Pro-Tips for Making a Spiritually Rich Holy Hour

Throughout the hour, intention and attention are key.

During her Holy Hours, Mother Angelica would at times use specific prayers of the Church, such as the Litany of the Heart of Jesus, Litany of Loreto, Litany of the Holy Spirit, or Litany of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus.
During her Holy Hours, Mother Angelica would at times use specific prayers of the Church, such as the Litany of the Heart of Jesus, Litany of Loreto, Litany of the Holy Spirit, or Litany of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus. (photo: Unsplash)

“Could you not stay awake with me one hour?” Jesus asked St. Peter and the apostles. 

It can be considered the basis or reason why we Catholic make a Holy Hour: spending time with Christ before the Blessed Sacrament. 

“The Holy Hour has a special significance. It means a continuous and unbroken hour spent in the presence of our Divine Lord in the Eucharist,” explained Venerable Bishop Fulton Sheen in the anthology Lord, Teach Us to Pray.

Mother Angelica hosted televised Holy Hours; as recorded in A Holy Hour with Mother Angelica, from the hours’ broadcast in March 1988, she said, “The main point of this Holy Hour is for you to luxuriate in God’s presence. To forget all your problems and frustrations, and to just become aware of the awesome presence of God.”

She said the Holy Hour “means you dedicate an hour totally to God — praising him, loving him and saying to him, ‘Lord, I’m sorry that so many people don’t know you, love you, or praise you.’”

But how should we make a Holy Hour? 

Father Jeffrey Kirby, pastor of Our Lady of Grace Church in Indian Land, South Carolina, and author — whose latest book is 40 Hours: An Adoration Companion  told the Register, “There are no set formats or prayers. It’s an opportunity to simply be in the presence of the Lord and let yourself know and feel his love. As such, almost anything can be read or prayed during a Holy Hour.”

He suggested that a great help “for many people who are making a Holy Hour is to read the Gospels from the New Testament. Being in the presence of the Lord Jesus and reading about his life and ministry can be a great help for us in knowing and encountering the Lord more deeply.”

While Catholics can focus on spiritual reading during a Holy Hour, they can also “simply close all their books and just talk to the Lord Jesus, as they would to a friend,” Father Kirby explained. “Oftentimes, we have a lot of things to complain about or process. A heartfelt, open prayer can go a long way in our lives. We shouldn’t be concerned about what we say to the Lord. We need to be honest and express to him what is actually happening in our hearts. If we’re angry, we need to say that. If we’re grateful, we should say that. We need to be as transparent as possible when we pray.”

Father Kirby also suggested, “While making a Holy Hour, we can pray the Rosary or Divine Mercy Chaplet or even walk the Stations of the Cross. These type of prayers are very structured and can help us stay focused. At times, people are hesitant to do the Stations during a Holy Hour, but if a person is fidgety or nervous or tired, the Stations can be an immense spiritual practice during prayer.”

During her Holy Hours, Mother Angelica would at times use specific prayers of the Church, such as the Litany of the Heart of Jesus, Litany of Loreto, Litany of the Holy Spirit, or Litany of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus.

According to Father of Mercy Wade Menezes, missionary preacher and host of EWTN’s Open Line Tuesday radio program, “A tried-and-true formula to make the best of your Eucharistic Holy Hour is to follow the simple acronym A.R.T.S.: This stands for Adoration, Reparation, Thanksgiving and Supplication,” he told the Register. “The game plan is to spend 15 minutes with each of these four areas in the presence of our Eucharistic Lord and King with purposeful and deliberate willed intention. This can be done meditatively within the context of the prayer of quiet; it could be carried out by reading good spiritual material or by writing things down in a spiritual journal — or a combination of any of these.”

“During the first 15 minutes of your Holy Hour, one offers willed ‘adoration’ per se to the true and abiding Real Presence of our Blessed Lord in the Most Holy Eucharist — Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity — profoundly thanking the Most Holy Trinity for such a great gift,” Father Menezes explained. “The prayer of quiet is great here — that is, just ‘resting’ in the Lord’s Presence. One may also want to read a few quotes from St. Peter Julian Eymard, the so-called ‘Apostle of the Eucharist’ during this time.” Intensely devoted to the Holy Eucharist, Father Eymard founded both the Priests of the Blessed Sacrament (Blessed Sacrament Fathers), a priests’ Eucharistic league and the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament.

“The next 15 minutes,” Father Menezes continued, “one makes intentional ‘reparation’ — also known as ‘atonement’ — not only for one’s own past sins — both mortal and venial — but also for those of the whole world, for those committed by persons still living and for those committed by persons who are now deceased.” This second 15-minute segment is “a great time to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet, wherein we literally supplicate Almighty God to ‘have mercy on us and on the whole world,’” he added.

Then the third 15-minute set is spent “in literal ‘thanksgiving’ to God for all he has given you and guided you in your joys, accomplishments, prayers, works, and even sorrows and sufferings,” Father Menezes said. “Here, it is good to write these points of thanksgiving down in a spiritual journal in simple bulleted fashion.”

Father Menezes said the last 15-minute segment should be “spent in supplication,” in “asking God for those things you believe would be beneficial for your own good to help you grow stronger in the spiritual life and to help you ‘work out’ your salvation, as commanded in Philippians 2:12. Worth noting, here, is that our supplication — or asking — of God can be on behalf of others, as well, acknowledging always that in all things we want God’s will to be done, not our own, as he knows what is best for us.” He added, “It’s also good to jot down in a spiritual journal specific areas where we are asking Almighty God to intervene in our lives as never before.”

Father Menezes pointed out that this acronym can also appear as A.C.T.S. — Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving and Supplication. “The concept is exactly the same,” he said. “However, the word ‘contrition’ (meaning one being ‘contrite’ for sin) is substituted for ‘reparation.’”

Throughout the hour, intention and attention are key.

Bishop Sheen advised regarding reading Scripture or a spiritual book, “Read a few lines slowly; think about the truth contained in them; apply them to your life; speak to God about how little you have corresponded to His will, how anxious you are to do it; listen to God speaking to your soul; make acts of faith, hope, and love to God; and only when that train of thought has been exhausted should you proceed to the next idea.”

Because conversation is not a monologue but an exchange, Bishop Sheen explained, “As the soul wills to draw near God, God wills to draw near the soul. We must not do all the talking; we must also be good listeners. The soul now experiences the truth of the words ‘Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you’ (James 4:8).”

“I sit and try to listen to the Lord speaking to me,” said Mary Ann Mervak, a parishioner at Father Kirby’s Our Lady of Grace Church who serves as the coordinator of homebound care at the parish. “It’s just about sitting there in silence. You don’t always need a book. It’s trying to be at peace and talk with the Lord and listen to him. Things are too busy. We need time for adoration and peace, and we just don’t do it enough.” 

And Mother Angelica offered this advice during one of the March 1988 Holy Hours: “Just say, ‘Lord, I love you.’ Oh, he is tickled that he just jumps up and down when he hears that because it means so much for God to hear you say, ‘I love you.’”