August 2000


A Holy Hour for Every Day
Msgr. Robert J. McCarthy

    For more than 55 years, I have ministered to migrant carnival 
workers and made a daily Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament in churches, 
chapels and monasteries throughout the continent.  
I want to share my experiences, not to “blow my own horn,” but in the 
hope that others will be encouraged to make a daily Holy Hour a part of 
their spiritual life.
    The daily Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament started for me a 
year before I was ordained, when Bishop Fulton Sheen visited my seminary and 
challenged each seminarian to make a daily Holy Hour, as he himself had 
done for years.  I started my daily Holy Hour that day and, except in time 
of sickness or impossibility, I have made my hour with Jesus every day 
    In my early assignments as an associate pastor, the Holy Hour was 
the most important part of my day.  Sometimes I made my hour of adoration 
at 6 o’clock in the morning before my Mass at 7.  Other times it was later 
in the day but usually some time before noon.  I gave my Holy Hour top 
priority and completed it before going about my daily duties that included visiting 
homes, instructing schoolchildren and making calls on the sick.
    As I “graduated” from associate pastor, my daily Holy Hour was 
easier because I could set times that were more convenient, before carrying 
out parochial duties.  As a pastor, I was assigned to parishes with large 
debts.  Realizing that I could not solve these problems with my  abilities, I 
turned them over to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament with a daily Holy Hour, and 
consecrated myself and the parish to Him.
    Before too long, in ways that I couldn’t explain, the debts were 
paid, and the church and school seemed to thrive!  I was convinced more than 
ever of the necessity of a daily Holy Hour, as Jesus had promised that He 
would bless the projects of priests who were dedicated to Him.
    In 1970, Pope Paul VI established the Pontifical Commission for the 
Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees, and I was appointed to minister 
to the men and women engaged in working with traveling carnivals.  This 
seemed like an insurmountable task for a rural priest who has never worked 
with migrants.  Again I turned to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament in my daily 
Holy Hours, and things began to flourish.  Some 400 carnivals, employing 
about 60,000 people, perform at nearly 4,000 state and county fairs in the 
United States and Canada, and these workers desire the services of the Church.  
Given all this, and realizing my inadequacy, I turned the entire 
apostolate over to Jesus, with the promise to pray a Holy Hour before the Blessed 
Sacrament no matter where I might be.
    St. Dunstans Basilica [on Prince Edward Island in Canada] was a 
place where I made three or four Holy Hours, one each day I was there, for 
about 18 consecutive years while visiting the carnival in that city.  And this 
was only one city.  For another two days, there were Holy Hours in the 
cathedral in Anchorage, Alaska, while visiting the state.  There were Holy Hours 
in St. Peter’s in Rome, while visiting the Vatican to make my annual report on 
the work with migrants.  And there were Holy Hours in Assisi, Fatima and 
other spots in Europe.
    It seems miraculous, but true, that there were chapels and churches 
nearby the many places my work carried me, where I could easily make my 
Holy Hour before going to the carnival lot.  One early morning in Boston, 
around dawn, I was going out hoping to find a church that was open.  
Approaching a well-dressed man near the bus stop,  I asked where there was a church.  
The man told me of a chapel that was within a few feet of where we stood, 
housed in a large building.  This was a typical downtown chapel, which was 
cared for by a religious community of brothers, and after this visit I became a 
regular for some time to come.
        Then there was the time in Salt Lake City, the home of the 
Mormons, where I arrived at night and went to a hotel.  The next morning, I 
arose early and walked on a little street only a block from my hotel.  While 
on my stroll, I found a little chapel in a business building.  Walking into 
that chapel, I found that there was even exposition of the Blessed 
Sacrament, with Jesus just waiting for me.
        These little chapels, hidden in large buildings, are not too 
uncommon in our large cities.  Toronto has one located right in the center of its 
financial district, with the chapel on the second floor of a large 
business complex.
    Another time, I arrived at about midnight in a tiny village in 
Kinsley, Kansas and  I was told by a resident that their Catholic church was 
never locked.  So early in the morning, while it was still dark, I found my 
way to the church, and there, all alone, I had a Holy Hour with my Master.
    Something similar happened in Chatham, New Brunswick.  The tiny 
plane I was on was about three hours late in arriving in Chatham, so I went to 
my little motel room for much needed sleep.
    Early in the morning, I awoke, looked out my window and saw not far 
away the spires of the basilica.  Before long I was with Jesus in a very 
comfortable side chapel.  This brings out the words of St. Claude 
regarding Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament: “I can find You wherever I go.”
    During each January and February, I had to visit the workers in 
their winter quarters.  My first stop was Tampa, Florida, where a Jesuit 
church was less than a block from my room and where I went each day for my hour of 
adoration.  I then went on to Minneapolis, and not far from the place 
where I stayed was a church I could walk to.  From there, it was back to Miami, 
where there was a fine hospital chapel open all hours for Holy Hours.  And a 
similar chapel was available when I was in New York City.
    Today many airports have chapels, and since most of my travels were 
by plane, I used these chapels for my Holy Hours.  Really, if one takes a 
little time to look, he can find chapels and churches nearly everywhere to 
spend time with Jesus.
    After more than 50 years of priesthood and daily Holy Hours, I 
attribute my perseverance and success to my time with Jesus in the Blessed 
Sacrament.  The priesthood is truly a sacred vocation, with preaching, teaching, 
administering the sacraments, caring for the poor and the sick, and so 
many other spiritual ministries.  But the priesthood is also a lonely life, 
and many times it is difficult and burdensome as priests assume parish 
problems (such as debts), experience lack of cooperation and even face 
    Naturally, by his own strength, a priest may not be able to handle 
all this.  But supernaturally, with the grace of God, he can do all things.  
Sharing his problems and difficult times with Jesus in the Blessed 
Sacrament is bound to lighten the burdens. The priest can turn to Jesus at 
anytime, day or night, in the Blessed Sacrament and share with Him his problems.
    As I come to the end of my life, my priesthood and my duties, I 
give all credit for any of my successes to my daily Holy Hour.  At the time of 
my retirement from parish ministry, my primary request made to my bishop 
was that I might have the Blessed Sacrament reserved in a chapel in my 
 It is here that I spend my Holy Hour and other times each day 
interceding for the Church and its active priests who continue to serve.
    As I come to the chapel to start my daily Holy Hour, I speak with 
the same words I’ve used over the years to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament: 
“When the angels in the sanctuary are blessing You and I am in my last agony, 
then remember this day, this chapel and this hour with You.”

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