NOTRE DAME, Ind.—Each Monday, Notre Dame senior Laura Yanikoski makes good use of her school's state-of-the-art phone and campus e-mail system. With just one call and a couple of clicks of the mouse, she's able to remind more than 100 students, faculty and staff about their commitment to attend weekly eucharistic adoration.
Held in a chapel on the west end of the university's sprawling campus, the day of adoration is sponsored by the Children of Mary, a loosely organized group that gathers daily to pray the rosary. Now in its second year, weekly adoration is gaining in popularity, drawing students at all hours throughout the 22-and-a-half-hour period the Host is exposed between 11:30 p.m. Monday and 10 p.m. Tuesday.
“There's tremendous interest,” observed Holy Cross Father Robert Moss, rector of Fisher Hall, the residence facility in which the chapel is located. “Between 200 and 300 people attend. There's a great resurgence in spirituality and in devotional spirituality among our students.”
The director of Notre Dame's campus ministry, Holy Cross Father Richard Warner, added that eucharistic adoration is just part of the encouraging picture he sees at Notre Dame on the eve of the new millennium. “Mass attendance here has always been strong, but I think that it is at an all-time high,” he said. He pointed out that, in addition to the weekly adoration, there's also exposition of the Blessed Sacrament each Friday afternoon at Sacred Heart Basilica; this, he noted, is especially popular among right-to-life activists.
The power of silent prayer before Jesus Christ really present in the Eucharist — body, blood, soul and divinity — is what seems to get the Children of Mary and their friends in Christ most excited about their college experience in Indiana. Some students who have made adoration a part of their lives knew little or nothing about it until recently. In fact, some admitted that they didn't come to Notre Dame to spend “extra” time in prayer. Those faithful to the devotion now say that they are slowly being transformed by it. Even making time in the middle of the night, which once would have seemed an unthinkable sacrifice, doesn't seem like an imposition to them now.
“It's kind of easy,” said senior Keith Bersch, “when you make [prayer] the central activity of your day.” He's in the chapel every Tuesday from 2 to 2:30 a.m. and again from 6:30 to 7 p.m. “Now when I go home to New Jersey, I try to find churches where they have adoration.” Majoring in economics and theology, he hopes to become a teacher, following in the footsteps of his parents and older brother.
“The period I signed up for is 4 to 6 a.m. on Tuesday, but I usually stay until 7,” explained Laura Yanikoski, a native of Kankakee, Ill., who's studying philosophy and government.
“This is just about when the sun starts to rise and the light comes in through the stained glass windows right behind the altar. Every Tuesday, this experience for me is like Christmas morning. It seems that the world is made new.”
Why spend time awake in prayer when she could be sleeping like most of the rest of the world? “The Eucharist is my God, my all,” she declared. “It is all the power and the love and mercy of the Lord, silent, humble and inviting. While I may have known this before I came to Notre Dame and before becoming involved with the Children of Mary, it was not a truth that owned my heart and filled it.”
Derek Van Daniker, a junior from Lexington, Ky., has also been profoundly touched by the practice. “I see the world in a totally different way now,” he said. “In a sense, nothing can be tainted because I know that everything has been redeemed by Christ. I fell in love with this — not at first, but over time.”
Beginning now to consider his postcollege future, he added, “I can only see myself as living a life completely for God and for others.” If not religious life, Daniker said that he will find a profession that gives him plenty of opportunity for service.
Matt Anthony, a freshman from St. Louis, goes to adoration from 3:30 to 4 p.m. each Tuesday. Very busy and still adjusting to college life, he's come up with a descriptive analogy to explain what eucharistic adoration does for his life.
“I think of a boiler or a furnace which heats the water that warms a house,” he asserted. “You know, you hear the pipes quietly crackling when the boiler is heating up. Adoration allows the hot water to move through the ‘house,’ heating it. It energizes you for the rest of his day.”
So enthusiastic are the members of the Children of Mary that they are petitioning the campus ministry for an additional day of adoration. “There's no better way to unify the many divisions (among students) on campus than through this,” suggested Derek Van Daniker.
Asked if the increased student interest in eucharistic adoration had raised any administrative concerns, Father Warner said, “Because we have people coming and going at all hours, we need to have security guards nearby.” He was quick to point out that the university is building a new campus-ministry facility, slated for completion in 2001 — and it will house a larger chapel that will be open 24 hours a day and allow for expanded adoration hours.
Unless they go on to graduate studies at Notre Dame, seniors like Keith Bersch probably won't be here to take advantage of the new facility. There's a good chance, however, that, when they graduate, they will bring their devotion to Christ in the Eucharist with them wherever they go.
“I have a very firm conviction about the supernatural graces, of the things we don't see which Jesus does for me during eucharistic adoration,” said Bersch. “It has become a big part of my life.”
Catherine Odell writes from South Bend, Indiana.