Tuesday, December 8, 2009

For My Buddies at Adoration

Posted by Webster 
I have a confession to make: I attend Eucharistic Adoration one hour per day, on average. But that’s not my confession. Here it is: I am not always silent at Adoration. I don't tumble for Our Lady like Barnaby in Auden's “Ballad.” But I do talk with several of my “Adoration buddies,” some of them every week.

In July 2008 Father Barnes established Adoration in the lower church, basement level. In the days when four or five priests lived in the rectory, Masses would be said simultaneously upstairs and down, the crowds were so large. Now, the lower church is used for the odd function like coffee and donuts after 10:30 Mass on Sunday and, one of high points of my week, Saturday morning men’s group

Adoration was new to the parish, and some of us, like this convert, didn’t totally know what to do with the hour we took on as our assignment. (I originally signed up for one hour a week; then I saw that Ferde had signed up for one hour a day and realized I could do no less.) Once I had gotten past the faint expectation of some sort of daily mystical experience, I settled into a routine of kneeling silently before the Blessed Sacrament for five or ten minutes, then often saying a rosary, then usually reading something spiritual—although sometimes I now use part of several hours to prepare for my CCD class. We are also asked by Father Barnes to say a prayer for priests and another for priestly vocations.

Something non-mystical but nonetheless wonderful happens if you go to Adoration regularly. Because Father Barnes asked that there be two people per hour, so that one could spell the other for vacations and the like, you get to know your Adoration buddies. “When two or three are gathered together . . . ” In the past seven days, I have had singular encounters with two of them.

“Bill” is a guy who has fallen on hard times—losing his job and, I fear, losing his faith, as well. I enlisted him for Adoration when a slot fell open and he came regularly once a week, spelling me at 3:30 one afternoon. Bill and I would talk, and it was all he could do sometimes to force a small smile on his face. He seemed terribly depressed about his career prospects, while expressing deep doubts about being a Catholic at all. Still, he came to Adoration.

“Bonnie” is my favorite Adoration buddy, and I now see her two days a week during shift changes—although I sometimes stay past my appointed hour just to be there with her a few extra minutes. Bonnie’s life has been no easier than Bill’s; in fact, I’m going to bet that until Bill lost his job, his life had gone far smoother than Bonnie’s. I don’t want to go into too much detail (Bill and Bonnie are very real, although their names are not), but I can say that Bonnie has struggled with personal illness and family divisions, among other things. Right now, she is suffering mightily because a dear friend is dying (may be gone by Christmas) and she is estranged from one of her children.

Whereas Bill doesn’t talk much without my prompting (I prompt him because he looks so unhappy), Bonnie needs no prompting, let me assure you. It’s all I can do some days to shut Bonnie up. But here’s the funny thing: I love Bonnie. I truly love her as a friend.

Two days ago, I got an e-mail from Bill. He informed me, and by copy the parish secretary, that he would no longer be coming to Adoration. He didn’t offer any reason; I’m sure that if he had a new job that prevented his attendance from 3:30 to 4:30, he would have said so. I’m afraid Bill has given up, at least for now.

Bonnie arrived at Adoration yesterday afternoon in a tizzy. Her hair was still wet (“just jumped out of the shower”) and she had spoken earlier with her friend who is dying. As she talked about their phone call, tears pooled under her eyes. She told me about a crucifix on her dining-room table. She talked about a mutual friend who is recovering nicely from cancer. Bonnie talked—and I listened—until I finally told a white lie that I was late for an appointment in a nearby town. (I did have the appointment; I was not yet late.)

I will see Bonnie at Adoration again today, and I look forward to it with a smile. I will not see Bill on Thursday, but now that I’ve written this, I may call or e-mail him. I know there’s little I can do. The only thing anyone can do is be present and listen, whether to the Blessed Sacrament or to a friend. Bonnie continues to haul herself out of the shower, wipe away her tears, and drop on her knees at Adoration two or three days a week. Right now, Bill seems to have given up. That’s the only difference between them, or between them and me.

If you run into Bonnie, please don’t tell her I wrote this post. Fact is, I love listening to her talk, even if I’m supposed to be silent.