Four Areas of Preparation
Years ago, I sat on a vacation Bible school curriculum development team. How could we convict our students in their Catholic faith in a mere week? Our answer was clear: the Eucharist. Whatever challenges to the faith our students may face, an understanding of the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist will keep them close to the Church.
One of the best ways to accomplish this is through Eucharistic adoration. This is edifying and powerful in itself, and it leads to a greater appreciation and love for the Mass. Music is the ideal tool to guide children through this experience.
So, for one day of VBS, I took groups of students and guided them in Eucharistic adoration using prayer and music and silence. Jesus did not disappoint but showed us the power of the Eucharist beyond our expectation.
Based on this, I offer four areas of advice:
Pray that your students’ hearts be open to God’s call. Pray that the Holy Spirit will give you the words you need to lead them. Ask others to pray for them, too, particularly
those who participate in adoration themselves. We asked the cloistered Dominican sisters in town to pray for our students.
Before Walking Into the Church or Chapel
In the classes leading up to adoration, review the doctrine of the Eucharist and the practice of adoration. Teach students the term transubstantiation. Review or teach any songs you want to use at adoration and discuss appropriate behavior.
Before you enter, remind students that they are entering a holy place and they need to show Jesus with their actions that they honor him as God and King. Communicate a sense of awe with your voice and body language. Have them genuflect and spread out on the kneelers.
Teens: Teens have varied experiences with Eucharistic adoration, so prepare them ahead of time with a group discussion. Be ready to answer questions and clear up misunderstandings, but try to let the students lead each other to a love of the Eucharist.
Make the Sign of the Cross and start with an Our Father, Glory Be, and Prayer to the Holy Spirit. Ask God to open everyone’s ears, minds, and hearts to his will. This is the opportunity to offer a short teaching or reminder about the Eucharist, adoration, and behavior. Let your students know what to expect and how they should prepare for the Lord to talk to their hearts in the quiet. After this point, severely limit talking and instruction.
Younger students: Be sure little ones see the Eucharist in the monstrance and understand that this is Jesus — that we are not adoring the statues.
Music and Silence
Begin with some appropriate songs the class already knows. Then tell the students to echo you. Use very clear hand gestures, pointing to yourself when you are singing and reaching out to them when they are to sing. Use pieces of familiar songs echoed one line at a time. Take small pieces of Scripture and chant them with a simple chant melody for the students to echo. Don’t be afraid to repeat lines several times.
“The most powerful times of prayer, the most powerful times of conversion with the people that I have sung for are when we were in the presence of Jesus in adoration.” – Martin Doman
Let the students then sit in silence for an age-appropriate amount of time. End with a group song or a few more echoed songs and a Sign of the Cross before exiting quietly.
Younger students: If students seem restless after a few minutes of silence, sing a few more echo songs to refocus them before trying more silence. You can do this several times.
Teens: It can be helpful with teens to start with praise and worship music, move toward traditional hymns, and end with chant. By integrating song, echo, chant, and silence, teens can spend several hours in guided adoration.
Editor’s note: Always work with your pastor or pastoral team to maintain the best liturgical norms for exposition and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament as you introduce children and youth to this practice.
KATE DANELUK is an author and speaker on education and Catholic ministry and is the creator of the Making Music Praying Twice education program. Find out more at MakingMusicPrayingTwice.com.
This article was originally published in Catechist magazine, December, 2017
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