“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” – Blaise Pascal
As you may know, just fifty years ago, most houses in America had what was called a “front porch.” A front porch often provided a quiet oasis, where people would sit during the afternoon hours to rest, think, and simply contemplate the view. In an indirect way, front porches provided a means of prayer. Why? Because whenever man sits quietly alone with himself—even if he is only slightly spiritually inclined—his thoughts will invariably turn to God at some point. Even if only for a moment, even if just a few seconds, he raises his head and give thanks to God, he has just sanctified his day with prayer. A moment of prayer, no matter how brief, is a moment of infinite worth, because it acknowledges and invites God into one’s life. It will thus change one’s entire day, proceeding with the special blessing and protection of God.
“The medicine by which God wills to heal the whole world, is humble constant prayer.” – St. Catherine of Siena
The loss of the front porch—though seemingly insignificant—reflects a greater shift in the ethos of American culture. It is a shift away from silence and contemplation, and toward constant external activity. No one seems to pray anymore. We are always on the move, going from one activity to the next. And even most Catholics do not pray (As Matthew Kelly observed, less than 10% of Catholics are “dynamic,” insofar as they have a daily habit of prayer). And many priests, even, do not make time to sit and be still.
Anyone who is familiar with the saints know just how much of a tragedy this is. Of all the topics the saints write about, there is nothing more explored or more thoroughly plummeted than prayer. When they are not directly teaching us about prayer (such as Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint Alphonsus De Ligouri, or Saint Faustina), they are indirectly teaching us with their very words, in their flights of adoration and and transports of praise. Indeed, the saints were not just being sentimental when they said that prayer is more necessary to the soul than food is to the body. They were speaking truth. The very existence of the world is upheld by the prayers of holy men and women, as Jesus told Saint Faustina. Prayer is what sustains the world, and it is thus the single greatest remedy for a faltering Church in America (I have spoken at greater length in my article; “How Bishops can Save the Catholic Church in America“). It is important we understand this—understand just how powerful prayer really is. It is not just something we do. It transforms us, and the world, into better people, more peaceful, more joyful, more intelligent. In prayer, souls are saved and the world healed, because it is in prayer where God and man meet. Through prayer, man opens himself to the greatest graces, and is thus able to realize his full potential, who he was meant to be.
It is therefore all the more necessary that priests and bishops take measures to encourage prayer in their parishes. One of the simplest and most effective ways to do this, is establishing an adoration chapel—and not just one or two parishes in a diocese, but ideally all of them (yes, I aim high so as not to be disappointed). I firmly believe that no one should have to drive more than 10 minutes to find an adoration chapel. Below I have listed reasons why this ought to be implemented;
6 Reasons Why Every Parish Should Have an Adoration Chapel
1) There is no reason not to. It is a simple and practical thing that pastors can implement in their own churches, which gives people another option rather than just staying at home and finding a quiet place. Sometimes people cannot find a quiet place at home. A chapel gives the faithful a place outside the home for solitude and prayer. Plus, an adorer doesn’t always have to be present. With the bishops permission, there are ways to have a “perpetual adoration” chapel—a chapel that is always open to the public around the clock—without violating canon law.
Objection: But there is not enough interest in my parishes.
Response: Interest in the laity follows interest by priests. If priests don’t preach about the importance of prayer, regularly, the people will not seek it. This requires that priest apply themselves to an assiduous reading of the saints and mystics (something they should have received in seminary but likely did not), in order to see and appreciate just how important prayer is to the Christian life. (Saint Faustina, for example, shows priests what priestly prayer ought to look like. Her entire diary, in fact, is about standing before God and imploring mercy on behalf of humanity. In other words, it is about mediating between God and man, which is precisely the foremost duty of the priest. Her diary thus provides a tangible vision of how priests ought to pray. This is just one example of one saint among thousands.) Saint Bernard believed that every priest ought to be in the third mansion at least. But without having read Saint Teresa’s Interior Castle, priests will not even know what a “mansion” is, let alone be able to direct souls in the spiritual life.
Objection: But I do preach on prayer. And yet the people are not interested.
Response: It is unreasonable to preach about something a few times and expect the people to instantly respond. Priests need to see themselves as parents. When was the last time you saw a parent say something once and the child instantly listened and modified his behavior permanently? It just doesn’t happen. Being a parent means repeating yourself…again, and again, and again, until you sound like a broken record; “Do not play in the street,” “Make sure you eat your food,” “Do not touch the fire,” etc. Repetition is how we learn. Priests must not allow themselves to get discouraged so easily, and must not feel that every homily has to be unique, new, and fresh. There are different ways one can say the same thing, and approach the same topics from different angles. Priests must never tire at returning to the same core messages of our faith, one of which is prayer.
2) Our Lord is Present in a way that He is not present at home. An adoration chapel is more than just a quiet place, because of the real presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. There are thus special graces involved whenever one spends time in prayer (in fact, the Church attaches a plenary indulgence to anyone who spends an hour in adoration). By the very fact that one puts forth an effort to leave the home and drive to a chapel is a small sacrifice in itself, one which merits graces of its own.
3) Prayer in community can be very efficacious. A chapel helps bring the community together in prayer, which itself garners singular graces. In fact, sometimes the most powerful and moving experiences are in prayer together with simple, humble, and holy people. The more fervent and humble the prayer is, the more powerful it becomes. Indeed, great miracles can happen when a few honest and loving people pray together in silence. No words need be shared between them to sense this. This is especially true if they are not praying for themselves but are praying for other people, or adoring Our Lord with simple love. The graces and consolations that flow sometimes are almost palpable. There is real truth to Our Lord’s counsel “where two or more are gathered in my name…” The youth today are especially aware of this. Having been to Steubenville and other youth retreats, they have experienced the graces and consolations that come with community prayer on a massive scale. Having witnessed the power of Eucharistic Adoration first-hand, it would be a gross negligence if priests do not follow up by encouraging Adoration in their own parishes.
4) Prayer in community can also help one grow in patience. A priest once complained to me that many of the people he sees in the chapel are not exactly the most holy and model parishioners. I couldn’t help but think to myself, “And?” Did not Our Lord say that those who are sick are in need of a physician? Just because some people who regularly pray in chapel are not the most loving and charitable people in the world, does not mean it is not a good practice. Everyone is at a different point in their spiritual journey, and not everyone in chapel will be advanced in prayer. Some people may just be in the beginning stages, and may be restless, listless, and sometimes may even be a source of distraction. As a community, we are called to bear with each other’s faults patiently, realizing that what they are today, they will not be tomorrow. Prayer changes people. It may not occur overnight. But it will happen. The people that seem most distracted and self-interested today, can tomorrow turn out to be the most fervent and holy believers (and conversely, the people that seem the most reverent in outward appearance, can sometimes be the least advanced in virtue). I have seen this with my own eyes, so I can attest to its veracity. I have seen hard eyes turn mild over the course of years. And I have seen hard and irritable people turn into gentle lambs—all because they remained faithful to daily prayer.
5) Ministries based around Adoration flourish. In my short 36 years of life, I have seen this too many times to discount as mere coincidence. Any ministry that has adoration at its core (for example, young adults ministries that first meet at chapel before going out to dinner), seems to persevere beyond that of other ministries. In fact, many seem to flourish because of it, especially if they involve the youth. The youth are thirsty for authenticity and truth, because they get so little of it in their culture (Anyone who has been to Steubenville will come face to face with this reality in a profound way). Adults have a responsibility to be what they need to be, and resist the temptation to tepidity that comes with age. The high ideals of youth should never be allowed to go to waste. And adoration chapels help insure this will never happen.
6) It fills a void in the Church, and will lay the foundation for a future renewal. As our world becomes increasingly frenetic and tumultuous, there is an ever greater need for prayer. The Catholic Church ought be the anchor in the world that brings people back to the most important things, to provide for their spiritual needs. I believe adoration chapels will play a key role in servicing the people of God and aiding in the renewal of the Church throughout the world.