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How one adoration chapel touched countless lives

ST BENEDICTS ABBEY,ADORATION
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Says one young man who shows up to pray: "Adoration is pretty lit."

If the Eucharist is really what Catholics say it is — nothing less than the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ truly present in our midst — then praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament should be a life-changing, soul-defining, riveting experience.

It is.

I put a message out on Facebook to get stories of people whose lives were changed by the Blessed Sacrament, and got powerful responses. But I discovered that I didn’t have to look far to find its benefits. The perpetual adoration chapel at my own St. Benedict’s Catholic Church in Atchison, Kansas, provided enough.

I first noticed the phenomenon at local Serra Club talks: Christ often calls from the monstrance.

Sister Agnes Williams, a Marian Sister of the Diocese of Lincoln, recently said St. Benedict’s adoration chapel “changed my life.”

When she attended Benedictine College, whose campus the chapel is on, she wasn’t seeking faith, but she found it in adoration.

“It started small. I would stop by the chapel for a minute or two on my way to class or coming back to my room. Soon those short visits became 10 and then 15 minutes, until eventually I was making a full holy hour. The peace and quiet along with Christ exposed in a beautiful monstrance was what kept drawing me back.”

She said she would stop at the chapel before going out with friends and find that she didn’t want to leave — despite being “very extroverted.”

“It was in one of those short visits that I heard the Lord say ‘your heart was made to belong to me alone. Come and see,’” she said.

SOLT Sister Mary Elizabeth Albers first discovered the chapel on visits there with her parents. “I later played basketball at Benedictine College, and between sports, studies, writing for the school paper and leading a Bible study, at times I felt simultaneously overwhelmed and a bit empty,” she said. “But in the adoration chapel on campus, in the silence of Christ’s presence, I again found peace.”

Other local kids experience the same phenomenon. “I questioned my faith in high school, but I never questioned my need to go to the adoration chapel,” said my son, who spent a year in seminary, then a semester in St. Benedict’s Abbey, and is now a junior at Benedictine. “The adoration chapel was a consistent place for me in high school. That doesn’t mean that I went there consistently, but that God’s grace is at work, because that place felt safe and secure no matter what was going on.”

The Church needs committed lay people, too, and these vocations also begin in the chapel

One student who came to Benedictine College as a non-Catholic football player remains on campus today as a Catholic theologian.

Dr. Andrew Swafford discovered the faith in class — and met Jesus Christ through adoration.

“It definitely impacted my conversion,” he said. “It gave me a place to really learn how to pray, and connected me to Jesus and the Church.” He later proposed to his wife, Sarah, in the chapel.

Meggan Young discovered the chapel in her college years — at a different school.

“After a life-changing mission trip to India, the beginning of my senior year at Iowa State was spiritually challenging. That semester I visited my brother at Benedictine College, where I stopped by the St. Benedict adoration chapel. I was flooded with a tremendous sense of peace and confidence in the presence of God for which I had been longing for many weeks.”

She said, “I just wanted to stay in St. Benedict’s Church where I felt wrapped in God’s love.” Now, married to an economics professor, she can.

The chapel is an oasis for all.

“Adoration is pretty lit,” said the freshman who does a weekly holy hour after me. “It’s where I get my thoughts together from the previous week, and recoup spiritually and mentally. It helps me stay focused on who I am trying to become, and taking a weekly hour has helped me become more centered now that I don’t have a home base to depend upon.”

“I discerned my vocation there,” a young mother in Denver told me. “One summer I decided to pray there every day. That chapel has always felt like home to me. But that summer it was the worst. I didn’t leave prayer feeling comforted or refreshed as I often had before. It just felt like a chore where I prattled on and God said nothing. But I stuck to it. That year was the most important year of personal growth for me to date in my life.”

Our parish is currently participating in the “That Man Is You” program, and I have come across man after man who has a story about the lights they receive in adoration.

“I am nearly overwhelmed by the number of people who spend time in Adoration each day,” St. Benedict’s Parish pastor, Father Jeremy Heppler OSB, told me. “A number of parishioners have told me how their favorite hour of the week is their time before the Lord.”

Why not try it yourself? You don’t even need a perpetual adoration chapel — any tabernacle will do. Here is how.

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