I am not totally sure how my parents felt when I told them I’d signed up for the 3 a.m. hour of prayer on Good Friday when I was 16 years old. Our parish had invited us to “watch an hour” with Jesus, and I certainly didn’t want him to be alone for one minute. There was only one small detail I’d neglected to consider: I didn’t have a driver’s license yet!
But I remember my father quietly driving me to church that dark New England night without any sense of tension, and to this day I have no idea what he was thinking as he watched from the back pew as I silently knelt before the altar of repose.
Admittedly, I was a rather pious child, and an equally zealous teen: anything I could do to be a better Catholic, I wanted to do. If that meant kneeling before the Eucharist in the wee hours of the morning during the Easter triduum, well, I was game.
Little did I realize, though, that as I kept Jesus company on that deep, dark night, he was not only planting the seeds of my vocation, but helping me discover a great secret: that while what I did for him was good, who I am in him was even better – a truth he longed to share with me.
Years later, I was in the midst of a crisis. As a young Franciscan sister, I had sustained a serious head injury, the trauma of which so affected me that I could do nothing. I lay in bed all day, and my only recourse was our daily Mass and holy hour, for which I somehow mustered the strength to be present. I went from running marathons, unloading 40 lb. boxes of chicken at our food pantry and writing research papers for my graduate degree to doing literally nothing.
I was very sick, and it was very hard. But in that God-permitted time of suffering, pain and isolation there was finally the space for Jesus to allow those seeds planted so long ago to begin to bear fruit. Slowly, in prayer before the Eucharist and in the solitude of my room, I realized that I was never alone – not because our faithful German Shepherd, Liberty, kept constant watch over me, but because all around me and within me was the secret, silent, hidden presence of God.
So many years before, I had had a desire to watch one hour with him; now I began to understand that all my life, Jesus had been delighting in watching every moment of every hour with me.
Praise God, I recovered from my head injury, finished grad school, professed final vows in 2015 and continue to live and serve among the very poor on Chicago’s West side with my Franciscan community. I even ran another marathon in 2018 to help raise funds for our apostolate.
I have never lost the profound sense of gift that came of recognizing that Jesus is ever present to me. This confidence is renewed every day at every Mass, where Jesus’ passion, death, resurrection and ascension is represented for you and for me: this is his daily giving of himself, completely. This gift of presence is also deepened during every moment of every holy hour I have the privilege to attend.
Because I have grown to see Jesus present in the Eucharist, I am more able to see him in my brothers and sisters – especially those most broken and lost ones. Jesus is ever present to me, and I long to be present to him. I am sure I would be lost without him, and yet with him, not only am I found, but I am truly home, and on my way home.
I can’t even imagine what it will be like to enter the kingdom one day, and realize what it means to watch, to be present, to be united with Jesus not just for an hour, a day or a lifetime but for all of eternity.
Sister Alicia Torres is a National Eucharistic Revival executive team member and managing editor for the Heart of the Revival newsletter.