When Angela Neumann, 26, enters the adoration chapel at the Church of St. Joseph in West St. Paul, Minn., for her daily Holy Hour, she feels at ease with Christ, her Bridegroom.
There, she is "absolutely 100% focused on the Lord."
Neumann is among a growing number of young adults meeting the Lord in adoration as a close friend with whom they share an intimate conversation.
"I would say the childlike recognition of Jesus in the Eucharist is stronger in the young than it is with the old," said Steve Villa, alumni relations music and drama administrator for West St. Paul-based National Evangelization Team (NET) Ministries, which trains teams of young adults to lead youth retreats around the country.
Young people have a hunger to know that God cares for them and that prayer makes a difference, said Jeremy Rivera, senior marketing and communications director for Fellowship of Catholic University Students (Focus), a college outreach based in Genesee, Colo., with a presence on 83 campuses.
They’re finding that the Lord does know them as a friend, Rivera said.
"I’m encouraged by the fact that people are feeling more comfortable to be themselves and embrace friendship with Christ," Rivera said.
Erin Bily of Aurora, Ill., spends time with Jesus, her best friend, at adoration three or four times a month.
"For some reason, sitting in God’s presence and giving him the opportunity to speak to you if he wants to I find a lot easier in adoration," she said. "You focus on the monstrance and know you’re looking at him."
Bily, 29, sometimes prays with her Bible and journal; other times, she simply converses with the Lord from her heart.
Whether they are meditating on Scripture or other devotional reading or simply talking with the Lord about their lives, the heart-to-heart encounter is vital for many youth.
Andrew Dennis, 26, a Focus missionary at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, likes to imagine himself in deep but informal conversation with Jesus and the apostles after the Lord has worked his first miracle at the Cana wedding feast.
"I love formal prayers, whether it’s Liturgy of the Hours or anything (else), but I do enjoy that time too [at adoration], when I just get to sit with Jesus," Dennis said.
He asks Christ for guidance: "Jesus, this is what’s going on in my life. What do you think I should do about it?"
Dennis meditates on the Lord’s humility in adoration and the idea that Christ adores us as we adore him. "This is God, this infinite, omnipotent omni-everything, who came down as Jesus as a man, and he’s Bread. He has this glorious, awesome power and majesty, but then it’s humility, too."
Balancing awareness of God’s humility and majesty should elicit reverence and awe, Villa said.
"Young people, I think, are very much attracted by the accessibility component of: ‘This is really God; this is really Jesus in the Eucharist.’"
Susan Klemond writes from
St. Paul, Minnesota.
‘Seven Sisters’ Apostolate Offers Holy Hours for Clergy
What started as a Minnesota woman’s prompting to pray for her pastor before the Blessed Sacrament has become an apostolate of prayer in which hundreds of women in the Midwest and around the country offer a Holy Hour each week for their bishop, pastor or priest.
The Seven Sisters, founded in 2011 by Janette Howe, a member of the Cathedral of St. Paul, in St. Paul, Minn., consists of women in groups of seven, mostly at their parishes, who each dedicate an hour of prayer in adoration or before the tabernacle on a particular day of the week for their bishop, pastor, associate pastor, retired priest or chaplain.
Their prayer adds up to one Holy Hour every day of the year for each of about 100 clergy members in 13 states, bringing graces not only for the clergy, but also their parishes and the adorers, according to participants.
Focused on the Eucharist, each Seven Sisters group prays not only for their priest’s or bishop’s intentions, but also for a deepening of his devotion to the Blessed Mother.
"Everything in the priest’s life revolves around his contact with Jesus in the holy Eucharist, and all of our ministry flows from the Eucharist," said Father Joseph Johnson, Seven Sisters adviser and pastor at Holy Family Church in St. Louis Park, Minn.
"As Vatican II taught us, that all the life and mission of the Church, all the Church’s being and activity flows from Christ in the Eucharist, I think that’s the meaning of these particular hours being offered before Jesus in the holy Eucharist."
The sisters seek Mary’s intercession for the priests’ needs, Howe said. "There’s a beautiful tie-in of relying on the Holy Spirit," she said. "This is the spouse of Mary. This prayer for the priest to deepen his relationship with Mary is going to happen as each woman relies on the Holy Spirit."
The apostolate consists of women, but men can serve as substitutes, and anyone can join them in prayer, Howe said.
The groups don’t talk to their priest about the prayer, although he may know they’re praying, she said.
According to Terri Gaffney, who leads two groups at St. Michael and St. Mary parishes in Stillwater, Minn.: "Our prayer as Seven Sisters is to assist in holding up the arms of the priest as he carries out his vocation in the life of a parish, always recollecting the phrases: ‘To Jesus through Mary,’ and ‘Do whatever he tells you.’"
— Susan Klemond