“Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.”- Mark 9:24
Such beautiful words…so necessary for our times. Sometimes, I just get caught up in the rat race of keeping a clean house; trying to be a loving and Godly wife; and raising little saints for His kingdom that I forget the beauty of silence with God. The beauty of sitting in the presence of the Lord…and allowing Him to speak to my weary soul. Do I truly “possess” the notion that my Lord and savior is available to me 24 hours a day in the beauty of adoration?… “help my unbelief”….
Eucharist Adoration was something that I experienced early as a child. My mom would take us over the summer for daily Mass and we would sit, one day a week, in adoration for a few minutes. I was far from thrilled…. Didn’t she know summer awaited me? I had summer reading to tackle and friends to chat with…but my mom was “planting seeds”. She was introducing me to an important part of my faith……the part where we learn that true “faith” is going through the motions and praying for a deeper conversion. She knew that one day….I would “get it”.
I attended adoration in high school but few things prepared me for the experience of my first “Steubenville”summer conference. Franciscan University (my alma mater) runs these Summer Youth Conferences all over the country. When I was a high school youth, they were running them only from their college campus. My high school religion teacher, an FUS graduate, convinced me that I needed to attend one. I raised the money for the trip and was off to endure the heat of summer in a huge tent with 2,000 other teens.
One night, I was told we were going to have Eucharist Adoration. No biggie…I had been to that before. However, I heard the large crowd of over 2,000 youth and their chaperones erupt in cheers and chanting. I felt like I was at a concert. “Oh my gosh!, I thought. I wander who is coming in”. Unsure of what was happening, I stood up to see the priest, illuminated by an enormous spotlight, processing through the crowd with the monstrance. At that moment, something inside me broke…and the tears fell. All of a sudden, my soul cried out, “my Lord and my God”. My mind couldn’t comprehend the thoughts that were taking over my heart but I was falling madly in love with Christ. I was truly in the presence of the “King of Kings”.
Our relationship continued to build, as I entered Franciscan University as a freshman and began my first scheduled adoration hour. In the dark of the night, I would throw on my sweatshirt and sweatpants; grab my slippers and brave the cold to meet with the Lord around 3 am. Barely awake, I would open that heavy wooden door, and the beams of lights surrounding the monstrance would overwhelm me. I would spend hours in front of the Lord.
What a gift this was for me in college! Many a night I would fall asleep under the Son’s rays and feel such peace. I would throw my cares upon the Lord…and know that he was there for me. It was before our Lord that my future husband and I often prayed for our future marriage and children.
When I returned to the campus this spring, I was eager to spend a few minutes back in that chapel. To soak in that hearty wood smell, and the creaky of the big doors…….and give my thanks for all the blessings and answers to prayers that had begun in that very building.
It seems only fitting that my children come to know and love this time before the Lord. I need to plant the same “seeds” in my own children as my mom did. The practical implications of taking five children to weekly adoration seemed like a task I should be willing to conquer, now I just needed to figure out the easiest and most helpful ways to accomplish this.
After several weeks of adoration, I have found that these seven tips have helped me to set a successful adoration trip with my crew:
Reassess your “notion” of adoration. When I was in college, my adoration time was completely quiet. I was not distracted by little whisperers nor was I concerned with the noise level or behavior of the other people in the chapel with me. My adoration time, as a mom with my kids, is shortened to a few moments at a time when I can refocus myself. I must recognize that my time before the Lord is about quality not quantity. I must be willing to “allow my eyes to gaze upward on the Lord” and away from what my children are doing.
Discuss the “expectations” of your child/children’s behavior. On the way to adoration, I address behavior issues that I recall from the week before. I remind the children that it is appropriate to be “kneeling before the Lord and spending a few moments in prayer”. I review that this is a special time in our week, when we get to spend with the Lord more intimately. I ask each child what they have decided to “do” during their adoration time and make suggestions of people whom they should pray for, etc. I have all my children use the bathroom before we enter the small chapel. I had to recognize that this was going to be a “learned skill” for my kids and with that I had to find a happy medium between constantly correcting them and allowing myself to “enter in” and spend some time in peace myself. I make a point to not allow myself to grow angry as I feel this is counterproductive.
Start out with a shorter time and slowly increase it weekly. The first time the children and I EVER attended adoration, it was for about 10 minutes. I explained to the little ones, how Jesus comes in “a special way” to be with us. We gradually worked up to 20, then 30, etc…and now we stay for the full hour. I will often pull the little girls over to me to guide them into more formal prayer and to pray over them.
Bring religious articles/books for your younger children. I have several prayer cards, rosaries, and little saint books that I throw in my bag for our adoration time. I will take a few minutes and help one of the little ones read their book or teach them how to “create the story” from looking at the pictures.
Thanksgiving/than Petition. Guide your children in speaking to God. I encourage my children to “spend a few minutes thinking of all the blessings we have, and thank God for them. Now, ask God to bless those who have asked for prayer, and need God’s help. Finally, using your own words, tell God how much he means to you and listen for Him to speak to you.” Encourage your children to dialogue with the Lord. Teach them how to sit in the quiet and listen for the voice of God. What a beautiful blessing when they can train their young souls to seek the voice of God. Liken this time to a “visit with grandmom”. “You wouldn’t go to grandmom’s house and eat her cookies, swing in her swing, and play with her dog without greeting her and talking, right?! Well, God awaits us in the blessed sacrament. He longs for you to thank Him for all the blessings in your life.”
Make suggestions to your children on how to spend their time. I allow my 3 and 5 yr old to color religious coloring books during this time. My 3 yr old also writes “notes” to Jesus that she rolls into scrolls and leaves near the flowers on the vase on the altar floor. My older children (ages 8, 9, and 11) spend their time praying the rosary, walking the stations of the cross on the walls, reading prayer pamphlets or lives of the saint books. Each one of them will come over to me for individual prayer time with me or just to sit in my lap while I pray.
To make you feel more comfortable, consider speaking to the other adults that hold that same weekly adoration slot that you do. I waited for the woman that shared our adoration time one afternoon. I told her that the children would be coming weekly with me. I assured her that the children would “try” their best to be quiet but that they were learning to “adore Our Lord” and that it would be a process. I was praying that she would understand. Her response was so loving….so thoughtful. She told me that she loved to see their little faces and that she would pray that it was a blessed time for them.
Adoration is so needed in our chaotic and hectic world today. It is imperative that we teach our young children how to seek the voice of God through silence. May God’s voice not fall on deaf ears…but young ears eager to share His message.