The highly admired televangelist, writer, missionary, and already declared Venerable, Fulton J. Sheen, did not attribute his success to his own merits or talents—even though he truly had many. This towering giant of the 20th century attributed his success to his relationship with Jesus—a faithful, loving, and friendly relationship based on Jesus’ Real-Presence in the Eucharist.
Early in his priesthood, moved by a young Chinese girl who gave her life for love of the Eucharist, Sheen made the firm commitment that he would make a daily Holy Hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament. This he called his Hour of Power.
For more than a half-century this man, one of the greatest preachers, teachers and writers that the United States has ever known, never missed making his daily Holy Hour even once.
You would think that a man busy with his many writings, television appearances, missionary activities, and add to that his obligations as Bishop, would have days or maybe even weeks, where he would simply have to make an exception, take a spiritual rain check, and resume his Holy Hour when the dust of an extraordinarily busy schedule settled down. This was not the case with Fulton Sheen! He was faithful to the end, even as he passed from this life to the next on December 9th, 1979. Where did he die? In front of the Blessed Sacrament in his private chapel! Imagine dying in front of Jesus, only to be welcomed by the Lord into Heaven!
Many people have participated in the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola: the month Retreat, or the 8-day Retreat, or Annotation 19—the Spiritual Exercises in daily life. That said, after taking the Exercises, many are challenged to persevere in their daily meditations, that we might call in the language of Sheen, the daily Holy Hour.
Temptations abound to shorten our daily Holy Hour, or to do it every other day, or simply to abandon this daily spiritual practice altogether. Such thoughts are insidious, numerous, and constant from within our own mind and heart, as well as due to social and family pressures from without. This being the case, if there are no strong and convincing reasons to persevere in our daily Holy Hour of Power, chances are we will abandon this practice and it will be relegated to an historical past never to be resumed, perhaps for the rest of our life.
Taking all of this into account, we would like to offer several motivational reasons so that, in imitation of the great Venerable Fulton J. Sheen, we will accept the challenge to be faithful to our daily commitment of making our daily holy hour.
1. INTELLECTUAL CONVICTION. How true this saying: “The thought is the father of the deed.” Unless we are convinced of the importance of doing something, we will never exert the effort to attain that end or goal. We must be convinced firmly in our mind that being faithful to our daily Holy Hour, the Hour of Power, is essential, an indispensable means for arriving at the purpose of our life: saving our soul and becoming a great saint. Jesus put it in these words: “Where your treasure is, there your heart is” (Mt. 6: 21). When we believe something is important, we will bend over backwards to reach that goal.
2. SPIRITUAL DIRECTION. Masters in the Spiritual Life concur in the following: we must have adequate, consistent and expert spiritual direction to ascend the mountain of holiness. This holiness that we must pursue always has an intimate connection to our personal prayer life. We cannot find any saint who did not strive to grow in their prayer life. Like coaches in Baseball who train players to perfect their athletic abilities, so we need spiritual coaches and managers to train us in the arduous path and pursuit of a deeper prayer-life. Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint John of the Cross, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Saint Josemaria Escriva Balaguer insisted on the paramount importance of spiritual direction, especially in the pursuit of a deeper prayer life.
3. SPIRITUAL READING. An interesting note in the acceptance and formation of the Carmelite Sisters at the time of Saint Teresa of Avila was the importance of being literate and knowing the art of reading. Thus the great Saint Teresa of Avila who reformed the Carmelite female branch, would only accept women who could read. One of the primary reasons was that she firmly believed that much learning could be done by simply applying one’s mind to good reading, especially on the topic of prayer. The literature on prayer today is immense. Therefore, this should be a topic in spiritual direction.
4. HAVE A SET TIME, PLACE, AND TOPIC FOR PRAYER. Philosophers assert that the human person is a creature of habit. On a natural plane we all form habits—good ones are virtues; bad ones, vices. Hopefully we have more of the former, than the latter. Experience proves that those who keep changing the times of their daily Holy Hour, their Hour of Power, actually lose the will to do a Holy Hour. Sad to say, they eventually give it up. Personally, I love the early-bird Holy Hour, at the crack of dawn. Why? For several reasons! Jesus prayed early in the morning. Second, it prepares us for spiritual battle for the rest of the day. Finally, if done later it is too easy to put it off, to cut it short, or to do it half-heartedly. Place? If possible, in front of the Blessed Sacrament! If this is not possible, a place where there is silence, because God speaks to the heart when there is silence. Material? The Word of God should always have priority over other topics. It is not a bad idea to meditate upon the Readings of the day in the Liturgy of the Mass. If possible, do the Readings the night before so that you retire thinking about the Word of God and rise with His Word enlightening your mind, ready to plumb the depths of the riches of His Word for you!
5. A MONTHLY DAY OF RECOLLECTION. In many Religious Orders or Communities, both male and female, it is part of the Rule to strive to make a Day of Recollection or Day of Retreat on a monthly basis. That is a good model for us! It may not always be possible due to economics, family situations, or even time restraints to go to a Retreat House. However, you can make this monthly Day of Recollection from your home. In what manner? Talk it out with your Spiritual Director. Perhaps, choose the topics for meditation. For example, if it were in Advent, you could choose the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary and spend the day meditating/contemplating on these Mysteries, or at least some of these Mysteries, in preparation for Christmas. Do a revision after each meditation, that is to say, write out how God spoke to you. Then report to your Spiritual Director the fruits of these meditations. This monthly Day of Recollection can truly serve to bolster, fortify, and animate your practice of the Daily Holy Hour—the Hour of Power.
In conclusion, it is our hope and strong desire that those who have tasted and experienced the sweetness of the Lord in prayer, in meditation, as well as through the experience of the Spiritual Exercises, will persevere in their daily Holy Hour. And if due to various reasons they have given up their HOUR OF POWER that they will gently but with firm determination resume this practice that has helped so many ascend to heights of holiness. May the example and prayers of Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen motivate you to return to the hour of power as a powerful means to become the saint that God has planned for you to become for all eternity!