The little children came to Jesus on a Wednesday evening in the Little Church at Ascension Parish in Chesterfield.
They started in the pews with their parents, as Deacon John Marino exposed the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance on the altar. Music minister Connor Stinehart led praise and worship: “There’s joy in the house of the Lord today, and we won’t be quiet. We shout out Your praise!”
About 10 minutes in, children started to edge out of their pews to sit or kneel at the foot of the altar, younger siblings toddling behind. This time was for them, and they wanted to see Jesus better.
“They might not understand transubstantiation, but they know — we want to be here, close to Him,” Bobby Hofman said.
The young families Holy Hour was started by Ascension parishioners Jimmy and Abby Hofman and Bobby and Meagan Hofman about a year ago. The Holy Hour — usually around half an hour, give or take how the children are doing — offers parents and their babies, toddlers and young children an opportunity to spend time in adoration without expecting perfect silence or fear of disturbing other adorers.
“Young family Holy Hour is really about providing an opportunity to be together as a family before the eucharistic Lord and to experience the joy of praying and community,” Abby said. “It’s as simple as fostering delight and love of the Lord in our children in an environment that encourages freedom on the parents’ part.”
About a dozen families gathered for adoration on June 14. Parents guided their older children through genuflection, then held their babies close as they pointed to the Blessed Sacrament on the altar. Two dads exchanged nods of solidarity as they carried little ones off for diaper changes. A steady hum of children’s questions and shuffling feet underlaid the praise and worship music.
Bobby and Meagan Hofman like the opportunity to lead their 2-year-old son, Luke, in simple prayers to Jesus as they sit in front of Him: I love you, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus. Jesus, please bless Mommy and Daddy and my little sister and me.
Bobby said that becoming parents has meant learning how to pray and stay close to Jesus amid the demands of family life. It has also shaped his faith and inspired him in new ways.
“I’ve learned a lot about my relationship with the Father through my relationship with my children,” he said. “Seeing the ways I love Luke and Bernadette teaches me a lot about how the Heavenly Father views me.”
“They can’t get close enough to Him,” Meagan said. “They’re all crawling up there during adoration, trying to get closer — I mean, I want to do that, too!”
Cassy O’Daniel, a parishioner at St. Gerard Majella in Kirkwood, has seen fruit from “the practice of going to church more and having (my kids) see that other families do it,” she said. They don’t have to get too deep into theology at this age: “We just say that we’re going to go pray and talk to God if you want to.”
After the Holy Hour, families head outside to the playground for playtime, popsicles and conversation. The group has grown throughout the year, primarily through personal invitations, creating a small community of young parents and children from several parishes.
Fostering that sense of community and friendship is another goal of the Holy Hour events, said Jimmy Hofman. “These young kid years are hard, and they can be isolating, particularly trying to raise kids in the faith and counter-culturally to some extent,” he said. “Having that sense of community and friendship and ‘we’re all in this together’ type mentality has been really neat to see.”
Katie and Tim Sullivan, parishioners at St. Joseph in Cottleville, appreciate the chance for their children to see others their age engaging in prayer and adoration.
“My son is 6 years old, and when we came in, he saw his friends and observed them kneeling in front of the monstrance — that really got his attention,” Katie said. “We’ve brought him (to adoration) before, but it’s different when it’s coming from his peers. I want him to see other little kids experiencing that, too.”
Mary Clare and Pat Archer, parishioners at the Oratory of St. Francis de Sales, brought their four children to the Holy Hour for the first time on June 14. “When we came out of church, Dominic (age 4) told me, ‘I love worshipping God,’” Mary Clare said.
“We always wanted to get our kids to eucharistic adoration, so having a specific organized time where it’s for families makes it easier because I know I won’t be the only one in the back with a little kid, and no one minds the noise,” she continued.
“It was kind of funny because I heard our baby crying, and I initially thought, ‘Oh, we’ve got to haul him out,’” Pat said. “And then I realized — oh, no, not at this place.”
Zach and Julie Cornett, parishioners at St. Gianna in Wentzville, have attended the Holy Hour with their four children a handful of times. “You hear everyone say that kids crying is a sign that the Church is young and growing,” Zach said. “This is one of the few places you can go and really hear that pretty audibly.”
“It’s so life-giving, seeing all the kids there. It’s loud, and it’s joyful, and it’s great,” he continued. “It’s something that we’ve added to our calendar, and we’ll be here every time. We all need to go to adoration more anyway.”
Young families Holy Hour at Ascension
The next young families Holy Hour at Ascension Parish in Chesterfield will be at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 2, in the Little Church. To sign up for emails about future gatherings, visit asc.flocknote.com/AscensionYoungF2.
>> Family adoration tips
Stephanie and Mark Hampton, parishioners at St. Monica Parish in Creve Coeur, have made it a habit to take their three daughters to eucharistic adoration during the parish’s normal Wednesday adoration hours.
“It’s a way to have some calmness and stillness in our busy lives, to have that time for adoration,” Stephanie said. “So whether it’s a few minutes or longer, I try to meet my kids where they’re at. When we started going to adoration, we would go for three minutes, and that was it. And then we gradually built it up, just like we did with family prayer time at home.”
Although it can feel daunting to take wiggly children to adoration, making it a normal part of family life at an early age has been a priority for her family, Stephanie said.
“Our Catholic faith is not just Sundays at Mass — it’s how we live, and how we raise our kids,” she said. “It’s going to adoration, modeling how we take time for confession and family prayer time. It’s giving thanks to God when things go well and turning to God when things go bad.”
Stephanie recently gave a talk on practical advice for family adoration at a Faith Alive in the Home conference. Here are some of her tips for taking young children to adoration in any environment:
•Prepare your children in advance. “We start by setting expectations. What is adoration? Why is it important? What is a monstrance? When we go in, what does it look like? How are we reverent? How do we pray?” Stephanie said. You might discuss someone that you want to pray for or things you want to thank God for.
•Offer different prayer options for your children. For example, older children might like to pray by drawing pictures, while younger children might like to hold a Rosary or prayer card or flip through a religious picture book.
•Start with just a few minutes of adoration and gradually increase your stay over time.
•Make adoration part of your regular schedule or routine. “Just like they have swim lessons every week, they know that we have adoration and it is important to set aside this time for Jesus,” Stephanie said.
•Remember that your children’s presence is a gift to your parish. Your fellow parishioners will most likely be happy to see them there. “It’s been just a real blessing to see our kids grow in their faith,” Stephanie said. “I think that’s one of the greatest blessings of being parents. And parishioners accept that and welcome that.”