Saturday night I finally decided to make a visit. I knew that someone would be there because as Adoration goes, there must be at least one person present at all times. Anyway, I walked in and saw an old man reading what I found out momentarily was "The Way of Divine Love". The chapel was so small that it was literally the size of a (small) living room converted into a Eucharistic Adoration chapel. The sign on the opposing door had written on it "Silence in the Chapel please". I think I shocked him by walking in, Diurnal in hand, ready to pray Vespers. I hadn't yet signed the guest book when he was already talking.
I had just knelt and almost as soon as I did so he said "Would you like to pray a Rosary with me?" I hadn't planned on praying in common but I figured "why not?". Rosaries were hung all over the pews. So I said, "Sure, we can do that."
"I'm not holding you up or anything am I?" he asked.
"No, I was just about to pray Vespers is all and then meet someone for dinner though." I replied.
"Oh, Vespers? Whats that."
I then gave him a short but thorough answer to what the Divine Office was and even showed him a copy of Christian Prayer that was in the pew next to me (left by a pious visitor no doubt). We were still talking. Very little adoration was going on and yet I didn't mind. I was literally 3 feet away from our Lord there in the monstrance having this discussion about prayers and our parishes. I took a glance at the Eucharist and just thought "When Jesus was here as a man, his disciples talked around him all the time. They hung out after all. So be it."
He had me read a little of "The Way of Divine Love", which I did just to satisfy his excitement for the author. He wanted to know what I thought and mentioned how many priests there were in hell etc... I mentioned that the Devil goes after the priests first, to which he agreed. Finally we began the Rosary after a few silent moments with Our Lord. He was sitting behind me on some sort of couch.
We prayed the Rosary in common and it exposed my Presbyterian background pretty quickly. We learned the Lord's Prayer with "debts" instead of "trespasses" and I refuse during my private devotions to change as a personal homage to my spiritual heritage. It was a slip in this case though. I changed to "trespasses" the second or third time through once I realized what I had done.
Here I was, praying the same prayer with a stranger probably 50 years my senior, 3 feet away from Our Lord, united by our Catholic faith. What a tremendous occasion. I'm not the most comfortable walking into another Parish all the time so it was certainly God's grace that I got up the gumpshion to go to this chapel. And now, having responded, I am met with such a great experience as this.
The Rosary ended and Jimmy began talking again. I was now setting up my Diurnal for Vespers. I mentioned to him that once I had finished I would have to go. Within 5 minutes he had me on the phone with the lady who runs the chapel, signing up to take over a regular spot for adoration. I certainly did not go there expecting that, but it was in the back of my head the whole drive over. "That would be a really nice thing to do regularly." That sort of thing.
Well anyway, I finally said "I'm going to pray Vespers now, would you like to listen in and respond to the parts you may know?" (Glory be, Our Father, etc.) I figured that only by praying out loud would I be able to get through it. I had already tried starting in silence and got precisely this far:
Deus in adjutorium meum intende.
Domine, ad adjuvandum me festina.
Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto...
So it was no use. We prayed my English translation out loud for the Vigil of Pentecost. What a great experience that was too. He was quite into the psalms and especially the "Come Holy Ghost" hymn. I looked over and saw him eyes tight shut and realized how intense his prayer had become. The classical translation in my Diurnal has a great quality to it. I couldn't get to my Magnificat translation quick enough so I just prayed the latin version from my Benedictus/Magnificat card. After we were done I got a real chuckle of a question:
"What was that, Italian or something?"
Priceless. It turns out Jimmy was a Maronite Catholic (no fault then on the Italian question!) who is a member of the parish 3 blocks from mine. Small world.
Seriously though, what a great experience. Not much silence or contemplation but a chance meeting with a very holy old man in a tiny Eucharistic Adoration chapel. It made my night honestly and I'm still sitting here in wonder at the grace of God.