Bringing Children to Christ in Eucharistic Adoration
Father Antoine Thomas Develops a Program for Kids
PRINCEVILLE, Illinois, OCT. 6, 2004 (Zenit) - Thanks to a French priest's vision and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, hundreds of children are engaging in Eucharistic adoration and experiencing the real presence of Christ.
Father Antoine Thomas, 46, a priest of the Congregation of St. John, has been working in youth ministry for 15 years and began leading children's holy hours more than 10 years ago.
Now he has started a program, Children of Hope, that helps others lead adoration for kids.
The priest, who came from Paris, shared with us how children can embrace and be enriched by spending time with the Blessed Sacrament in their schools and parishes, and what adults can do to encourage the practice particularly during the forthcoming Year of the Eucharist.
Q: Why is it important for kids to engage in Eucharistic adoration?
Father Thomas: Jesus said, "Let the children come to me"; I think we had better obey and bring him the children.
Pope John Paul II said back in 1996: "I urge priests, religious and lay people to continue and redouble their efforts to teach the younger generations the meaning and value of Eucharistic adoration and devotion. How will young people be able to know the Lord if they are not introduced to the mystery of his presence?
"[...] By learning the words of the prayer of the heart, they will be closer to the Lord, who will accompany them in their spiritual and human growth. ... All interior life needs silence and intimacy with Christ in order to develop.
"This gradual familiarity with the Lord will enable certain young people to be involved ... and to take a more active part in Mass; for young boys, to be near the altar is also a privileged opportunity to hear Christ's call to follow him more radically in the priestly ministry."
The Holy Father continues to stress this importance today.
What we learn as children will remain in us and help us to stay close to Jesus. Before young children have received their first holy Communion, Eucharistic adoration is a great way to help them receive Jesus in their heart through spiritual communion.
And afterward, it helps increase in them a desire for more frequent Communion. Hopefully during the teen years these same children will find in Jesus a best friend, strength and light. They also may be more disposed to hear and follow their vocation in life.
Q: What benefits have you seen from children spending time with our Eucharistic Lord?
Father Thomas: The children have a great excitement about being part of this kind of prayer group. They enjoy being at the feet of Jesus, resting under the loving gaze of he who is no longer hidden in the tabernacle. The children experience a pacification of body, mind and spirit.
They have a deeper desire to pray, are more attentive at Mass and have an unshakeable faith in the real presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
Q: How do you help kids understand adoration and get the most out of the experience? How do you keep them focused and engaged for an entire hour?
Father Thomas: None of us will ever fully understand this mystery. What we do with the children is to remind them of the love that Jesus has for all.
On the night before he died 2,000 years ago, driven by love and a desire for us not to forget, he chose this way, the Eucharist, to remain close to us in a more visible way. He chose this not out of necessity, but out of his infinite and merciful love.
They are reminded of the words of consecration and that Jesus gave this power to all priests. Once they realize they are spending time with Jesus they are thrilled to come each week; it is their time with him.
Parents are usually the ones who are worried at first about the children being bored. After attending a children's holy hour, they are amazed at how fast the time goes by.
One 6-year-old boy remarked at the end of his first hour, "Can we stay a little while longer, Mommy? I am not through talking to Jesus."
Another exclaimed, "I had the best talk with Jesus!"
Far from being bored, these little ones begin to feel that love which Jesus has for them. They come to understand they are important to him, and their prayers are heard and answered.
Here's one example of the power of prayer of a child.
A 9-year-old boy came each week to pray for his sister, who was to be married outside of the Church. He asked his mother many times if his sister had come back to the Church yet.
After six months his sister called saying, "I have come to believe the Eucharist is really Jesus, and only the Catholic Church has this." She went back to the sacraments and was married in the ...
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