Five minutes from Santa Rosa, California, the landscape is all ash and ruin. But inside this small chapel, there is a kaleidoscope of stained-glass light and a single man sitting bathed in that light.
The man is Stephen Morris, director of youth ministry for the Diocese of Santa Rosa, and the chapel is down the hall from his office.
In October, the most destructive fires in California history swept through this diocese and beyond, killing 44 people, destroying 8,000 structures, and wasting 245,000 acres.
All of that is in Morris’ mind on a Wednesday afternoon as he engages in a practice Catholics call “Eucharistic adoration” — adoration and prayer before, they believe, an altar where Christ’s body is present.
And though Morris is alone in the color-specked room, he is actually one of hundreds — from California to the Gulf Coast and beyond — who are joining him in this centuries-old practice, a coordinated effort to bring healing out of the ashes.
Morris and his family live south of Santa Rosa, safe from the reach of the fires. But like so many of the spared, he felt helpless. When the bishop of Santa Rosa, Robert Vasa, encouraged the Catholic faithful to provide for the spiritual as well as the material support of the victims, Morris thought: Why not organize an around-the-clock, cross-country Eucharistic adoration?
“It started from this feeling we all have where we want to do something, but we can’t pick up a shovel, we can’t pick up the fire hose,” he said. “This became a structured way for people to offer their intentions.”
The bishop and other diocesan officials agreed and Morris posted a prayer schedule on a project management website and sent out electronic invitations. The idea was for people to sign up for a weekly hour at their local parishes with their intentions focused miles away on the fire victims. The effort began while the fires still raged and will wrap up this weekend, on the first Sunday of Advent.
Within the first few days, more than half of the 165 prayer slots were filled, some with more than one person. They included neighbors of the victims and people as far away as Georgia and Illinois.
In much of the Catholic world, Eucharistic adoration fell by the wayside after the reforms of Vatican II, but Pope John Paul II helped revive interest in it, especially through his final encyclical, “Ecclesia de Eucharistia.”
“It is pleasant to spend time with [Christ], to lie close to his breast like the Beloved Disciple and to feel the infinite love present in his heart,” the pope wrote. ” … The Eucharist is a priceless treasure: by not only celebrating it but also by praying before it outside of Mass we are enabled to make contact with the very wellspring of grace.”
Full story at LifeZette.