Faith and Life,  Spiritual Devotions

Watch With Me One Hour

In my mid and late teens, I was in the habit of trying to make a Holy Hour each Thursday night from 11pm till midnight. This was in honour of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and I had learned about it from a wonderful little book I had called “Heart Afire: Devotion to the Sacred Heart”, written by MD Forrest. This was in the 1980s and the copy I had was already very old at that point. I cannot recall with certainty where I got this book from, but it was most probably from my Aunt Margaret – it was very much the sort of book she would have had, which I would have seen at some point, and which she would finally have given to me if only to keep me quiet.

It was a tremendous book, by far the best book on devotion to the Sacred Heart which I have ever read. It detailed the visions of Our Lord to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque at Paray-le-Monial in Burgundy, France, in 1673 and 1674. It was from these revelations that we have the devotion as we know it today and why almost every Catholic Church has within it a statue of the Sacred Heart. The book also outlined very clearly the object, particular form and purpose of such a devotion from a spiritual and theological perspective – but it did so quite simply and in way that was easy to understand. It went on to give the specifics of the devotion which the Lord had given to St Margaret Mary. Not all parts of those specifics are known equally well.

For example, the Lord’s promises to the Saint in relation to this devotion, especially the request for the nine First Fridays and the particular promise regarding this, are very well known; but much less well-known amongst His requests is that of the Holy Hour of Reparation, made late on a Thursday night. The little book, of course, told me all about this part along with all the others, and so my intention became to fulfil that one particular demand as it seemed to be the one most often overlooked or unknown.

I had a small and very simple altar with an image of the Sacred Heart upon it, beside which there was a little red votive lamp. I had the little devotional book with everything necessary – particularly the prayers – within it, and my Rosary was in my hand. What could possibly go wrong.

Now, making a Holy Hour might sound simple enough, it ought to be easy enough to accomplish. I was to find out that it was anything but easy. I was also to discover that it was entirely possible to fall fast asleep whilst kneeling to pray the Rosary – something I managed to do many times over during those years. In my defence, it was the busy period of high school for me and it was a late night before an early rise the following morning. But who would have thought you could fall asleep so many times whilst kneeling down and never once fall over altogether!

Could you not watch with Me for one hour?

Since those days, I have never once read these lines in the Gospel of Saint Matthew in quite the same way as before. Here, the Lord is praying in Gethsemane and He asks the disciples to watch with Him, only to return from His own prayer and find them fast asleep. Hence His question.

For me, my response to that question was so often ‘no’. I felt so bad about that. I had committed to something and yet only sometimes did I manage to do what I had promised. I go much easier on the Apostles now, every Holy Thursday. No, perhaps they could not watch as asked – but then, neither could I.

At some point, I lost that little book – most likely, in the midst of moving from one house to the next. I’d give anything to have it once more. I ordered a book a few years ago which I thought was the same one – and while quite good, it was not the same one. That one was so small and simple, nothing extraneous within it, just what I needed. How it set me on fire with devotion for the Sacred Heart! And how that fire burns yet. The book was well-named – I think the ‘Heart Afire’ of the title related not so much to the Heart of the Lord, as to the heart of the reader. Such was the effect it had upon me.

Praying the Sorrowful Mysteries a little earlier tonight, I found myself thinking of that book again – as I have done on so many different occasions over the years. Each time, I go and try to find it again from some bookstore or other. Tonight, I found a facsimile reprint of the original 1946 book – I ordered it immediately and it should arrive in the next three weeks. This one is hardback and with a different cover, while my original was paperback and had a lovely image of the Sacred Heart holding the globe of the world and glancing lovingly upon it. No matter – it is the interior content which counts.

Perhaps, then, this might be a good time to re-start my practice of making the Thursday night Holy Hour.


Catholic | Retired Nurse | UK

One Comment

  • Scott Bailey

    There is a beautiful Holy Hour that Saint Gemma Galgani prayed every Thursday evening. I have a privately printed copy, but you can find it online by doing a Google search. I mention it because I find it helpful to use different versions sometimes. It might be a helpful suggestion for you or a reader. Let us pray for one another.

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