A children’s holy hour with Jesus can lead lead to a holy life with Jesus
The following story appeared in the March 11 Idaho Catholic Register.
Sarah Dyson and her children, from left, Lucas, Thomas and John Paul receive personal Benediction with the Blessed Sacrament from Brother Johannes of Verbum Spei. Brother John Francis, background, asssists at the Holy Hour of Adoration for Children at the Verbum Spei monastery of Our Lady of Ephesus in Boise. Bringing people, especially children, to Jesus in Adoration is a charism of the fraternity. (ICR photo/Vero Gutiérrez)
By Emily Woodham
That child squirming about and making noise during Adoration may be getting more from the experience than their anxious parents may realize. Teresa Wittry, director of Montessori programs and development at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Boise, does not agree with some who think children should not go to Mass or Adoration until they are old enough to be still.
“Some people will say, ‘Why should I take them when they’re not getting anything out of it?’ ” Wittry said. That belief tends to forget the fact those children have been baptized, and, consequently, the Holy Spirit is working, she said. “That work is between the Holy Spirit and the child. Why do we think we have to know what the Holy Spirit is working in them?”
Brother Joseph Smith at Our Lady of Ephesus Monastery in Boise, one of the few places with Adoration especially for children, agrees.
“You never know what is happening at Adoration. It’s really Jesus who is working,” and that can lead to changes in the children and parents as well, he said.
Brother Johannes of Verbum Spei gives personal Benediction to children and their parents. “It’s important to tell children that it is Jesus in the Eucharist, He loves us and gives all of Himself to us, said Brother Joseph Smith, who helps lead holy hours at the monastery. “All you have to do is look at Him and love Him,” he said. (ICR photo/Vero Gutiérrez)
Brother Joseph, who was involved in his native New Zealand in a ministry to provide Adoration during missions to parishes and schools, said leading a children’s hour with Adoration at Verbum Spei is something younger brothers at the monastery enjoy doing. The experience teaches children that Adoration is an important part of the Christian life, he said. “Doing Adoration with children helps to educate them to pay attention to Jesus and to be in a peaceful state. The purpose is to know Him, so that we can love Him.”
The Verbum Spei Brothers lead the children in songs and reflections during Adoration. They also use the monstrance to give personal Benedictions to each child and their parents, which allows them to approach the monstrance and see Jesus in the Eucharist face-to-face.
“It’s not everywhere that you can have a place of silence and prayer, where you can go and sit and just be with Jesus,” Brother Joseph said. “If you want to really choose the faith yourself, you have to meet Jesus in a personal way.” Adoration is a way of building that intimate relationship with Jesus in simplicity, he said.
ALTHOUGH MOST parents want their children to have this personal relationship with Jesus, many are concerned that Adoration does nothing for a wig-gly, giggly child who would rather blow bubbles or make mud pies.
Ginger Mortensen, director of elementary faith formation at St. Mark’s in Boise, reminds parents that the Holy Spirit is at work through the Blessed Sacrament, even if parents can’t sense it.
A friend of Mortensen’s was a seminarian in Slovakia who volunteered at an orphanage.
“They held Adoration for the children at the church, and a little girl kept running around,
making noise. He tried to take her out of the church, but she dodged him and went in line with the children for personal Benediction,” she said.
“As she approached the monstrance, she became very still. As soon as the blessing was done, she ran to my friend and shouted, ‘Who is that? Who is that in there? Oh, He loves me! He loves me so much!’ ” Although the little girl did not have a grasp of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, she still experienced His presence.
“Do not forget the grace of the Sacrament. The Holy Spirit is at work,” Mortensen said. “Jesus is there. He loves the children. He loves you.” Parents are often more distracting than the children with their “constant shushing” of their children, she said.
Teresa Wittry, who oversees Immaculata Catholic Montesorri and the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd at the Cathedral, agrees that parents are too worried that their children are being noisy in Adoration.
“‘If the church isn’t crying, it’s dying,’ we say at the Cathedral. Children need to be in Mass and Adoration,” she said.
“The best preparation for children for Adoration is taking them to Mass,” Wittry said. Children need the foundation of the Mass in order to grasp the significance of Adoration, she said. She points out that it can be more difficult for a child who is 7 to sit still in Mass or Adoration who has never been before, than for a child who has been going since he or she was an infant.
It’s important to remember that anyone can experience the Presence of Jesus in Adoration, for any length of time, Wittry said. “My teens have taken non-Catholic friends with them to Adoration. They tell their friends, ‘This is what you need to know: That’s Jesus in the monstrance, and we’re silent.’ ”
Teaching children that Jesus is present in the Blessed Sacrament is simple, Wittry said. “The faith of young children is pretty profound.”
TO PREPARE CHILDREN for silence, Wittry and Mortensen recommend parents play games that encourage silence, reading books to children about Mass and Adoration, and practicing rubrics, such as kneeling, genuflecting and blessing themselves with holy water.
Pointing out to children that people act differently for different occasions can also help, Mortensen said. This lets children know that in some places playing and being noisy is OK, but in sacred spaces they need to be still and quiet.
Knowing that Jesus is fully present in the Eucharist helps children to adore Him, but they do not need to know what transubstantiation is, Mortensen said. “They need to know He loves them. He wants to be so close to us that He found a way to make Himself small so that He could be in us, and we could be transformed into Him. And so He could give us strength,” Mortensen said.
Through Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, children learn that the bread and wine become Jesus through the words of the priest and the work of the Holy Spirit. Mortensen used the example of God’s Word at Creation to explain this to children.
“When God at the Creation of the world said, ‘Let there be light.’ What happened? There was light. And when Jesus, who is God, said over the bread, ‘This is my body.’ And over the wine, ‘This is my blood,’ they became His body and blood,” she said. Children then learn that the priest, who acts as the Good Shepherd, uses these special words of Christ to make the bread and wine the Body and Blood of Christ.
As children grow into the teen years and ask more questions about the Real Presence, they can be given more information about transubstantiation, Mortensen said. Until then, all that suffices is to let children know that Jesus is physically with them.
“He is looking at them, and they can look at Him,” she said.
If going as a family to Adoration is too difficult, Mortensen recommends parents take turns taking children individually as a special time of prayer with mom or dad. Also, going to Holy Hours that are dedicated especially to children can help families be more relaxed with their children in Adoration.
Sometimes bringing a special little chair or rug for the child helps them to be still, Mortensen said. They can also write or draw in a journal or look at books that are intended solely for their time in Adoration.
For families new to the Church or returning to their faith, Wittry says honesty and perseverance are key. “Tell them that you know that sometimes Mass or Adoration seems boring, but that it’s important to you that you all go,” she said. Setting realistic expectations, realizing that the family is learning something new together, can also help ease tensions over Mass and Adoration, she said.
If you enjoyed this story and would like to read more like it, please consider buying a subscription to the Idaho Catholic Register. Your $20 yearly subscription also supports the work of the Diocese of Boise Communications Department, which includes not only the newspaper, but this website, social media posts and videos. You can subscribe here, or through your parish, or send a check to 1501 S. Federal Way, Boise, ID, 83705: or call 208-350-7554 to leave a credit card payment. Thank you, and God bless you.