Let me back up a bit.
Last week I had hoped to spend the entire class teaching them about Eucharistic Adoration (in preparation for last night). A scheduling conflict forced the entire Religious Education department to set aside lesson plans in lieu of Christmas Pageant practice.
As a result, I was left with 15 minutes of class time with which to impart to them the importance and value of this gift. After that, we had to make our way across the lot to the Church where Father Piotr patiently awaited our arrival so we could begin.
As my children found their seats at the start of class, they found their "prayer packets" waiting for them on their desks. I explained that they were my personal "Thank You" for their stellar and exemplary behavior during last week's rehearsal. I explained their uses and advised them to keep their Divine Praises handy for Benediction later on. Finally, I gave myself a few moments to delve into the purpose and privilege of Eucharistic Adoration.
A couple children thought the Eucharist was a representation of Christ... simply a symbol of His Sacrifice. Sadly, many adults misunderstand this as well, so I did my best to correct that. Next, I then asked them to really think about what it would be like to see God face to Face. What would they say to Him? What would they feel like? Would they want to hug Him? Would they want to ask Him questions?
They came up with some wonderful responses, all of which provided meditative materials for their first Holy Hour. Finally, when questions were answered and my points were made, we quickly made our way into the church. Upon seeing my class seated, Fr. Piotr began.
Oh, to see my class willingly take part in this expression of love! They participated in the prayers, listened patiently as Father lead us in meditative thanksgiving, sang the two hymns slated for the evening, and knelt upright in their pews, looking nowhere but upon the monstrance and our God encased within.
When it was time to relax in our seats to contemplate Christ through personal prayer, my class continued their participation. Each of them could be seen paging through their new Pieta books. One boy, in particular, almost brought tears to my eyes. He was repeatedly blessing himself, over and over. It took me a second to realize why he was doing that - he was praying the Prayer Against Storms. I actually do the same thing when I pray that prayer because of the little crosses that follow each line. I was never sure if that meant to bless myself or not, so I always figure "better safe than sorry" and bless myself. He was doing the same thing! My heart just about burst I was so proud of his humble effort to ask God's assistance with the horrible weather we were having that night.
Another young man had his hands folded in prayer for most of the time. As he knelt and looked upon the Host, his expression was... I don't know. I can't even describe it. This particular child is special, indeed. In my heart I can't help but wonder if I'm not looking at a little priest-in-waiting. His grasp of things theological astounds me. His questions are astute and his understanding of the answers speedy. Even with that knowledge, however, I was floored by his piety during Adoration.
One of my young ladies, too, made me smile (truthfully, all of them did!). Normally one of my "rougher" children (not abrasive or rude... just more willing to test the waters), she was surprisingly willing to let her guard down and emphatically take part in the prayers. You see, in the beginning of the school year, I had to address this very issue with her. She was too "cool" to pray. Prayer was something the other kids did... not her. Prayer - at least of the public, communal variety - was embarrassing.
Instead of singling her out, the class and I had the following discussion:
"Do you think Jesus is your friend?"
"Do you talk to your friends?"
"Would you ever be embarrassed to talk to a friend?"
"Is prayer a way we can talk to Jesus?"
"And Jesus is your friend, right?"
"So why are some of you embarrassed to talk to your friend, Jesus, through prayer? Don't you think that hurts His feelings? Please don't ever let me see any of you refuse to pray because it is embarrassing."
After that, I never had a problem with her participating with the class. However, I didn't expect her to participate with such gusto at Adoration. It truly touched me to see her kneeling with her Pieta book, looking for prayers and then casting her eyes upon the Host as she completed them.
At one point, another class came in to take part. They were loud... very loud... and I was surprised to see that only two or three of my students turned to see the racket. The rest simply continued on in their private conversations with Jesus. Again... I was astonished by their maturity and gentle love. I doubt even they realize just how astonishing they were!
The other class left within minutes of entering. I don't know if it's due to the teacher's time restraint or realization that the class was unprepared for the privilege, but I think the congregation felt relieved at the return of peace. I couldn't help but wonder what Jesus felt like as He watched those students leave after having spent only a few moments there. No doubt He was somewhat hurt by their lack of reverence, but even a parent who is upset by a child's actions doesn't want to love them any less.
Anyway, upon completion of the Holy Hour (which also completed my class time), my class stood up and exited their pews, each one genuflecting towards the tabernacle, where they now understood God reposed. As we made our way to the back of the church, another parishioner commented on how well-behaved and prayerful they were. I positively beamed for them, and graciously thanked her for complimenting them in such a way. A few of them smiled, too, proud, I think, to have been commended in such a way.
Oh my... I am so beyond grateful for that experience. How kind of God to grant me such a special group of kids. I am beyond blessed. I really hope they understand just how much I appreciate them. May God grant me the grace to repay their kindness (and His) by continuing to help them develop spiritually. Oh, that I may help them love Him more!