Daily Holy Hour, Among Others

Like any other person of faith, I take my daily prayer very, very seriously.

Oh, believe me, it’s not always as persevering as it should be, and Lord knows, my mind wanders, and I’m at times tempted to just give it up.

But, without my daily prayer, I’m sunk.

Most of the time, I pray in my cozy, quiet, private chapel, right next to my room, on the third floor of my residence. I like getting up real early, and I try to usually dedicate the first hour of my day to my Divine Office, spiritual reading, and silent meditation. From my little chapel I go down to 7:30 Mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the greatest prayer of all, and then I’m off to a great start.

Well, on Christmas Eve morning I thought I’d do something different: instead of my tranquil, private, isolated chapel, I went over to St. Patrick’s for my daily holy hour.

What a change! There, in the bustling cathedral, I was hardly alone, because even at 8 a.m., the place was crowded. Although the folks there were hushed, it was not what one would call silent! And the atmosphere was hardly undistracted, but full of interesting, at times disrupting, at times touching, scenes. To name just a few:

• There was the homeless man snoring in a pew behind me;

• There were the sounds of sirens, horns and shouts of words hardly conducive to prayer coming from the streets outside as the big doors would frequently swing open;

• There were the blasts of cold air causing me to shiver as folks opened the doors and came in from the chill;

• There was the little baby crying in the stroller;

• There was the lady whose “whispers” of prayer were actually loud hisses echoing all over;

• There were the devoted sacristans getting the place ready for the evening Masses;

• There was the man in military uniform holding the hand of his girlfriend, and I speculated, since they were both beaming, he had just returned from Iraq;

• There was the policeman vigilant over the crowds;

• There was the shopper stopping to visit the Blessed Sacrament, her packages spilling all over the pew;

• There were the tourists flashing photos.

I was tempted to run back to the privacy and coziness of my own chapel! How can I pray here, I thought?

But I didn’t leave. As I knelt in prayer before the crib, I thought of the mystery of the Incarnation.

The Son of God was born into a big mess! The world he enters is a lot more like the distractions of St. Patrick’s than the tidiness and orderliness of my own chapel!

Homeless, cold, surrounded by dung and dirt, encircled by shepherds and farm animals, born in the dark because, as Father Ronald Rolheiser, O.M.I., observes, “he had to sneak behind enemy lines.”

Yes, “the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.”

Nothing tidy, cozy, quiet, private, protected or alone about the Incarnation! God the Son took on all the mess, grime, noise, cursing, sorrow, tears, sufferings, and longing of humanity.

Maybe I should do my holy hour more often in St. Patrick’s?

A blessed Christmas season!

Happy New Year!