In the midnight hour, the chapel in the church in the grove of oaks is a still-life tableau: the beige carpeting, the 13 burgundy chairs, the peace lilies, the wicker basket full of handwritten petitions from parishioners, the sunburst monstrance with the exposed Eucharist, which Catholics believe is the actual body of Christ.
Theresa Nino, 52, is here to adore Him face to face from 12 to 1 a.m., when the next adorer arrives. Someone must always be praying in the chapel of perpetual adoration at St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Gaithersburg, and the duty is handed off every hour, day after day, night after night, among a roster of 300 adorers.
Theresa prays for people grappling with the damage from Hurricane Irene.
She prays for the people suffering through the famine in the Horn of Africa.
She prays for her 80-year-old mother-in-law, who is scheduled for surgery in Chicago.
She prays here because she sometimes feels as though she gets lost in “the humdrum of life,” as if she’s just a housewife of no importance. And so she gives this midnight hour to thanksgiving — for her three centered daughters, her loving husband, her parents who emigrated from Poland — and, suddenly, her soul bursts with energy, with purpose, with desire to bring this inner peace to the outer world.
About 1 a.m., a woman in a teal windbreaker and white sneakers enters the room, genuflects, sits and kneels. Pat Bradshaw, 66, addresses her Creator as Theresa slips out of the room.
May the heart of Jesus’s most Blessed Sacrament be praised, adored and loved with grateful affection in every moment in all the tabernacles in the world, even till the end of time.
Pat, a registered nurse, prays for the military, especially service members stationed abroad.
She prays for God to enter the heart of a doctor who began performing late-term abortions in Germantown last year.
She prays for her deceased husband, whom she pictures in heaven, and for her sister-in-law, who has pancreatic cancer. Who has had pancreatic cancer for more than two years. Who isn’t getting better despite the fact that God is four feet away from Pat’s jangling rosary.
Pat acknowledges doubt, then sidesteps it. She exits the chapel shortly after 2 a.m. and will return next Monday at the same time, with the same prayers, because how can one not pray for goodness in the face of badness?
Juan Carrasco, 50, takes her place and addresses his Creator.
Gracias Padre mío por darme otra día mas de estar aquí contigo. Te pido por todos los que estan aquí en la tierra los que no escuchan Tu palabra.
Juan, who moved to the United States from Mexico in 1978, stares at the monstrance. He is as still as a stone. He blinks. Like Pat and Theresa, he revels in the tranquility — the one-on-oneness with God — afforded by nighttime adoration.
He prays for continued relief from a chronic ulcer.
He prays for his three children to behave in school.
He prays for them to “para salir adelante,” to come out ahead.
He gives thanks for this day, still in its infancy, crawling toward dawn, and he prays for another day after that, and another day after that, so that he may return to this chapel next Monday from 2 to 3 a.m. and keep his place in this ceaseless procession of prayer on behalf of a slumbering world.