|A Holy Hour for Every Day Msgr. Robert J. McCarthy|
For more than 55 years, I have ministered to migrant carnival workers and made a daily Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament in churches, chapels and monasteries throughout the continent. I want to share my experiences, not to “blow my own horn,” but in the hope that others will be encouraged to make a daily Holy Hour a part of their spiritual life. The daily Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament started for me a year before I was ordained, when Bishop Fulton Sheen visited my seminary and challenged each seminarian to make a daily Holy Hour, as he himself had done for years. I started my daily Holy Hour that day and, except in time of sickness or impossibility, I have made my hour with Jesus every day since. In my early assignments as an associate pastor, the Holy Hour was the most important part of my day. Sometimes I made my hour of adoration at 6 o’clock in the morning before my Mass at 7. Other times it was later in the day but usually some time before noon. I gave my Holy Hour top priority and completed it before going about my daily duties that included visiting homes, instructing schoolchildren and making calls on the sick. As I “graduated” from associate pastor, my daily Holy Hour was easier because I could set times that were more convenient, before carrying out parochial duties. As a pastor, I was assigned to parishes with large debts. Realizing that I could not solve these problems with my abilities, I turned them over to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament with a daily Holy Hour, and consecrated myself and the parish to Him. Before too long, in ways that I couldn’t explain, the debts were paid, and the church and school seemed to thrive! I was convinced more than ever of the necessity of a daily Holy Hour, as Jesus had promised that He would bless the projects of priests who were dedicated to Him. In 1970, Pope Paul VI established the Pontifical Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees, and I was appointed to minister to the men and women engaged in working with traveling carnivals. This seemed like an insurmountable task for a rural priest who has never worked with migrants. Again I turned to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament in my daily Holy Hours, and things began to flourish. Some 400 carnivals, employing about 60,000 people, perform at nearly 4,000 state and county fairs in the United States and Canada, and these workers desire the services of the Church. Given all this, and realizing my inadequacy, I turned the entire apostolate over to Jesus, with the promise to pray a Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament no matter where I might be. St. Dunstans Basilica [on Prince Edward Island in Canada] was a place where I made three or four Holy Hours, one each day I was there, for about 18 consecutive years while visiting the carnival in that city. And this was only one city. For another two days, there were Holy Hours in the cathedral in Anchorage, Alaska, while visiting the state. There were Holy Hours in St. Peter’s in Rome, while visiting the Vatican to make my annual report on the work with migrants. And there were Holy Hours in Assisi, Fatima and other spots in Europe. It seems miraculous, but true, that there were chapels and churches nearby the many places my work carried me, where I could easily make my Holy Hour before going to the carnival lot. One early morning in Boston, around dawn, I was going out hoping to find a church that was open. Approaching a well-dressed man near the bus stop, I asked where there was a church. The man told me of a chapel that was within a few feet of where we stood, housed in a large building. This was a typical downtown chapel, which was cared for by a religious community of brothers, and after this visit I became a regular for some time to come. Then there was the time in Salt Lake City, the home of the Mormons, where I arrived at night and went to a hotel. The next morning, I arose early and walked on a little street only a block from my hotel. While on my stroll, I found a little chapel in a business building. Walking into that chapel, I found that there was even exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, with Jesus just waiting for me. These little chapels, hidden in large buildings, are not too uncommon in our large cities. Toronto has one located right in the center of its financial district, with the chapel on the second floor of a large business complex. Another time, I arrived at about midnight in a tiny village in Kinsley, Kansas and I was told by a resident that their Catholic church was never locked. So early in the morning, while it was still dark, I found my way to the church, and there, all alone, I had a Holy Hour with my Master. Something similar happened in Chatham, New Brunswick. The tiny plane I was on was about three hours late in arriving in Chatham, so I went to my little motel room for much needed sleep. Early in the morning, I awoke, looked out my window and saw not far away the spires of the basilica. Before long I was with Jesus in a very comfortable side chapel. This brings out the words of St. Claude regarding Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament: “I can find You wherever I go.” During each January and February, I had to visit the workers in their winter quarters. My first stop was Tampa, Florida, where a Jesuit church was less than a block from my room and where I went each day for my hour of adoration. I then went on to Minneapolis, and not far from the place where I stayed was a church I could walk to. From there, it was back to Miami, where there was a fine hospital chapel open all hours for Holy Hours. And a similar chapel was available when I was in New York City. Today many airports have chapels, and since most of my travels were by plane, I used these chapels for my Holy Hours. Really, if one takes a little time to look, he can find chapels and churches nearly everywhere to spend time with Jesus. After more than 50 years of priesthood and daily Holy Hours, I attribute my perseverance and success to my time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. The priesthood is truly a sacred vocation, with preaching, teaching, administering the sacraments, caring for the poor and the sick, and so many other spiritual ministries. But the priesthood is also a lonely life, and many times it is difficult and burdensome as priests assume parish problems (such as debts), experience lack of cooperation and even face criticism. Naturally, by his own strength, a priest may not be able to handle all this. But supernaturally, with the grace of God, he can do all things. Sharing his problems and difficult times with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is bound to lighten the burdens. The priest can turn to Jesus at anytime, day or night, in the Blessed Sacrament and share with Him his problems. As I come to the end of my life, my priesthood and my duties, I give all credit for any of my successes to my daily Holy Hour. At the time of my retirement from parish ministry, my primary request made to my bishop was that I might have the Blessed Sacrament reserved in a chapel in my residence. It is here that I spend my Holy Hour and other times each day interceding for the Church and its active priests who continue to serve. As I come to the chapel to start my daily Holy Hour, I speak with the same words I’ve used over the years to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament: “When the angels in the sanctuary are blessing You and I am in my last agony, then remember this day, this chapel and this hour with You.”
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