One of my facebook friends admitted to not having a lot of experience of the Quarant ’Ore, and asked for some information about it . . .
The exact date of its origination appears to be uncertain; but it was clearly before 1550, and may well have started in Milan. Thereafter many indulgences were attached to praying at it; but apart from the various liturgical contents there is not much concrete commitment to what people pray for during it . . . it’s appears to be primarily a time during which people pray for what they need, and what they feel deserves prayer . . . which when you think about it is probably a good way of making it effective : except in very limited circumstances there seems to be little need for – or indeed merit in – making everyone pray for the same thing during forty continuous hours of prayer before the Most Holy Sacrament exposed.
That said, and having pointed out that there are certain liturgical formalities to it – although they appear to be rather less demanding now than they used to be – the crucial point is to say that there is no right way of making use of these wonderful Forty Hours.
For some people a long session of perhaps a couple of hours, with some formal prayers and some time of silent contemplation, is perhaps the best way for them to get the most out of it; and that might well be best during the small hours of the morning. Others may find it better just to pop into the Church for five minutes here, ten minutes there, throughout the forty hours; making short petitions, or offering short periods of silence, each time they visit . . . in other words the important thing is that they do visit, and that they do acknowledge the Lord’s presence and love : but beyond that it’s so very much a case of suiting yourself that I can’t personally see any need for any particular formula; although obviously if you sign up to be present for a particular period you must keep to that, if only because otherwise you might end up with the Lord abandoned and alone, which is neither respectful nor secure.
Personally, I like to try and go in the wee small hours, when the Church is largely empty, and to spend at least half of the time simply in silent, empty-minded, contemplation . . . and I also like to say some Office (probably that day’s Office of Readings); but that’s me. Likewise, I can’t bear to sit before the Blessed Sacrament exposed; but others find sitting in an intimate connection with the Lord allows them to address their minds to Him without physical distraction; so it seems to me that as long as their posture isn’t making others feel that it is disrespectful, then there’s nothing wrong with that . . . in other words, at this level of involvement, apart from the general principle of not upsetting or distracting others, there is no particular or formal formula . . . you simply get as (mentally) close to God as you feel able to; and benefit accordingly.
Thus, if all you can manage is a short visit, then simply make it, make the point that the duration is not of your choosing, and offer your love to God and ask Him to accept and inspire your soul, and stop fretting about other things . . . because that way even a single short visit will be of great virtue.
Ultimately, the Quarant ’Ore is a prolonged opportunity for you to get close to Our Blessed Lord; and as He knows everything before you speak, and understand everything about your situation without explanation, although it may be polite to mention these things to Him, it’s not necessary . . . all that is necessary is to offer Him your love, and accept His : what follows from that is a grace, a gift, which proves yet again His immense generosity . . . and inspires you to make even more of a commitment next year !
(And the photo at the top is of the Quarant ’Ore at the London Oratory, simply because I feel that it is such a splendid manifestation of what is intended by the rubrics . . .)