Caitlin Kennell Kim, seminary grad, baby wrangler, ordinary radical, writes about the life of a convert in the Catholic Church and explores how faith and everyday life intersect.
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A Convert’s Guide to Adoration
Or, Everything I know about Adoration I learned from my 2-year-old
This year, for the first time ever in Kim family history, the two biggest pickles are in school. (Ok, I’m getting a little verklempt. Talk amongst yourselves.) So, Thursday mornings the two littlest pickles and I have a standing “praydate.” With Jesus. Yep, that’s right. We go to Adoration.
What is Adoration, you ask? Adoration (short for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament) is an opportunity for prayer that happens at almost every parish throughout the world. After each Mass, any consecrated host remaining after the faithful have received the Eucharist is placed in the tabernacle (the gold box on an altar in the sanctuary usually accompanied by a lit candle). During Adoration, the consecrated host (the Body of Christ!) is taken from the tabernacle and placed in a monstrance (a gold case) on the main altar and the community is welcome to come spend time with the Lord in prayer. Some parishes even have a chapel where Adoration happens around the clock!
Adoration is new to me… at least as a weekly spiritual discipline. Here are some important things I’ve learned about Adoration from our second youngest — the 2-year-old — the one who, thanks to her overwhelmingly affectionate, affable, rough-and-tumble personality, is known around Casa Kim as “The Puppy.”
Say hello to Jesus
When we arrive at Adoration, The Puppy genuflects (which looks like a half-curtsy, half-linebacker three-point stance). She then stands up, and with a big smile, an energetic wave, and the not-so-whispery whisper of a 2-year-old, says, “Hiya, Jeebus!”
Start your visit with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament with a greeting. The greeting can be a verse from Scripture, a short prayer, or an expression of adoration (worship) and praise from your own heart. Greeting Jesus reminds us that we have come into his presence (really and truly into his presence). That we are beginning a visit with him. That we have entered a unique time and place like no other time or place in our busy week.
Bring something to “pray” with
As I mention above, The Puppy is two. Her two-ness yields busy-ness. Her busy-ness necessitates things to keep her appropriately occupied. When we go to Adoration, we bring some picture books about Jesus, some small toys, and her very own rosary. This helps keep her calm and focused.
Big people are not so different from little people. If your mind tends to wander (me) and you find it hard to focus (also, me) or quiet your mental to-do list (me, again), bringing something with you as an aid to prayer can really be helpful. I like to bring a rosary, a Bible, or a spiritual book like Imitation of Mary. It’s not uncommon for The Puppy to confiscate some or all of these from me in the course of our half hour visit with Jesus. In that case, I take a page from Pope Francis and pray his “Five Finger Prayer.” (This is also a great way to learn how to pray for both big folks and little folks alike.)
Not every visit is a great visit
Sometimes The Puppy stands next to me on the kneeler giving an abundance of sweet little kisses and cuddles while I pray quietly. Other times she’s rifling through my Bible with such noisy fury that she’s ripped out the better part of Second Maccabees, disrupted the pious elderly gentleman behind us by repeating the chorus of Old MacDonald (you know, the E-I-E-I-O part) over and over again in her not-so-whispery whisper, poked her sleeping baby sister in the eye causing her to shriek like a riled velociraptor, and/or thrown herself on the pew repeating the words “snack” and “milk” with such studied despondency that, if not for her gorgeously chubby cheeks, compassionate witnesses might be led to believe that no one had ever fed her. Ever. In her whole life.
All this is to say that not every visit to the Blessed Sacrament will be a spiritually edifying experience. Sometimes I feel overcome by Christ’s presence and my heart overflows with prayer. Other times the half hour seems like an eternity and my prayer feels forced and parched. We all have good days and, well, not-so-good days. God is pleased with prayer that springs forth wild and instinctive from the soil of our hearts and God is (perhaps) most pleased with prayers we bring forth out of careful cultivation and concerted effort. Our visits with Jesus are an act of love. If no words come to you, just sit quietly. Jesus called us his friends and, as we all know, sometimes dear friends simply sit together in sweet silence without the burden of words.
Say goodbye to Jesus
When it’s time for us to leave, we gather up all of our things and The Puppy assumes her half-ballerina half-linebacker position and waves “Buhbye, Jeebus!” Sometimes we blow kisses. We promise Jesus we’ll come again next Thursday.
As you’re preparing to leave Adoration, thank Jesus for your visit and make plans to visit again. Taking the time to say a proper farewell reminds us that we are going out into the world strengthened and emboldened by his presence and his promise to be with us always.
Have any advice for folks who are new to Adoration? Any questions about Adoration? Let me know! I love hearing from you!