Holy hour can trace its roots back to Jesus Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, when our Lord asked His disciples to stay awake with Him in prayer. They fell asleep, and in Matthew’s Gospel 26: 40 our Lord admonished them by saying, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak.”
There has been a long biblical history of going into the wilderness to get closer to God. In the wilderness, distractions are at a minimum. Things that wrestle for a place in one’s mind fall into the background. In the early church, there were many who chose to live in the wilderness as a way of life. There were called hermits. However, in the spiritual life of the Christian, this oasis from noise, civilization, and other types of disturbance can be achieved right where one lives through prayer. Whether prayer is done at church, in a shrine or chapel, in nature, or at home, the idea of calming oneself down to allow the Lord to talk to you is an important part of a serious Christian’s spiritual life. Though necessary for clergy and religious, it is recommended for all who want to get to know the Lord.
The Lord speaks to us only when we are quiet. Holy hours are a great way to quiet ourselves down. This is achieved in many different ways. Holy hours prayed in Church are of course the optimal choice. First, one is in the presence of the Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament. Churches are conducive to prayer. However, if a church or chapel is not available then one’s own room is fine. Our Lord Himself said that when one wants to pray, he should go to his room and basically shut out the world of distractions.
The content of holy hour varies. What an individual worshipper does is up to him. There is no formal structure. Scripture, devotional prayers, litanies, rosary, stations of the cross, and other formal prayers can be used to quiet the mind down. Saint Ignatius of Loyola used to take a section of Scripture and place himself as one of the characters in the biblical scene as way of meditating. One who is praying the mysteries of the rosary can do the same. For example, the third joyful mystery is a reflection on the nativity. As you meditate on this mystery, you can place yourself as one of the characters you see in the nativity: a shepherd, a wise man, or an angel. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, a great orator and T.V. host from the last century, preached of holy hours. He said the way to get to know a friend is to spend time with him. If we want to know the Lord we have to spend time with Him as well. We should do so in prayer and silence for at least one hour a day.