“How awesome is this place!
This is none other than the house of God,
And this is the gate of Heaven.”
To make a visit with Jesus can be as simple as walking into a Catholic Church or Chapel, genuflecting to Jesus in the tabernacle, going into the pew and sitting quietly with Him. Saint John Vianney once asked a man who came often to Church what he did during his visits with Jesus. The man responded, “I just look at the good Lord and He looks at me.” When bringing a group of children to Jesus for a time of guided Eucharistic Adoration with Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament, there is a bit more to it.
Before we continue with the nuts-and-bolts of how to begin, the most important thing to remember is that the main, core, number-one motivation for us in bringing the children to Jesus must be love. We do it because we love the Lord! Through our own personal encounters with Him, we have experienced His great love for us and we want the children to experience that love as well. Love must be at the heart of all we do concerning the guided Holy Hours for children. There are other reasons we bring the children to Jesus such as unleashing the great power of their innocent prayers for our world as I wrote about in the “step one” introduction. However, first and foremost, this effort must always be a labor of love on our part, otherwise we can easily be overcome by the obstacles that can sometimes arise in beginning and persevering in this good work.
Guided Holy Hours for children almost always take place in a parish Church setting or the parish school Chapel under the leadership and approval of the pastor. Associate priests and deacons can also be involved. There is Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament at the end of each Holy Hour so a priest or deacon is necessary for this.
There is also the role of a “prayer leader” who guides the prayer time and rhythm of the Holy Hour. This can be the parish DRE, teacher, catechist, or parent. Of course, the priest or deacon can also be the prayer leader. It just depends on the situation in your parish. I know priests who lead the times of Eucharistic Adoration for children. I also know priests and deacons who would prefer not to be the prayer leader in this situation but are happy to be present to expose the Blessed Sacrament and do Benediction.
The role of prayer leader could also be a shared role, rotating between two people. The most important thing is that the person who is guiding the Holy Hour must be a person who has prepared by their own personal, regular prayer time before our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. That is the main requirement: spending time with Jesus!
It is important to have an understanding of what the Church says in regards to adoration of the Blessed Sacrament outside of the Mass. Our priests and deacons are the experts in this area and everyone involved in Guided Holy Hours should also have an understanding of this. There are helpful links on the subject in “step 3.”
The following step-by-step plan outlines one way to begin Guided Holy Hours for children that includes Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament each week. In our particular situation, we have our Pastor, our DRE, and myself as the prayer leader working together to implement the weekly Holy Hours that take place in our parish Church. There are some weeks that Father needs to schedule another priest or deacon to take his place but most of the time he is present for the children. If I am unable to come one week, our DRE would then take the role of prayer leader. If she would need to be gone one week, myself or another volunteer would greet the children and pass out the programs. Our DRE also does the advertising, prints the programs and makes sure we have enough Bibles and Rosaries. This effort works beautifully when we support each other through prayer and encouragement!
- Each Monday at 6:20pm (10 minutes before the Holy Hour begins), our Pastor and our DRE prepare the altar and environment for Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction.
- The spotlight is turned on so the monstrance is illuminated.
- Our DRE greets the children as they enter and gives them a program. She also has extra Children’s Bibles and Rosaries if they have not brought their own. We use the “New Catholic Picture Bible” by Father Lawrence Lovasik. There are links and examples listed in “step 3,” such as a sample program and where to get the Bible we use, that will help you begin.
- The prayer leader is given a microphone.
THE HOLY HOUR BEGINS
- At 6:30pm Father is vested and enters the Church.
- The children and families are in the pews. I should mention here that anyone is invited to come to these parish sponsored Holy Hours but they are conducted with elementary age children as the "target audience."
- If the prayer leader is not the priest or deacon, he or she is in a front pew. We stand when Father enters and kneel when he opens the tabernacle. We sing “O Saving Victim” by Saint Thomas Aquinas in English, acapella, when Father exposes Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, placing the Host in the monstrance on the altar.
- Father often offers several vocal prayers (for example, an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be). He then exits back to the sacristy or out of the main Church and goes around to the back to watch and pray.
THE PRAYER LEADER CONTINUES
- The prayer leader greets Jesus, such as: “Jesus, we are so happy to be with You this evening to make a visit with You! We would like to continue the vocal prayers that Father has begun.”
- First, the leader asks our Guardian Angel and all the Holy Angels present with us to help us adore Jesus. Then we pray together: “Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here. Ever this day be at my side to light, to guard, to rule and to guide. Amen.”
- Next, the leader calls upon St. Michael, the “Prince of the Heavenly Host,” asking St. Michael to help keep us from being distracted so we can keep our focus on Jesus during our Holy Hour. Then together we pray: “St. Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him we humbly pray; and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits, who prowl throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.”
- Finally, the leader asks our beautiful Blessed Mother Mary to help us love her Son. We use the following entrustment prayer each week. Together we pray: “Holy Mary, I want to belong to you. I give you my whole self and all the good things I do: at home, at school, at Church and at play. My Mother! I am all yours, and all I do belongs to you to give to Jesus. Amen.”
PREPARING FOR OUR ROSARY DECADE
- Each week we offer Jesus one Rosary decade but first we prepare our hearts by reading a Gospel story about the mystery from our Children’s Bible. As mentioned, the Bible we use is the “New Catholic Picture Bible” by Father Lawrence Lovasik, published by the Catholic Book Publishing Company. It is up to the prayer leader to decide which Rosary mystery will be prayed. During the Advent season the Joyful Mysteries are most appropriate. During Lent, we emphasize the Sorrowful Mysteries and during the Easter season, the Glorious Mysteries. Depending on the Rosary mystery chosen, there can often be several Gospel stories that are appropriate to read as a meditation. For instance, the first Glorious Mystery is Our Lord's Resurrection. One week you could read through the story of the Resurrection as your meditation. Another week you could read through the story of doubting Thomas. Another week you could read through the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus before praying the Resurrection Rosary decade.
- The prayer leader invites the children to sit and then tells them the page number they should open up to. The children follow along in their Bibles as the leader reads a Gospel story connected with the Rosary mystery. However, there is one important difference: when the prayer leader reads the story out loud, he or she will slightly change the wording when applicable so we speak to Jesus, not about Him. For example, the text may be written: “When Mother Mary took Jesus into the temple….” The leader will say: “Jesus, when Mother Mary took You into the temple…” This is important because it will help reinforce the truth that our Eucharistic Lord Jesus is truly present before us on the altar and it will also help facilitate “conversation with Christ.” For the prayer leader, it is easy to read through the story beforehand, taking a thin marker pen and adjusting where appropriate. To make life a little easier, you will find in “step 3” twenty Bible story meditations written by Father Lovasik - one Bible story for each Rosary mystery. Each of these meditations has been slightly adjusted so we are speaking to Jesus, keeping everything else just as Father Lovasik has written in the Children’s Bible.
PRAYING OUR ROSARY DECADE
Now it is time to pray our Rosary decade. Here is an example of what the prayer leader will say:
- “Now it is time to kneel and offer our decade.”
- “Find the Crucifix on the end of your Rosary beads. Let’s give the Crucifix a kiss. Thank You Jesus for dying on the Cross for me. Now let’s make the Sign of the Cross together… In the name of the Father…etc.”
- “Jesus, we offer our decade tonight for this special intention...” The intention can vary each week, sometimes tying it to the theme of the Rosary decade. For example, when we pray the 5th Luminous Mystery we offer it for our priests.
- “Boys and girls, I’ll say the first part of the prayer, you say the second. Our Father… Hail Mary…, etc.”
- When we get to the “Glory Be” the Leader says: “Boys and girls, let us bow our heads low and adore the most Holy Trinity.” (Very long pause of adoration silence.) “Together we pray Glory be to the Father, and to the Son…etc.”
- When we get to the “O My Jesus” prayer, “Boys and girls, let us hold out our hand towards Jesus and offer Him this very special prayer. This is the prayer that our Blessed Mother taught the three little children at Fatima. She asked us to pray this prayer at the end of each Rosary decade. Jesus, we know this must be very important since You sent our beautiful Mother Mary from Heaven to teach us this prayer. Together we pray, ‘O my Jesus, forgive us our sins…etc. ”
- We always end by making the Sign of the Cross together.
The above template (Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, opening hymn, vocal prayers, Bible story reading/meditation and praying a Rosary decade) stays the same each week.
BIBLE STORY / SAINT STORY / CATHOLIC STORY FOR CHILDREN
This next part of the Holy Hour is where the prayer leader reads a different story or meditation each week. As the prayer leader, you can pick a story about a Saint or go back into your Children’s Bible and read through another story from the New Testament or the Old Testament. DRE’s, educators and parents will have access to many good Catholic books that contain Bible stories and Saint stories that would be appropriate for helping lead children in prayer. We listen to these stories with the “ear of our heart” while in the Presence of Jesus. The prayer leader can pause to talk with Jesus about different parts when appropriate.
Besides Bible stories and Saints stories, some weeks we will also use parts of the Catholic stories for children found on the pages of Catholic Kids 101. These involve situations that the children in the stories tell us that are of interest to our children in the pews.
Here are some examples: what I learned from the year I was really sick, advice for kids after I disobeyed Dad and Mom and almost burned down our house, what happened to my grandpa when he died, how can I use my gifts and talents for Jesus, who is my patron Saint, the story of the little girl who told big lies, the power of Mary’s prayers for us, and a “secret” way to pray for priests that was inspired by a martyr. A story for children that is Christ-centered or ultimately connected to Christ that will help the children have a prayerful “conversation with Christ” is always the goal.
I can tell you from experience that once you make the commitment to be a prayer leader, you will be amazed at how you are led by the Holy Spirit to know what to talk about during this part each week. You will happen to stumble upon just the right story about a particular Saint that ties in with the liturgical season. You will hear a reading at Mass that will confirm what you were thinking about concerning a Gospel story for the children that week.
I remember one time a mother sent me a text asking me to pray for her child who was being bullied. I had been praying to know what to talk about so I took that text as a cue to talk with Jesus about being bullied. At that particular Holy Hour, the children and I prayed the third Sorrowful Mystery: Jesus Is Crowned With Thorns. I asked Jesus, “How did You feel when the Roman soldiers made fun of You, Jesus?” Then I read part of a CK101 story about a young boy who was bullied because he stuttered. Afterwards, we told Jesus we were sorry for any time we were mean and acted like a bully to people in our lives. We asked Him to help us forgive people who had been mean to us. Then we asked Jesus to heal our hearts of any hurts we were still carrying. That was a particularly powerful guided Holy Hour. I told the children we would talk with Jesus about bullying the following week too, reading the second half of our story. The following week we had the most children who, to this day, have ever attended the Holy Hour. I then realized just how important this subject matter was to them and it came about because of one mother’s prayer request. There will be some suggested Holy Hour scripts in "step 3," including this one on the subject of bullying, to help you get started.
Once you have led some Holy Hours and become familiar with the rhythm, you will get a good idea of timing. You will be surprised how long it actually takes to thoughtfully read through most of the Rosary meditation Gospel stories in the Children’s Bible and then pray the Rosary decade with attention. The time left for going through a story and talking with Jesus about it can go by quickly. You will want to make sure to wear a watch to keep track of the time.
I also want to point out here that there is no such thing as “a bad Holy Hour.” Every second spent before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is glorious! I’ll insert a favorite quote here by Blessed Carlo Acutis. Carlo says: “When we face the sun, we get a tan but when we stand before Jesus in the Eucharist, we become Saints!” You may have a wonderful story prepared and think you know exactly what you want to talk with Jesus about. However, at the very last minute you find out that Father had an emergency call. One of the parish deacons is on his way to Church to expose the Blessed Sacrament and do Benediction. By the time everything is ready, the Holy Hour begins late and when the Rosary decade is finally finished, you realize that you only have about 10 minutes left for a 12 minute story plus quiet time. That’s not a problem. As the leader, you learn to be flexible. You decide to set aside the original plan, perhaps saving it for another week. The situation has presented an opportunity to pray for the sick person that Father had to go anoint. After praying for that person, you now guide the children in prayer by bringing to Jesus all those who are sick and suffering. You might say, “Jesus, I wonder if the children have anybody in their family or know any people who are sick and suffering?” (long pause) “Jesus, when we look at that big Crucifix above the altar, it helps us to remember that You truly understand.” (really long pause) “You know what it is like to suffer.” (really long pause) “We bring sick people, those who are really suffering, to You tonight.” (long pause) “We ask You to please help them, Jesus.” (long pause) “Give them Your peace.” (long pause) “Help them understand that You love them and are very close to them.” Now you can enter into “quiet prayer time.”
QUIET PRAYER TIME
- Depending on the length of the story, we have more or less quiet prayer time at the end. (Aim for a minimum of three minutes and usually not much more than 10 minutes.) You will often be able to naturally lead the children into quiet prayer time by connecting to something in the story. For example, using the theme of bullying that I told you about earlier, you could say, “Jesus, during our quiet time now, we ask You to please heal our hearts by helping us to forgive the person who was mean to us.” (pause) “We also don’t ever want to be mean to anyone by calling them names or physically hurting them.” (pause) “We will talk with You, Heart-to-heart, about all this now.”
PREPARING FOR BENEDICTION
- You can also use the end of quiet prayer time to help the children prepare for Benediction. “Jesus, when Father lifts You high, we want to open up our hearts wide to receive all the graces You want to pour into them! We also ask for graces for the whole world, Jesus!”
- We usually have several altar servers attending the weekly Holy Hour. They leave the pews early to go to the sacristy and put on vestments. They will also prepare the incense for Benediction.
- Father and the servers will come out of the sacristy at 7:15pm. At around 7:14, the prayer leader will invite the children to kneel and we say a prayer such as, “O Sacrament most holy, O Sacrament divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment Thine,” three times. Sometimes we will pray the Fatima prayers or sing the refrain, “O Come let us adore Him!” This invitation to kneel and pray will be the cue that quiet prayer time has ended and we are ready for Benediction.
BENEDICTION OF THE MOST BLESSED SACRAMENT
- We are kneeling. The leader invites the children to look at their program and we sing “Down in Adoration Falling” by St. Thomas Aquinas in English, acapella.
- Altar server helps Father with the humeral veil.
- Father does Benediction. Server rings bells. Another server swings incense.
- Father leads the Divine Praises.
- Father reposes the Blessed Sacrament.
- We stand and sing “Immaculate Mary” as Father exits with the servers.
At the end of the Holy Hour, the leader can thank the children and families for coming. I often say, “Jesus is so happy that you came to make a visit with Him! Remember, He’s always here in the tabernacle for you to come and make your visits with Him. Have a great week and we’ll see you next Monday.”