The city of Juarez, Mexico, just across the Rio Grande River from El Paso, Texas, has long been known as one of the most dangerous cities in the world. The drug cartels’ incessant vying with each other for power has resulted in a city rampant with murders.
In 2010 there were 3,766 homicides reported in Juarez. In 2015, however, that number had dropped to 256. What could possibly have accounted for that drastic reduction? It can be credited in part to the attempts of the local authorities to curtail the violence. But Father Patricio Hileman, founder of the Missionaries of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament, believes that he has an additional — and far more profound — answer.
Father Hileman and his community have established perpetual adoration chapels throughout Latin America. In 2013, Father Hileman opened the first adoration chapel in Juarez. He did so at the request of one of the parishes in the city. The parishioners were desperate. They feared for their lives and the lives of those they loved. In their desperation the people turned to the one who alone could help them — Jesus Christ. Father Hileman was quick to help the people of Juarez because he believed “that when a parish adores God day and night, the city is transformed.” In just three days, the first adoration chapel opened.
The results of Father Hileman’s work and the prayers of the adorers are nothing short of miraculous. It has been reported that once, when the entire city of Juarez was under siege, a woman was making her way to the adoration chapel at 3 a.m. Soldiers stopped her and asked where she was going. They knew that nothing was open at that hour of the night. When the woman replied that she was going to pray before the Blessed Sacrament for an end to the violence, the disbelieving soldiers followed her. Arriving at the chapel, they found six women on their knees in adoration before the eucharistic Lord. One of the soldiers broke into tears at the sight; and he was found at 3 a.m. the next day praying in the chapel.
That’s not all. The pastor of the chapel reported to Father Hileman that in the two months that the chapel had been open, there had not been a single violent death in the city. Now there are 10 chapels throughout the city of Juarez.
As remarkable as this story is, there are hundreds — perhaps thousands — like it from all over the world. Eucharistic adoration, especially perpetual adoration, has results that are almost unbelievable. I personally know several bishops who have told me that when eucharistic adoration took hold in their dioceses, the numbers of vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life began to increase. Such was the case in Juarez. Before adoration began in the city, the seminary was about to close because there were only eight seminarians. Now there are 88.
I am very pleased that so many of the parishes in our diocese offer times for eucharistic adoration. A few have perpetual adoration, and more are following. It’s a challenge for a pastor to recruit people to spend time in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, especially in the middle of the night; but we can expect miracles when God is adored day and night.
As the season of Lent approaches, may I suggest that serious efforts be made to spend time before the Blessed Sacrament during those 40 days. If you have not given yourself to this practice, I can assure you that, if adoration becomes a regular part of your spiritual life, wonderful things will begin to happen.
Sometimes people ask what prayers should be offered during adoration. There is no formulary of prayers that is required. The important thing is that we are in the presence of the Lord himself. The story is told of St. John Vianney, the Curé of Ars, who saw an old man sitting silently in the church before the tabernacle. The priest asked the man what he was doing. The man answered, “I look at him and he looks at me.” There it is. That’s what eucharistic adoration is — contemplating the presence of God. Words are not necessary.
May this holy practice continue to grow here and throughout the world. As it was in Juarez and in Ars, so it is everywhere. When all is said and done, our hope and our salvation are not to be found in the structures of this world, but only in God.