Welcome to the second part of our series on bringing children to adoration. In case you missed it, the first part is here. In the first part, we established that not only is it acceptable to bring children before the Lord in adoration, it is, in fact, encouraged. Jesus makes it clear that children are welcome, and despite the fact that it may go against social convention in your parish, there is no actual theological reason to keep a child from adoration. While we want to be conscientious of others, we don’t “owe” anyone a particular environment during general, public, times of adoration. If your kids make some noise or wiggle, that’s ok. God welcomes the little ones, and we should follow his example. In this second part, we are going to look at some practical ways to make the logistics as smooth as possible. By doing so, it is our hope that our readers might have a bit more confidence to bring their children to adoration and that your experience of doing so might be as positive as possible.
Getting Your Pastor’s Approval For Adoration With Children
The absolute first logistical consideration is your pastor. Odds are good that if you go to adoration with your family, and your kids act like kids, someone will at some point say something to the pastor. Ideally, your pastor would respond to any comments about children in adoration with something along the lines of, “I’m so glad to hear that families are drawing close to the Lord and praying together.” This is not, however, in any way guaranteed. Given that this response can be anticipated, it may be worth giving your pastor a heads up. So how do you get the pastor’s support beforehand?
Talk to him. Let him know that you are excited about the Eucharistic revival and that you are planning to take your family to adoration. Ask how you and your family can pray for him and for the parish. If you do have any concerns about how members of the parish at large might respond to a family with kids in adoration, ask for his help and guidance. Hopefully, by approaching in a collaborative and supportive way, your priest will see and support your efforts to bring your whole family closer to Christ. At the very least, if something does get back to him about your family being there, he is prepared to address the concerns of his parishioner(s) and doesn’t get caught off guard. Overall, you want to make sure that you are keeping the conversation supportive and collaborative. One friend of ours had a priest who even said something in support of families in adoration from the pulpit. That’s probably the best-case scenario. But what if you get pushback?
Unfortunately, you might. My advice; let it go. If your pastor doesn’t seem on board or even suggests that you not take your family to adoration, don’t fight him on it. Simply thank him, and, if you haven’t already, ask how you can pray for him and for the parish. From there, your best option is to look for another parish that has a pastor with a different attitude. If you want to know what the disposition of the parish is, simply call them and ask if they have any adoration time specifically for families. Most likely no one has asked that question before, but you will usually get a sense pretty quickly of how receptive to families the overall culture of the parish is.
Finally, you can always just go. You want to avoid being antagonistic or confrontational with the pastor, but odds are very high that if you just go, everyone will survive. You may not have many options around you to turn to, or you may just prefer your home parish, and that’s ok. Remember, you’re not wrong to take your family to adoration.
Consider Other Parishioners Going To Adoration
That’s a lot about the pastor, but what about other parishioners who may be upset or antagonistic when you show up with your family? The best piece of advice I ever got on this subject was to pray about it beforehand and write a script for how you will respond if someone treats you or a family member rudely. Charity is always our goal as followers of Christ, and in the heat of the moment the likelihood of responding to something offensive with charity is much smaller than if we are in prayer and write something out first. Then pray for the grace to stick to that script if the moment arises! I know I get from 0 to 100 very quickly when it comes to my family, but it doesn’t ultimately serve anyone to get in a verbal firefight in the adoration chapel (or just outside of it). Having a charitable and clear response prepared in advance will help keep emotions in check while God’s grace charity will prevail, even in that trying circumstance.
How To Prepare Your Family For Adoration
On the family side, there are a few things that you can do to prepare your family for the experience of going to Adoration as a family:
1) Talk about Adoration. Have some conversations with them about the Eucharist. Remind them that it’s really Jesus and that he loves it when we spend time with him. You don’t have to be a theologian; just talk to them just like you would about any other event in their lives. Fill in some expectations like how long it will be, why we’re doing it, even down to what to do if they need to go to the bathroom. This setup can make a really big difference.
2) Practice the behaviors you do want to see. You want to be careful not to present adoration as a task to be accomplished, but you can practice. Give some leeway appropriate to their age and to the time you want to go. If you’re going to go for a straight hour, telling your 3-year-old that they must not move from their seats is an exercise in futility. But let’s say you practice sitting still and walking along a specific wall in your house reverently. Then when you get to adoration, you let them know that they can sit attentively and that one wall of the chapel is the walking wall. At that point, they’re much more likely to channel extra energy into walking instead of something more disruptive. Again, behavior is not the be all and end all. What I tell my children is that there are some things that we do with our minds and bodies that help us listen to Jesus and to talk with him. Don’t worry about being “ready,” just practice and let the experience be what it is. Your kids will eventually get the routine, but it’s ok that there’s a learning curve. Again, you want to avoid making it a performance or an achievement.
2.5) Different people need different things to engage. The next post in this series will go into more depth on how to engage children in adoration, but I wanted to say here that you know your kid best. Our household is neurodivergent, and what our kids need in order to engage doesn’t physically look like what most kids need. If I insisted that our daughter sit still during adoration, that’s a surefire way to make sure that the only thing she does is focus on sitting still. If I let her move, flap her hands, make some sounds, she’s going to be much more engaged in what actually matters, Jesus and his presence in the Eucharist. So when we say to practice behavior here, the essential point is that whatever behavior best serves an encounter with Christ is the behavior that we want to practice and reinforce.
3) One other thing you can do to prepare, especially with much younger kids, is to help them write a letter to Jesus before you go. Ask them what they want to tell Jesus, if they have any particular things to give thanks for or to pray for, and help them write it out. Then they have something tangible to bring to the prayer, and that often helps build the foundation of a personal relationship with Christ. They can draw pictures for Jesus too, especially if they are non-writers. All of this helps a young child frame what we’re “doing” in adoration. We’re having a conversation with God.
4) Finally, after each time you go to adoration, try to ask questions that are focused on the real purpose of being there. Usually, we as parents are tempted to jump right to behavior, “Hey, you were really quiet. Great job!” Be careful with that. It’s good to give positive reinforcement to behaviors we want to see more of, but we don’t want to make it about the behavior. For example, one way to reinforce being quiet while keeping the focus on the relationship with Christ would be to say, “I noticed you were very quiet. Did you hear Jesus say anything to you?”
Hopefully this helps with some of the setup for taking your family to adoration. If you have any other thoughts or ideas, please post them in the comments!
The third part of this series takes a deeper look at helping kids engage during the period of adoration itself. We hope to see you there!