By SAMANTHA SMITH, Staff Writer | Published June 10, 2021
ATLANTA—In his apostolic exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium,” Pope Francis invites Christians everywhere “to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ.”
“The Lord does not disappoint those who take the risk,” said the Holy Father. “Whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms.”
For many Catholics, adoration is a primary way outside of Mass to spend time with Jesus.
Catholics simply have to rest in Jesus’ presence, said Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv.
“The adoration of the Eucharist, the Blessed Sacrament, is really just an opportunity for us to sit with him and to just listen,” he said.
About 50 parishes in the Archdiocese of Atlanta have an adoration chapel or offer Eucharistic Adoration on a regular basis. Ministries throughout the archdiocese, especially campus ministries and young adult groups, host adoration and holy hours.
Kevin Conner, director of high school youth ministry and confirmation at St. Monica Church, explains to the teens at the Duluth parish that adoration is a chance to “sit in front of the Lord like a friend.”
“If we believe that he is present in the Eucharist and wants us to consume and be changed by him, then in adoration he simply wants to be with us,” said Conner. “Adoration helps us to know that he’s actually there.”
Conner supports about 150 teens in their journeys to Christ. The youth ministry program at St. Monica Church had adoration for the teens about five times per semester prior to the coronavirus pandemic. Last year, they were able to offer it on six occasions.
“Providing adoration has given our teens a better understanding of the true presence and has helped them to fall deeper in love with the Lord,” he said. “Our teens request adoration because they’ve come to know and love the Lord.”
By going to adoration himself, Conner has a better understanding of what a relationship with Christ looks like.
“Taking the abstract experience that prayer can often be and making it a face-to-face encounter helps me to make my prayer a real encounter,” he said.
Honoring the feast
Adoration has been a practice in Catholicism for centuries. The church recognizes various kinds of adoration, all sharing the act of spending time with Jesus in the Eucharist. In adoration, the faithful spend time in silence, prayer or read Scripture.
The feast of Corpus Christi, celebrated after Trinity Sunday, honors the body and blood of Christ. It was instituted by Pope Urban IV in the 13th century. The pope commissioned Thomas Aquinas, now a saint, to compose the Liturgy of the Hours for the feast day.
St. Thomas More, St. Francis Xavier and St. Mary Magdalene dei Pazzi, among many others, were known to have spent time before the Blessed Sacrament during their lifetime.
Carlo Acutis, an Italian teenager who shared his faith across the internet, is on the path to becoming the church’s first millennial saint. During his life, he had a profound Marian devotion and adored the Lord either before or after Mass.
“To be always united with Jesus, this is my plan of life,” said Acutis.
“The Eucharist brings us the father’s faithful love, which heals our sense of being orphans,” said Pope Francis on the Feast of Corpus Christi in 2020. “It gives us Jesus’ love, which transformed a tomb from an end to a beginning, and in the same way can transform our lives.”
Looking for answers
In adoration, we can resolve things that have been on our minds, said Archbishop Hartmayer. “We do that sitting in the presence of Christ, and then we listen to him. And it’s amazing what we hear.”
“[Adoration] is still the place I go for my answers,” said Lisa Fiamingo, parishioner at St. Catherine of Siena Church. “It’s still my hiding place and my refuge.”
Fiamingo has worked in youth ministry for more than 30 years. She became the director of teen and young adult ministry and the confirmation coordinator of the Kennesaw parish nearly two years ago.
“What I have found with young people is that if you put them in front of the Blessed Sacrament, you give them a tangible reality of Jesus’ presence on this earth,” she said.
Soon, the youth learn that “in their lives, there’s a place of refuge and a place of solace that they can always go to and get away from the world, which is an adoration chapel in a Catholic Church,” said Fiamingo.
Inviting the youth to spend quiet time with Jesus in adoration is inviting them to have peace in their lives, said Fiamingo.
In adoration, there is no need to impress the Lord, said Conner.
“We don’t need to pray the perfect prayer or have the powerful emotional experience, but we simply need to show up,” he said. “What changes us in adoration is not what we do, but what the Lord does.”