Even the youngest among us can grow in their friendship with Christ.
“Jesus said, ‘Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’” — Matthew 19:14
The world shushes them, shoves them aside, and sometimes even bans them—but Scripture makes it clear that, for Christians, small children hold a highly privileged place in the spiritual order. Christ could not have been more clear when He told his followers, “Unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). In spite of (or perhaps because of) their littleness, children are capable of profound spiritual insights and genuine friendship with God.
As parents, our first priority is evangelizing our children—directing these precious souls back to the One who entrusted us with their care. This catechesis takes place both by the witness of a Christian life and through direct instruction. The linchpin to it all is doing everything possible to help our children love and know Christ. As the Catechism reminds us, “Parents have the mission of teaching their children to pray and to discover their vocation as children of God (2226).”
What better way to foster children’s love for Jesus than by bringing them to spend time with Him in the Blessed Sacrament, on a regular basis—a kind of standing date to get to know Jesus? One parish, St. Mary’s Church in Anacortes, WA, has successfully kept up a tradition of a monthly Children’s Holy Hour for 10 years. The Children’s Adoration leaders there have generously offered these resources for those wanting to begin this ministry at their own parishes:
Tena Crosby, who started the ministry all those years ago, offered a few suggestions to make Children’s Adoration a success, even with lots of wiggly little ones.
“We wanted to teach the kids prostration and build up their ability to be still for periods of time,” Crosby said. “We thought it was possible for kids to be quiet for that length of time.” At first, it took time to get all the kids engaged and participating. “Some of the kids needed to build up to an hour so I brought in some different ideas.”
Bring everyone up close to the Blessed Sacrament
“We always had everyone right in the front,” Crosby said. “We did not have people in pews. For some kids that was the closest they’d ever been to the monstrance.” Staying in the front of the church offers the children an opportunity to directly encounter Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, helping them to be fully aware of the Mystery before them.
Rotate through activities
“We always had an hour but we used the hour in different ways,” Crosby said. “Rotating through different activities allowed that hour to happen.” As the group went through various prayer and devotions, they alternate between prostration, kneeling, sitting, and standing. Finally, they end with a procession out of the church.
“One of the things I enjoyed the most was picking up at the end and leaving the church chanting Adoremus Te Domine,” Crosby said. “That was nice closure for everyone and made things very reverent when we were leaving.”
Use the buddy system
Make it a team effort to keep the youngest ones engaged. “You can ask the older kids to take a younger kid buddy to help them focus,” Crosby said. As a leader, you might also volunteer to keep a rambunctious little one by your side as your “special helper” for the hour. “Sometimes I would have another person’s child with me too,” Crosby said.
Before beginning, make sure all of the parents and leaders understand the goal of the Holy Hour. “Talk to the parents in advance and explain that the goal is teaching the children to be quiet and still.”
Gradually increase the amount of time kids are still
The first few sessions might be the trickiest for kids who aren’t used to Adoration. Crosby worked through this by taking note of how long they spent in stillness each week, as opposed to moving or singing or praying aloud. “I tried to be aware of how long we were attempting to be silent and gradually increase that time each month.”
Ask kids to lead prayers
Older children could stay focused by helping to lead the devotions. “I would assign different kids at different times to lead the prayers,” Crosby said. “They know they need to pay attention because they might get picked to lead.”
Progress over perfection
Getting all of the children on board and engaged for an hour won’t happen overnight. “It can take a long time,” Crosby said. “We’re not aiming for perfection, but focusing on the long haul.”
The outcome, however, is abundantly worth the effort. Crosby said, “It’s worth training the next generation in that stillness and sense of reverence for the Lord.”
5 Ways to prioritize family prayer with little ones
Why all parents should let their kids experience Midnight Mass