, our parish opened a perpetual adoration chapel. Despite growing up Catholic, I was in my thirties with several small children before I ever attended a holy hour. I was captivated by the reverence and rituals of Eucharistic Adoration: the incense, the chants, the raising of the monstrance for benediction. I quickly became a regular attendee of Thursday night adoration at our church.
I was thrilled when our pastor announced the construction of a perpetual adoration chapel at our church and eagerly awaited the chance to visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament* whenever we wanted. As the time drew near for the chapel’s opening, parishioners were invited to sign-up for a committed adoration slot. It is no small feat to provide coverage twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week for Jesus.
My husband and I discussed our availability and we decided to sign up for 11 pm – midnight slot on Tuesdays. He works from home on Wednesday so he reasoned it wouldn’t be a hardship to stay up later than normal to be with the Lord. For over a year we faithfully went and prayed together Tuesday after Tuesday. The Lord was preparing us.
In May 2017, we found out we were pregnant with a terminally ill baby.
Our hour of adoration became a lifeline as we clung to the Lord together in prayer and surrender.
After our little boy died, we went to our adoration hour the night before the funeral and cried and prayed. My grief was crushing me and I needed the strength of our Eucharistic Lord to carry me.
A few months later, the parish put out a plea for more Night Watch adorers to cover open slots between midnight and dawn. I heard the Holy Spirit inviting me to come with my grief and sit with Him in the darkness. I longed to be cared for by the Lord but I still hesitated. My husband works long hours and is a light sleeper. He seemed concerned about the idea of my coming and going in the middle of the night. I also felt a little scared of the idea of going out alone at night and selfish about my sleep. I worried about being too tired to take care of my family well.
I shared some of these thoughts with a faithful friend. Her response pierced my heart. “Elizabeth, if your sweet baby were alive, you and your husband would both be getting up every night. God would give you the strength to work and take care of your family. Do you trust him to do that even though John Paul died?” My tender heart cherished these wise words spoken from the Holy Spirit through my friend.
After speaking with my husband, I signed up to be with Jesus from 2 am – 3 am every Friday morning. Our baby only lived one perfect night, a Thursday into Friday. Our Lord suffered and prayed all night in the Garden, a Thursday into Friday. Jesus invited me to bring my whole, broken heart to His in the sacred silence of the chapel week after week, year after year.
On Thursday evenings, I am careful to get to bed by 10 pm. I place my coat, prayer bag, and keys by the front door. I lay out my clothes for adoration and sleep in a comfortable t-shirt I can still wear to the chapel. We are blessed to live very close to our church, so I set my alarm for 1:40 am. When it goes off, I snooze for one cycle and then get out of bed. It only takes me 2-3 minutes to use the bathroom and get dressed before I leave the house. Five minutes later, I pull up and park directly in front of the chapel. I punch in the safety code and slip into the quiet. Usually the previous adorer will leave promptly and I am left alone with the Lord in the stillness of the night.
It is here, heart to heart in our private sacred sanctuary, that Jesus loves me into wholeness.
He reveals my belovedness. He turns my mourning into dancing and my lament to joy. He is making me new. I give him my sleep and he gives me his peace. I look at him and he looks at me. I listen and he speaks. I open my heart and he consoles. Many times, I curl up on the floor under the monstrance and weep, my tears pooling on the cool tile floor. Often, I sing, grateful for the privacy to share my love and longing freely in song. Always, he is faithful.
I have been praying the Night Watch with Jesus for more than five years. I now also go at 1:30 am on Mondays to help fill the slots. I can say with confidence that, outside of attending daily Mass, nothing in my life has changed me more radically than these overnight adoration hours. Is it a sacrifice to get up in the middle of the night? Sure. Sometimes, my whole body and spirit rebel and it is a force of the WILL to get out of bed. But the Lord is never outdone in generosity. He has revealed himself to me as the lover of my soul. He has showered me with healing, peace, and joy to console me through the death of my son and the many other crosses in my life. My intimacy with Jesus is a pearl of great price and the center of my life, fruit that has grown steadily from the well-spring of my overnight hours of adoration.
May you let yourself be loved by Jesus in the sacred sanctuary of your heart. He is waiting for you any hour of the day, or night.
*To learn more about the True Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, you can begin here with an article by the U.S. Catholic Bishops or here for information from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.