Never mind community service hours. Confirmation candidates should be required to log a certain number of Eucharistic Adoration hours. 100% serious.
That’s what I tweeted one morning, on a whim. So many people liked and retweeted it, my computer almost melted. Why the huge response? Two reasons.
One is that mandatory service hours are almost universally despised.
The laudable goal is to train kids in the corporal works of mercy, which are central to Catholicism; to give them a little kick in the pants to give and do, rather than receiving; to feel like part of the larger community; and to build confidence and introduce them to the idea that we all need each other.
In theory, this is great. In practice, it’s often useless or worse. Helpful, mature kids log the volunteer hours they were already performing. A few kids have some kind of spiritual awakening and realise they’re responsible for their brothers and sisters in Christ.
But the vast majority—and their overworked parents—just see it as one more hoop to jump through. One more bit of evidence that religion is boring and artificial, and all about grown-ups making you do pointless things just because they can. Sometimes the kid is so grudging, he ends up making life harder for the person he’s allegedly serving. Lots of kids simply don’t do it and lie about it.
So Confirmation teachers are in a bind. If they ask too much, people get bitter and resentful. If they ask nothing, people will snap their pictures, eat their cake, and disappear forever.
And this is why I suggested Eucharistic Adoration.
If I had been writing an essay, rather than a tweet, I wouldn’t have said confirmandi should be ‘required to log’ hours at Adoration. Sacraments are free gifts of grace, and we shouldn’t be doing anything that smacks of making people earn a sacrament, whether that’s volunteering or praying.
But still. If we have the chance to direct how candidates spend their time while preparing for a sacrament, Adoration is ideal. It’s so easy, and yet so profound. It can be so many things. Even if kids aren’t fulfilling their Sunday obligations, and even if they’re not in a state of grace, Adoration is the best place for them to be.
And that’s the second reason my tweet go so much favourable attention. Time spent in Adoration is time that’s impossible to waste. Even if you’re sitting there thinking of the Flintstones theme music the whole time because your brain is basically a popcorn popper, you’re still spending that time with Jesus.
And that’s the second reason my tweet hit such a chord. In a noisy, cluttered, artificial world full of real and imaginary obligations and frustrations, people are longing, longing for Jesus. Just Jesus. Along with all the other good things we want and need from the Church and from our students and from ourselves, we just want to be with Jesus.
See related article: Celebrating 200 years of Eucharistic Adoration in Australia
It’s a strange thing. Receiving the Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life; but it’s hard to take that in when we take Him in. We receive Communion, and then just a few minutes later, Mass is over and off we go, out into the cold world to face our obligations once again. Adoration is a chance to sit with that world-shattering truth and give it a chance to sink in.
Oh yes, this means callow youths will spend time before the Blessed Sacrament without really realising what it’s all about. Well, so do I!
If I really understood what was going on, I’d be lying on my face, quaking with fear. Instead, I sit or kneel and know that it’s a good place to be. Sometimes I pray the rosary. Sometimes I read. Sometimes I suddenly realise with horrifying clarity just what I need to bring to confession. Sometimes I leak tears and don’t even know why, but it’s okay, because I’m with Jesus.
There is no one for whom Adoration is a bad fit. Shy? You don’t have to even make eye contact with anyone. Love ritual and tradition? Bring a rosary or say the Liturgy of the Hours. Prefer to free-form it? Go for it. Not sure what your relationship with God is or is supposed to be? Just be there. Not in a state of grace? Be with the Lord so you can hear Him calling you home. Have a hard time sitting still? Make it a short visit. Like doing things in community with others? There is perpetual adoration going on all over the world all the time. Like private, individual worship? It’s just you and Him.
You can make any kind of prayer, adoration, confession, thanksgiving, or supplication, before the Blessed Sacrament. You can read scripture or spiritual works. You can be angry. You can be sad. You can be grateful or confused or searching. You can just rest.
So maybe we shouldn’t be obligating kids to go to adoration, but we should be making it easy. If your program does require kids to do something, let this be one of the options. If your program is looser, make this part of it. If you have kids for an hour, spend ten minutes there. If you have them for a weekend, spend an hour there. Just give them this gift. People who spend lots of time in adoration very often go on to perform acts of service for all the right reasons, not because they’re required to do it before someone will let them have cake.
When it comes down to it, the restored order of sacraments teaches us something very easily misunderstood. We are used to thinking of the sacraments as something we earn, something we achieve, something we’re entitled to after we accomplish certain tasks or lessons. Nothing could be more wrong. The grace of the sacraments is entirely unearned, entirely un-earnable.
And there’s another reason why adoration is such a good fit as we prepare to receive Confirmation (at any age): It’s not about doing. It’s just about being there with God. Adoration is so good at plucking away our false business and sense of the need to accomplish and impress and achieve. It just puts Christ in front of us and lets us be there, enjoying Him and His goodness.