Inspiration

The Drone Pilot’s Guide to Eucharistic Adoration

So you’ve finally committed to a regular Hour of Adoration at your parish or area Perpetual Adoration chapel! Thanks for keeping Our Lord company, and for making your own heart available to him in a new way, even if you feel a bit intimidated about the prospect of spending an extended period of time in silent prayer. The fact is, if you can fly a drone, you already have a basic outline for a fruitful period of adoration.

Not all aspects of drone piloting lend themselves to the life of prayer, of course. (For example, we kid ourselves if we think we are the pilot when it comes to prayer.) But there a few of the key elements to flying that really can offer some guidance when it comes to how we might approach Eucharistic adoration (or other regular practices of prayer).

  1. Establish a home point.

This part is automatic for the convent drone. The tablet or phone is GPS-enabled and so calculates just where the craft is positioned before take-off. It even announces it: “Home point established.” After take-off, no matter how convoluted the journey, the drone can always return to home point and land there, even if I’ve completely lost it from view (been known to happen).

In prayer, I have found that having a personal “pattern” or rhythm establishes a home point for my heart. Nothing elaborate: just one or two set prayers or psalms that set the stage for all that will follow.  Just as the drone doesn’t take off from the same home point every single time, my first formal prayers of the Hour of Adoration aren’t absolutely invariable. I might use the same set of prayers for several months or in alternation with another set. But I don’t come up with something new every morning. I have a home point.

This is what the Church does, too, in the Liturgy of the Hours: the “Invitatory Psalm,” the first psalm of the day, is almost always Psalm 95, although Psalms 100, 67, and 24 may also be used. If in the course of your Holy Hour you find yourself mightily distracted, you can “return to home point” to renew your recollection and focus. Good news: a meaningful song or image can be a great “home point” for your prayer, too!

  1. Calibrate the compass.

The importance of calibrating the drone’s compass (and anything else that can be calibrated) was made clear to me when I was trying to steer the Phantom between a building and a tree. While I was definitely pushing the joystick forward, the craft was determinedly moving about 40° backward. No matter what I did, the UAV responded in an unpredictable manner. (Since I am by no means an experienced navigator in the first place, this was a serious problem!)

Both the craft and the remote controller need calibration—but the craft’s compass needs to be aligned with true north before almost every flight. This makes that calibration a good image for the daily examen recommended by so many saints (most famously, Ignatius of Loyola, one of my personal favorites). You can find online many explanations and helps for making the examen; here is one example: http://www.pauline.org/Pauline-Books-Media-Blog/ArticleID/3316/How-Does-the-Examen-Work

  1. Keep your batteries charged.

Simpler craft only have an onboard battery and the remote controller battery. Higher-end UAVs (like the convent’s Phantom) make use of additional features on a tablet or phone connected to the remote controller. Hint: you don’t want any one of those batteries to die mid-flight.

It’s too easy to say that prayer keeps our spiritual batteries charged. Fact is, sometimes it can feel as though sometimes prayer uses the interior energy you expect it to provide! (Prayer can be work.) But there is a kind of prayer that I think does work almost like a portable charger: the prayer of thanksgiving. The canticle in Daniel 3 is a great litany, inviting all of creation—starting with the sun, moon and stars—to praise God. A lovely way to charge your batteries.

“God has so arranged things that his intelligent creatures find all their joy in praising him.”
—Ven. Francesco Chiesa

Adoration gives us a chance to thank God ahead of time for the blessings we will only recognize fully in the light of Heaven. Only in eternity will I see all the grace God is showering on me right now, and I will be so overwhelmed with amazement and love that if there can be regret in Heaven it will be that we did not give God unending love and praise from earth. So let us start now!

You are all good: I praise You for Your glory.
You are worthy of all love: let Your every creature praise You.
The Almighty has done great things for me! The Almighty himself! For me!

“Give him all the praise you know; he is more than you bestow; never can you match his due!” (English translation of Thomas Aquinas’ Sequence for Corpus Christi).

  1. Be aware of other flyers.

It is a drone operator’s responsibility to avoid not only any people (or animals or property) on the ground, but above all any actual airplanes in the area. This is a serious legal (and moral) requirement for operating a UAV. You have to be aware not just of where your craft is, but of anyone else who may be nearby.

And so it is, of course, in prayer. Adoration is not a solo flight, even in those early hours of solitary vigil with the Lord. Just as we never really pray the Lord’s prayer for our own private, individual needs (Jesus took care of that when he told us to start by saying, “Our” Father), our time of adoration belongs to the whole Church. It is an extension of the Mass, the worship offered by the “whole Christ” (as St Augustine said), and the intentions of the Mass continue in our prayer of adoration even if we do not renew those intentions explicitly.

“One million, two million, ten million souls weigh upon us,” Blessed James Alberione told his earliest followers. They are relying on us to stand in their place before the Lord of the Universe. We are there for all those in our family, our circle of friends; our work and our parish; our neighborhood and our city; the people whose lives intersect ours everyday and whose daily experience may be very different from ours. We are there like the friends who not only carried the paralyzed man to Jesus but broke through every obstacle to bring that needy person face to face with the Lord. We bring before Jesus people who have never heard his name—or who have only heard it as an expletive—and people who have heard of him as children but have turned away as if from a sweet fairy tale.

You are there for all of them. Carry them in your heart.

  1. It’s OK to ditch the flight plan sometimes.

I always consider it a successful flight if I have taken the craft up, flown it around a bit and then landed without a crash or getting entangled with a tree (both of which have, on occasion, been known to happen; I carry spare propellers for a reason). Usually when I take the drone out, though, I have a general idea of where I hope to go with it, what angles I hope to see from the camera’s eye, maybe even an idea of a flight path I can save for another day or time of year so as to see the same spot in Boston’s four glorious seasons. But sometimes I come across the unexpected. So I stay there.

In Eucharistic adoration, too, it is wise to have a “flight plan” that includes the “home point” prayers and a simple pattern or method that brings one’s whole self, mind, will, and heart to the whole Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Your flight plan may include a passage of the Gospels that you are reading through progressively; a time for journaling (“calibration”); the praying of the Rosary or Way of the Cross. But that’s only your flight plan. Jesus may have something else to show you, somewhere else to take you. He’s the real pilot.

So when a phrase of Scripture or a scene from the life of Jesus (say, a mystery of the Rosary) draws you in, stay there. Hover in place, even if that Rosary takes you forty minutes instead of the usual fifteen. Return to that place of grace or that Scripture passage in your next Hour of Adoration, too,  following the Spirit’s lead as long as you find light there.

There you have it. 5 simple tips to keep you coasting freely in the presence of the Lord like the pilot you are:

  1. Establish a home point.
  2. Calibrate the compass.
  3. Keep your batteries charged.
  4. Be aware of other flyers.
  5. It’s OK to ditch the flight plan sometimes. (But have a general flight plan.)

Sr. Anne Flanagan, FSP

6 thoughts on “The Drone Pilot’s Guide to Eucharistic Adoration”

  1. Sister Anne, this is totally beautiful and practical and super!! Thank you!!! PS and a nun who pilots a drone has a cool factor way way over my paygrade!!! 👍👍👍❤❤❤

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  2. I really enjoyed this one and will share it soon on Facebook. Sr. Anne does not disappoint!

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  3. Thank you Sister. I am one of the volunteer coordinators of a Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration chapel in Woodside, Queens and this is of great help. I’ll see about translating your advice to the great number of Spanish-speaking adorers in our parish.

    May God bless you.

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  4. Thank you Sr Anne for your wonderful words spending time in adoration is very special to me also I take care of my dad who is 91 and a younger brother who has a disability I just got dad a Care Alert so if anything happens when I am out he can press the button and I will be called .My dad’s youngest brother died last night he was a wonderful caring man please pray for him and his daughter was living with him and her 3 year son Matthew as her husband left her its been hard for her as her mum passed away many years ago also. Please keep Sandra my cousin and her dad Alfred who passed away last night and for all ther family and friends.God bless. Anthony Sciberras I had a blessing when I was with your sisters in San Francisco and Redwood City in the Book Centres working in the stores.

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