I’ve been for several weeks in Ireland’s County Galway, “enjoying” some of the worst summer weather in living memory. When even the Irish acknowledge the gloom, you know you’re in trouble.

One bright spot has been the Church of the Immaculate Conception, a huge stone structure with ornamental battlements that towers over the village of Oughterard.

Adoration is held after 10 a.m. Mass Tuesdays and Fridays. That first Tuesday, Father Michael guided us into the Lamb of God Chapel, led the Divine Praises, and dimmed the lights.

I looked around at the seven or eight other oldish women—there were no men that day—and thought of the plodding, steady devotion of the women who come, to church all over the world, day in, day out, week in, week out; who attend daily Mass, say the Rosary, pray the novenas, grip the holy cards,  wear the scapulars. Who carry the flame. Who wait. And who in a very real way have kept the Church going.

I thought of Carlo Carretto (1910-1988), an Italian priest who burned his address book and set out for the Sahara to follow in the steps of St. Charles de Foucauld. Murdered by the Tuareg he’d  longed to convert, Foucauld had been found dead in the sand, inches away from the monstrance.

Carretto wrote a book about his time in the Sahara: Letters from the Desert. I’d gone back to it many times, and found a copy in the house where I was staying.

He describes a whole week he spent alone with the Eucharist, exposed day and night.

“Silence in the desert, silence in the cave, silence in the Eucharist. No prayer is so difficult as the adoration of the Eucharist. One’s whole natural strength rebels against it.

One would prefer to carry stones in the sun. The senses, memory, imagination, all are repressed. Faith alone triumphs and faith is hard, dark, stark.”

In a chapter called “The God of the Impossible,” he writes of a time later in his stay, again sitting in Adoration one blazing hot morning. He’d been injured while working alongside the local laborers.

“My leg was hurting terribly, and I had to work up the force to stop my mind from wandering. I remembered Pius XII once asking in one of his audiences, ‘What does Jesus do in the Eucharist?’ and he awaited the reply from his students. Even today, after so many years, I do not know how to reply.

What does Jesus do in the Eucharist? I have thought about it often.

In the Eucharist Jesus is immobilized not in one leg only, but both, and in his hands as well.. He is reduced to a little piece of white bread. The world needs him so much and yet he doesn’t speak. Men need him so much and he doesn’t move!

The Eucharist is the silence of God, the weakness of God.”

How grateful I was to be there, surrounded by fellow members of the Mystical Body. The YouTube influencer/meditation gurus had nothing on these outwardly perfectly ordinary women who sat in total silence, barely moving a muscle.

Meditation in secular culture tends toward “wellness”: mental and spiritual health; excellence. Those who sit in Adoration, by contrast, wouldn’t dream of trying to market what they do. No-one is trying to perfect or pass on a technique, or hold themselves out as experts, or offer a certain kind of experience.

Anyone who regularly sits before the monstrance in silence knows that prayer arises from total poverty. That to pray is to be overshadowed by mystery. That prayer, grounded in Christ, is grace.   

Nowhere is the scandal of the Cross more apparent than in Adoration. No election is own. No wounds are bandaged. No garden is tended, no child is comforted, no prisoner is visited.

“It is love that gives things their value. It makes sense of the difficulty of spending hours and hours on one’s knees praying while so many men need looking after in the world, and in the context of love we must view our inability to change the world, to wipe out evil and suffering…

It is love which must determine man’s actions, love which must give unity to what is divided.

Love is the synthesis of contemplation and action, the meeting point between heaven and earth, between God and man.”

With a gentle rain falling outside, I began to catch my breath from the long journey. A hundred dilemmas passed through my mind. Was I a “pilgrim,” as I liked to tell myself, or an unstable crank? Why, after so much prayer, was I still so judgmental, petty, and envious? What would become of me if I started to lose my memory?

I thanked our Lord, over and over. I asked him to shore me up, one day at a time. And then I fell asleep.


  1. hi heather
    i just wanted you to know how grateful i am for all you are writing. i like the themes. i think we have the themes in common. if i would have another life, i would be a worker for social justice, esp. between men and women. and children! i would go through the supermarket and get involved, — no more crying children.
    although we have the themes in common, i can not reach out to your loneliness behind it. i told myself to write a comment to all your postings, but i can not think well and then i write stupids.
    i pray for you everyday, that we are good Christians and follow the way , truth and life.
    i will continue writing some comments but i was just saying, that think of you everyday!
    continue and i continue and everything will be well in Him.

  2. Thank you for sharing your Ireland journey, dearest Heather! And Thank you for sharing your beautifully kind heart and soul!

  3. HEATHER KING says: Reply

    I’m convinced your prayers and goodwill are keeping me afloat–thank you dear women.

  4. Thank you Heather. I wish I had kept up better with you on your pilgrimage, but I have not read every post. You are in my prayers. Women entering the later years need each other. It is a time of life I do not feel well prepared for, and I am thankful for what you share. At one time I must have thought by old age I would no longer be a sinner, but here I am. I still need grace and the sacrament of confession. God bless you.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Oh yeah, Ingrid, I am kind of enjoying this uncharted territory of elderhood…today, anyway…a sense of humor helps, as always..and as you say, Confessionr. Patience is shorter; we more easily tire and flounder and flag…I have plenty of life in my left, though. If I could make it through these last two-and-a-half months in Europe, which were a challenge to say the least, I am not ready for the coffin just yet! Blessings to you–thanks for your readership.

  5. A long time reader and a long time Adorer, I love this and recognize what you and Father Carretto have written. Beautiful and true.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      His Kingdom is not of this world…thank you, dear Chris. Pray for us, Fr. Carretto!


Discover more from HEATHER KING

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading