June 1, 2024 | Editorials and Columns
Fr. Stephen Van Lal Than

A monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament is displayed on the altar during a Holy Hour at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City July 13, 2023. The liturgy was hosted by the Sisters of Life during the ongoing National Eucharistic Revival. OSV NEWS PHOTO/GREGORY A. SHEMITZ

Meeting Jesus at midnight or in the wee small hours


We all have them, those desperate times, particularly in the wee small hours of the morning, when illness or anxiety pulls us up from our beds and down to our knees, or keeps us on our feet, pacing the floor as we seek relief from physical or mental or spiritual aches and ailments.

Sometimes, we wish we could awaken the whole household, begging our families to supply the sort of immediate solace we need. But we don’t do it. They need their sleep, after all.

What do you do in those times? Do you find yourself longing for a mother’s presence, and thus pick up your rosary? Do you warm up some milk, light a candle and open the Scriptures?

Sometimes, in those hours of silent suffering — especially if my affliction is some mental anguish I cannot push away — I will seek out the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, which is easier to do today than it was 20 years ago.

I recall a particular night when old ghosts and new torments were trampling heart and mind, preventing rest. Not wishing to disturb my family, I drove to a local parish. There, I stood at a side door, gazing through a small window at the tabernacle within, visible only by the light of the candle beside it (the reassuring sign that Christ was there). I simply watched the flame flicker, and adored. I asked Jesus if I might stay there — not exactly at his feet but as near as I might — and take my consolation from his boundless and supernatural presence.

It was by no means an ideal situation, and yet as I stood there, consolation did in fact come. On those chilly steps, a true “peace surpassing all understanding” (Phil 4:7) settled upon me like a healing balm. Despite my limited view, Christ transcended the tabernacle and every material and spiritual obstacle between us and let me feel not just seen but recognized, not just heard but understood.

Mostly, I felt loved beyond my own comprehension of intimacy and acceptance.

I hated leaving, but when I did, all the doubts, all the fears I’d been entertaining — all the great wreckage of my heart — stayed behind, with Jesus. I went home, having learned the valuable truth that everything is known, and that we are none of us alone.

And I slept.

In 2024, it’s much easier to find Christ, present and exposed in a monstrance, no matter the day or the hour. One need no longer hold a cold and lonely vigil at a locked door because — thanks to what used to be called “new media” — monasteries and diocesan adoration chapels from all over the world maintain live streams of the Blessed Sacrament for remote adoration, whereby the energy of the Christ is transmitted through energy both housed and in the ether, to encounter our own.

This is a particular boon to the incarcerated or the infirm, of course, but sitting before a streamed monstrance can offer a powerful bit of succor to anyone’s day.

Recently I saw a brief video of a pastor in Stratford, Connecticut, who, during the isolating lockdowns of 2020, installed what he called a “drive-up adoration window.”

“I was coming out of my rectory chapel in March of 2020,” he explains, “and I looked to the right and I saw that I have this entranceway but next to it is this glass panel. And I got to thinking, ‘I could set up an Adoration window, here. Jesus would be safe behind the glass; nobody could get to Jesus.’ I had a custom-made shutter built, and now people drive up outside, they get out of their cars, they walk up to that shutter and then they can open it. I put a kneeler out there, a chair for them to sit on, and I have people 24 hours a day coming, at 2 a.m., 4 a.m., 6 a.m., during the day.”

“Say hi to Jesus,” he smiles as he demonstrates how an adorer can open the shutter and sit or kneel before Christ, present behind the glass. “Just come by,” he invites. “Spend a few minutes with Jesus. He’s waiting here for you, all the time!”

Some might object, of course, or find it irreverent. I don’t. The little “drive-up adoration window” may be a humble way to bring Jesus to us, but I have a hard time believing he would mind. He permitted himself to be brought into Jerusalem via a humble donkey, after all.

And I know that on a cold and restless night 20 years ago, I would have been so grateful to drive out to meet Jesus and find him waiting for me — not in distant shadows, but so beautifully near.

Even today, with remote viewing at my fingertips, I would still be grateful.

Elizabeth Scalia is editor-at-large for OSV. 

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Publisher |  Bishop William F. Medley
Editor |  Elizabeth Wong Barnstead
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