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VOICES - Vol. XX, No. 2 - Michaelmas 2005
Teaching Children to Adore Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament
by Carol Anne Jones
In 1993, when Mary Wallington and I went looking for a Catholic summer program for our young sons, we found only Protestant Bible Camps which, though long on Christian enthusiasm, did not reinforce the specific beliefs we wanted to celebrate with our children or the rich devotional heritage we longed to recapture for them. When we found support for our ideas at our parish, we developed “The Week of Graces”.
Mary and I decided that to be authentically Catholic, we had to do more than provide fun crafts and games; we placed our trust in the efficacy of the Sacraments and sacramentals to bring children to the rich channels of grace that flow from the Heart of God.
The children experienced morning prayer in church, daily recitation of the Angelus, a Rosary walk, enrollment in the Brown Scapular. They used holy water, medals, blessed statues, and holy cards. The activities culminated in two special ceremonies a Crowning of Mary and the Children’s Holy Hour.
Each year this formula of events was adapted to new themes, including Mary Queen of All Saints, Child Saints, Family Saints, God the Father, Our Lord Jesus Christ, The Holy Spirit, The Four Marks of the Church, The Mysteries of Light, and The Holy Eucharist.
The children were prepared for Holy Hour during activity time by crafts that reinforced making a concrete connection between Jesus and the Blessed Sacrament. They made a Monstrance using sequins, glitter, and paper “Hosts” inscribed with IHS. They also colored pictures of angels adoring Jesus exposed on the altar, Saint Clare holding up the Monstrance to protect her convent from attacking soldiers; Saint Tarcisius, a young acolyte who died protecting the Blessed Sacrament while carrying Communion to Christian martyrs; and Blessed Imelda Lambertini, the child Dominican, receiving her first Holy Communion.
While busy hands worked to color and paste, teachers gave shape and substance to what the children would encounter during Holy Hour.
As part of this instruction, the priest came to every classroom vested in cope and humeral veil, holding an empty Monstrance, followed by an altar boy carrying a thurible with burning incense. The fascinated children’s questions became further teaching opportunities.
Service of Adoration for Children
Holy Hour for Children: Adoration of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar is the booklet we use. It represents twelve years of effort and experience in leading children ages 5-15 to grasp the concept of adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and to better appreciate the time they spend in His Real Presence.
To develop the Holy Hour format, I turned to an ancient dog-eared, coverless pamphlet of Holy Hour services, condensing and rewriting selected portions, simplifying the language to reflect the vocabulary and attention span of younger children. Later, as Director of Religious Education at St. Theresa Parish in Ashburn, Virginia, I further modified and simplified the format for religious education classes, so that students in Kindergarten through ninth grade could attend an abbreviated Holy Hour during class time.
The Holy Hour begins with the hymn “O Salutaris Hostia”. The traditional hymns are sung in Latin (unless the officiating priest requests English) because these ancient chants give the children a taste of the beauty of their Catholic heritage and add an air of solemnity and other-worldliness to their experience. The lyrics in both languages provide translations for those children who can read.
The priest then prays aloud that in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus requested that His friends “watch one hour with Me”, adding, we are making this Holy Hour to “to adore You, to thank You, to Love You”.
A simple litany of adoration follows, to which the children respond, “We adore You, O Jesus”. After a Gospel reading and brief homily, the children respond to a litany of Thanksgiving with “We thank You, dear Jesus”.
Benediction begins appropriately with the Eucharistic hymn, “Tantum Ergo”, followed by the Divine Praises, which the children repeat after the priest. (See below.)
The service, which lasts about half an hour, concludes with singing “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name”.
What has amazed teachers and parents over the years is how quickly many of the children respond to the spiritual truths presented at Holy Hour. Children, especially around the ages of the Fatima visionaries Jacinta (6), Francesco (8), and Lucia (9) have often demonstrated a unique receptivity to the graces that God pours out upon all those who look for Him in His Presence.
Carol Anne Jones, who has published articles in Catholic periodicals, is Director of Religious Education at St. Theresa Parish in Ashburn, Virginia
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