When the Singleton family had to move from Wisconsin to the East Coast because of Jim’s new job in New Jersey, Pam insisted on only one thing: Their new home had to be near a church offering regular access to Eucharistic adoration.

Praying before Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, she insisted, was and would always remain an essential part of their family’s faith life.

An Internet search turned up a parish that had not just regular adoration, but perpetual — the Eucharist was exposed all day, every day. The parish, Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in McSherrystown, Pa., seemed a reasonable commute from Jim’s job.

A subsequent real-estate search turned up a house just three blocks away from the church. The move was cinched.

Now Pam adores Jesus three times a week. Even though her adoration hours are scheduled for the middle of the night, she’s often accompanied by one or more of her four children still living at home, ages 8 to 15.

Jim’s work schedule makes it difficult for him to attend regularly with the rest of the family, but he’s part of the team effort nonetheless, if mainly as an encourager.

Says Pam: “I tell the kids, ‘Do you think I love getting up in the middle of the night? But once I go there and kneel down before Our Lord, I’m so thankful to be there.’”

Pam feels that’s why the kids consistently ask her to wake them up and take them along with her to adoration.

Occasionally, a child’s friend staying overnight will come along, too.

“It’s the fact that they want to go,” explains Pam. “It’s a place where they feel safe, comfortable and at peace.”

“While they’re there, they’re clearly in the presence of Christ,” she adds. “It has taught them that we receive Jesus in the Eucharist but we can also spend time with him in adoration.”

The Singletons, like many other families who rally around Eucharistic adoration, are doing more for their spiritual life — not to mention the life of the entire Church family — than they may know.

In his 2003 encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia (The Eucharist in its Relationship to the Church), Pope John Paul II wrote:

“It is pleasant to spend time with him, to lie close to his breast like the Beloved Disciple (see John 13:25) and to feel the infinite love present in his heart. If in our time Christians must be distinguished above all by the ‘art of prayer,’ how can we not feel a renewed need to spend time in spiritual converse, in silent adoration, in heartfelt love before Christ present in the Most Holy Sacrament?”

“How often, dear brothers and sisters, have I experienced this,” the Holy Father added, “and drawn from its strength, consolation and support?”

While most Catholic parents would concur on the benefits of Eucharistic adoration, some might hesitate to take their children out of fear of youthful boredom. Few things are more distracting than a restless child in what is supposed to be a place of silent prayer and contemplation.

And there are often other adorers to think about.

Father Antoine Thomas of the Brothers of St. John is the founder of Children of Hope, a children’s Eucharistic adoration program that’s being set up in parishes around the country. (For information, go to childrenofhope.org.)

The priest advises parents to settle the children by explaining to them what’s going on in adoration. To do this, he suggests, “begin with the concrete and then move to the abstract.”

“Start with the personal experience of what it’s like to have a best friend,” says Father Antoine. “Do we want to see our friend just once a year? Once a month? No! We want to spend time with our friend every week. Jesus is our best friend, and so we want to spend time with him.”

Father Antoine advises taking the children to the church, showing them the tabernacle and talking about Jesus’ presence there and the reason he’s our best friend.

“Then just let the child be silent,” he says. “Many people fear silence. But without it, the soul can’t adore God.”

Finally, says Father Antoine, start slowly with small children. Begin with visits of just three to five minutes and build from there.

Step by Step

That’s exactly what Maureen Tousignant did with her five children, ages 5 to 18. She started by briefly visiting a small chapel with Eucharistic adoration near their home in Pewaukee, Wis.

Now she and husband Tom attend adoration three times a week with various combinations of their children at their parish, St. Anthony on the Lake.

“I started when the kids were little, little, little,” Maureen says. “I showed them the monstrance and taught them how to genuflect on both knees and then we’d leave. Now the kids say the same thing — it seems like you just get in there and suddenly the time’s up.”

Maureen admits that most of their children sit quietly but their youngest likes to keep moving. That’s okay with her.

“He may genuflect a thousand times, or walk to and from the back of church, but that doesn’t bother me,” she says. “As long as he’s not being disrespectful, there’s no harm.”

“Parents need to understand that it really doesn’t bother most people when their children move around or make noise,” she adds. “It’s just delightful to have them there with Jesus.”

Maureen Mattern, a Lincoln, Neb., mother of eight children spanning ages 2 to 21, agrees.

Between her, husband Ben and their children, the Matterns share four adoration hours a week at aptly named Blessed Sacrament Parish.

Her children appreciate the quiet time and the ability to explore the church without disturbing formal services. The teens, with their busy work and school schedules, appreciate taking turns for the hour on Friday afternoons because that’s when the sacrament of reconciliation is offered.

Sometimes the older boys will take their girlfriends with them to adoration and confession.

“Sometimes they’ll complain that it’s not their turn to go,” Maureen says, “but they always come back glad that they went.”

She’s quick to point out that, although they adore regularly, they’re just an average family.

And yet the devotion has made a positive impact on the family’s unity and sanctity. 

“People might think that, because we go so often to Eucharistic adoration, we’re this perfect, fabulous family,” she laughs. “We’re not.”

“Then I think of how things would be if we didn’t go,” adds Maureen. “Being in front of the Eucharist changes your heart and mind. It’s a subtle change that takes place in ways you can’t even imagine.”

And one that can help form families in ways that must be especially pleasing to Christ.

Marge Fenelon writes from
Cudahy, Wisconsin