On Friday 4th March/Saturday 5th March several churches throughout the Diocese answered the call of Pope Francis to spend ’24 hours for the Lord’. The initiative was initially introduced by the Holy Father in 2014 and challenges churches to throw open their doors for 24 hours, offering the sacrament of reconciliation and Eucharistic adoration to any visitor wishing to encounter Jesus Christ.
The initiative took on extra significance in this Jubilee Year of Mercy. People had the opportunity to come face-to-face with the Lord ‘who is merciful and just’ and receive that Mercy in the Reconciliation. The churches reported a significant number of people in attendance throughout the 24-hour period; some with 20-30 people in attendance some of the time. The experience proved full of grace for those who turned to the Lord and answered the call to watch with him but one hour …. even in the middle of the night!
“ I was immediately enveloped in the peace and tranquility that only comes when you are in silent prayer in the middle of the night. It is hard to put into words, this oneness with God.”
For some, the encounter and opportunity to spend time with the Lord was a welcome retreat from the outside world:
“My daily life is a full and busy one, as is the same for many others. Consequently, it’s easy to overlook a quiet hour of reflection versus a few minutes each day. Yet that Saturday I devoted an entire hour to prayer, taking the time to reflect upon the needs in my life and others, the things I was grateful for and simply pray.”
The whole purpose and journey through the 24-hours has been beautifully summed up by Fr Mark Rowles of Llantwit Major who reports one parishioner’s experience:
“One Irish gentleman who told me his Lent this year is at its best its ever been. He feels a lot more close to God and on Friday night in Llantwit he kept watch with Our Lord on his own quietly for over 4 hours!! … Seeing such faith is a source of inspiration to the rest of us and the time we put in – I believe that the graces that will come to our parishes from this venture may only bear fruit later on.”
The Eucharist and the Blessed Sacrament are at the heart of who we are as a Christian … as a Catholic people. We encounter Jesus Christ everyday in the Mass when the Bread and Wine are transformed through the action of the Holy Spirit for us into his Body and Blood. In Eucharistic adoration we come face-to-face with him in the Eucharistic species. To spend an hour with him can be transformative, and he gave himself to us for 24 in this wonderful initiative.
We look forward to that encounter again next Lent!