Day 15 in to the Mary Project. Things are going flowingly – meaning, I’m kind of enjoying the flowy skirts and dresses. The only change in me that I’ve noticed so far is that I am reflecting more on Mary, the Mother of God. But, you can read more about that in my first check-in, a couple days ago.
That said, I wanted to devote this blog to explaining what Eucharistic Adoration means to me. It is a simple concept, and quite frankly means it is a period in which to spend a little extra time with Our Lord.
Long story, short, the Catholic faith teaches that the Communion “wafer” (a.k.a. host) becomes the body, blood, soul and divinity of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, during the Mass. Catholics are not the only ones to believe that the wafer undergoes a transformation (in Catholic terms, it undergoes “transubstantiation”); it is my understanding that Orthodox religions, and some Protestant religions also teach the “True Presence” of the Lord in the Eucharist/Communion.
So, at the end of a Mass, the Lord remains present in the Consecrated Host (the blessed host). He is, quite simply, present, until the Host is consumed. Eucharistic Adoration occurs when the Consecrated Host is put on display, for all to see. I may be struck by lightening for explaining it this way, but essentially, the Host (Our Lord) is waiting there for us to go hang out with Him. We don’t want to keep Him hanging out by Himself, alone – we wouldn’t do that to the host at a party, for example. So, during Adoration, the Host is there, waiting to have some company.
Typically, when Adoration occurs in a formalized church setting, there are people that sign up for an hour at a time. Others stop in, as their schedule allows, but there are a select few people who sign up to spend an hour with the Lord. The Lord, present in the Consecrated Host, is never to be left alone, by Himself. Soldier Boy, not being Catholic, is all too quick to equate the hour spent with the Host as the Catholic “guarding” the Host. I disagree – instead of guarding, it is spending quality time with the Lord. The significance of spending an hour with Jesus is found in the hour that Jesus asked his apostles to wait for him in the Garden of Gethsemane. Another set of words you may hear to describe Adoration is spending time in a Holy Hour. To best explain Adoration, I turn to Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s explanation, “The only time the Lord asked the Apostles for anything was the night He went into agony. Not for activity did He plead but for an Hour of companionship.”
There are many people who believe that the sole purpose of Adoration is to spend reverent time with the Lord. Once upon a time, I thought that was the point of Adoration. The reverent time could equate to silent prayer, some people laying prostrate before the Host, some people kneeling, and overall, quiet. From my not-so-educated observations, what I have seen in the past in regard to Adoration, is that small children (under the age of 7) are discouraged from attending because they are too noisy, too irreverent, and quite frankly, too much of a distraction.
I disdain the notion that Adoration must be silent and children must not be welcome. That said, I was also the child who got kicked out of Mass in the mid-80’s because I insisted on singing during the priest’s homily – so, I very well could not be the stellar example of how a person should act during Adoration.
While I agree that one should refrain from loud discussion or arguments, shouting, etc. during Adoration, I also realize I am the mother of a toddler. The mother of a toddler, who will (God willing) grow into a young boy, into a teenager, and into a man, whom I would love to see have a devotion to the Lord. So, I take Man Cub to Adoration with me.
For me, Adoration is no silent matter. True, there are days that I get to spend silently praying the Rosary, or completing the Stations of the Cross, or saying other quiet prayers. However, those days are numbered in the single digits, compared to the days where I have spent working with Man Cub on proper church etiquette.
So, what do I, as a mother of a strong-willed toddler, do during Adoration?
I let my child explore the church. I let him close to the Consecrated Host (gasp – I do let my toddler on the altar). I help him sit on the priest’s chair, or the altar boy’s chair. I let him play the piano in the church (granted, only because we are usually the only ones in the building).
I also read his board books to him about church, Jesus, his guardian angel, etc. (my favorite, and one of his constant go-to books when we are in public, is “Baby Come to Church”). I let him feel like church is his space – a place where he can be comfortable, be himself, and be accepted.
We also work on his doing the Sign of the Cross, and we work on bowing in reverence to the Host on the altar. We don’t always succeed in being quiet (in fact, we rarely succeed in that part of Adoration), but we always try to incorporate some sort of “adoration” into the hour that we spend in the church. And, I can assure anyone that asks, there are definitely days I am saying prayers (sometimes muttering them under my breath), as I chase Man Cub from speakers, or wires, or electrical plugs, for the two-hundred-thousandth time – prayers that may or may not include something to the effect of “Dear God, please help [Man Cub] lose his energy, and sit quietly for the rest of the hour.”
That said, there is nothing more heartwarming to me, than to see the fruit of the effort I put in to taking my child to Adoration pay off. There is nothing more special to me, than to see my son squirm out of my arms to put his hand into the Holy Water, and put the hand up to his forehead repeatedly (his toddler version of the Sign of the Cross). There is nothing that tickles me more than to see him approach the altar on his own, usually before or during daily Mass, and quickly bow before proceeding up the steps to the altar.
So, while we don’t sit reverently and quietly, I know he is picking up the etiquette. He is learning that he is welcome in church.
And, he is teaching me, through his actions, how I should strive to approach my faith in God. He is so eager to emulate the priest during the Exposition (there have been numerous times he has gone on the altar, and laid down next to the kneeling priest and just studied the priest, or knelt and looked at the Host), and is so eager to run to the altar on other days. He is always eager to wave “bye-bye to Jesus,” and willingly blows the Host kisses.
Pretty sure as much as I am teaching him, he is teaching me far more about the simplicity of faith. As Saint John Vianney said, “When Our Lord sees pure souls coming to visit Him in the Blessed Sacrament He smiles on them. They come with the simplicity that pleases Him so much.”
Maybe someday we will sit quietly and read religious books (some of the best for young children are stories about the saints and their lives); maybe we will pray the prayers we are taught from a young age (to include the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be). Or, maybe someday, my son will lead a teenage worship band during his Holy Hour.
But, for now, I will continue to plug away on making my little one feel comfortable in Jesus’ presence. And, that will include continuing to let him explore “God’s House”/”Jesus’ Home” (a.k.a. the church).
There are numerous resources out there about taking children to Adoration. One of them explains how to begin a children’s hour in your parish (http://www.childrenofhope.org). Other sites discuss tips, tricks, etc. to help make Adoration meaningful to your child/ren – I can’t wait until Man Cub is old enough to do some of the things discussed on one of these blogs (http://harringtonharmonies.com/2013/03/eucharistic-adoration-with-kids.html).
In the words of (now) Pope Saint John Paul II, “By being faithful to a Holy Hour of Adoration you can teach by example. ‘The young should be taught the value of Eucharistic Adoration.'”
As Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, “A Holy Hour of adoration before the Most Blessed Sacrament opens up the floodgates of God’s merciful Love upon the world.” If you haven’t yet made your date with the Lord (as one of my colleagues describes her family’s time with the Lord), I encourage you to try it out. If you have a small child, don’t hesitate to take them with you!
Hope you will all give Adoration at least a try, if not make it a priority…