24 Hours for the Lord
This is the beautiful scene of our sanctuary during 24 Hours for the Lord. The statue is St Elizabeth of Portugal, our patron. The weekend before, we gave everyone a 24-hour votive candle as they left Mass, and encouraged them to bring it back the following Friday or Saturday and spend some time praying in the church. It turned out to be an inspired idea – hundreds of candles were lit, and I imagine it was the cause of many families coming to pray.
Now, it all looks very beautiful, but I must say, we fully expected to fill the hours of Adoration ourselves, half-anticipating that people would not show up. We have a small parish after all (around 400 people attend Sunday Mass). On Friday, I was getting ready for 12 solid hours of Adoration and my bag was stuffed with spiritual reading. But… amazingly… no such thing! The church seemed never to have less than five people present. On Friday evening, at the end of Stations of the Cross, and as young professionals streamed in from work, there seemed to be closer to 50… a whole eighth of the parish! That moment just took my breath away… Wow… God you are really at work here!
In addition, we had 25 primary-aged children attend our children’s Adoration after school. It was the first time something like this had been tried in the church, so it came with risks, and I was expecting maybe five brave children and their families to show up. But no, after school time found the crypt beneath our church buzzing with activity and noise, before they were introduced to what Adoration was, and processed up into the church.
I think it helped that our parish priest preached really strongly about Confession the weekend before. We had an Examination of Conscience on every bench, as well as a Bible. As well as lighting a votive candle, people could write a prayer intention and take a passage of Scripture. The day was punctuated with Holy Hours with music ministry as well as Rosaries and the Divine Mercy. I think the key was having a varied programme with something for everyone.
The Holy Spirit was at work everywhere… Standing outside the church for 10 minutes (as I did occasionally during the day), I witnessed people walk into the church from the street, families who would never normally be found there during the week going in to pray… Just mesmerising and beyond all expectations. On my Facebook wall, I wrote:
Wow… The blessings when Jesus is exposed in your church all day are huge! How much it has struck me today that Jesus has been acting in countless beautiful ways in people’s hearts all day… As they walked in slightly wary off the street, as they spent time in Adoration during one of our Holy Hours, as they went to Confession. Evangelisation is first and foremost HIS work, not ours. What an incredible gift that as Catholics we can make possible for people to come to JESUS himself!
And this about sums it up. Pope Francis’ idea has been a stroke of genius. Yes, evangelisation requires more than simply opening our churches, but this is a wonderful way to start.