Pray without ceasing

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The Catholic Courier visited eight locations on an ordinary day -- Nov. 5 -- to learn how people in the diocese are living out St. Paul’s command to the Thessalonians: "Pray without ceasing" (1 Thes 5:17).

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Elaine Mullaly kneels to pray inside the Eucharistic Chapel at Perinton's St. John of Rochester Church.

Elaine Mullaly kneels to pray inside the Eucharistic Chapel at Perinton's St. John of Rochester Church.

12:00 a.m.

Devotional prayer: St. John of Rochester Parish, Perinton

Elaine Mullaly is sitting before the Lord in the Eucharistic Chapel.

On her head is a brown, lace mantilla. On the altar, Jesus is exposed inside a monstrance.

Light-pink bouquets have been positioned at the base of the altar and at the base of a statue of Mary. The room is silent and still.

"You just get a special sense of the presence of the Lord when you are sitting looking at the Blessed Sacrament, and you know that’s him, body, blood, soul and divinity," Mullaly explains.

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Several nights each week Mullaly drives the 25 miles from her home in Churchville to participate in adoration in the Perinton chapel. Beforehand, she often visits her nearly 100-year-old mother at St. Ann’s Home in Rochester.

Mullaly, a retiree who rarely goes to bed before 5 or 6 a.m., says she prefers nighttime adoration. She says prayer helped her get through the trials of being a single mother to her now-grown daughter.

"It has never been easy," Mullaly says. "I just draw a lot of strength from my faith."

2:25 a.m.

Communal prayer: Abbey of the Genesee, Piffard

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It may not be easy to answer a 2:15 a.m. wake-up, but it's routine for the 28 Trappist monks beginning their day at the Abbey of the Genesee.

Brother Christian Walsh waits silently for 2:25 a.m. prayer to begin at Abbey of the Genesee.

Brother Christian Walsh waits silently for 2:25 a.m. prayer to begin at Abbey of the Genesee.

Prayer dictates the rhythms of the monks' contemplative lifestyle. They go to bed at 7 p.m. and wake up to a bell before the 2:25 a.m. vigils to begin the Liturgy of the Hours, the liturgical prayers sanctifying the parts of each day. This day, the vigils take place in the refectory, or dining room, because the abbey’s church is being remodeled.

As dim lights come on, the monks sit at long tables; retreatants sit along the refectory walls. Together they read and chant from the abbey’s custom Psalters, reproductions of an original hand calligraphed in 1974.

"In the day of my distress I sought the Lord," a monk reads from Psalm 77. "My hands were raised at night without ceasing. My soul refused to be consoled."

As the lights are dimmed at the end of 2:25 a.m. prayer at Abbey of the Genesee, monks turn to face an illuminated icon of Mary Mother of Christ.

As the lights are dimmed at the end of 2:25 a.m. prayer at Abbey of the Genesee, monks turn to face an illuminated icon of Mary Mother of Christ.

At the end of the vigils, all lights are extinguished save one illuminating the icon of Mary Mother of Christ. Her hands are outstretched in prayer, and an image of Christ is contained within her.

The room is still.

Soon after the lights come back on, the refectory smells of toasted bread and fresh coffee. Monks eat breakfast and spend silent time in prayer until 6 a.m. lauds and Mass. Daily work starts at 7 a.m.

Father Stephen Muller sits down to eat after 2:25 a.m. prayers at Abbey of the Genesee.

Father Stephen Muller sits down to eat after 2:25 a.m. prayers at Abbey of the Genesee.