Several years ago, I was redesigning my First Communion retreat to make it more experiential, especially the portion where I have the parents by themselves for a few moments while the children are participating in another activity. I was contemplating how I could not only teach the parents about, but also allow them to experience the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, so that they could pass that gift on to their children. It suddenly dawned on me (Thanks, Holy Spirit!) to let Jesus do the talking himself.
I decided to meet with the parents in the church and introduce them to the concept of Eucharistic Adoration by first asking them to think about why they want their children to receive the Eucharist. Hopefully, somewhere in the list of reasons, they want their children to know and love Jesus and to be united with him. I help the parents reflect on how, as adults, we often go through the motions of receiving Holy Communion at Mass without fully realizing the miracle that is taking place: that Jesus Christ gives us his real Body and Blood so that he can be fully present and united with us. The experience of preparing their children to receive this precious gift can reawaken in parents the same wonder and gratitude that their children are experiencing.
I explain that in Eucharistic Adoration, we can sit in the physical presence of Jesus and share our hearts with him. We can share with Christ our hopes and dreams for our children as well as for ourselves. I acknowledge that silent prayer can be uncomfortable for those who are not used to it, so I offer resources such as paper and pens, rosaries, and simple prayer books. Then, the priest exposes the Eucharist on the altar, and we experience 20 minutes of quiet Adoration.
After our short time in Adoration is over, we process with the priest carrying the monstrance to the school building, where I have set up a temporary altar in one of the classrooms. As the children rejoin their parents and families rotate in groups through different activity stations during the retreat, one of those stations is to pray together in this temporary Adoration chapel. The parents share their own experience from a few minutes earlier with their children and then quietly bring them into the chapel for ten minutes of prayer. A catechist stays in the chapel during the retreat to welcome quietly the families and remind them of what they are experiencing and how to show Jesus their love and reverence with their whole bodies. We provide the parents with a simple prayer to read quietly with their children.
The feedback for this experience has been very positive. Parents who are familiar with the practice of Adoration are grateful for the opportunity. Parents who have not experienced Adoration before sometimes have powerful experiences of prayer or at the very least are appreciative of the few moments of quiet time that they rarely get in their lives. The children express that they feel peaceful and happy after Adoration. As the families leave, I give the parents information on the times our parish offers Adoration and let them know that they and their children are always welcome!
Image by James Chan from Pixabay.