I’ll just come out and say it. I take my children to adoration with me. Not only that but I have a special hour for us to go, and another hour for myself. I didn’t plan on this, it just kind of happened when Jude was a baby and I would take him with me to my hour on Tuesday mornings, and we haven’t stopped since. Well that isn’t exactly true. After Xavier was born, and I had a school year with all four kids at home, trying to finish up my Masters, and dealing with the long recovery from childbirth that is my special cross, I realized toting four kids (including two non-walkers) around on freezing sidewalks wasn’t exactly prudent. But, we have been back in the swing for sometime now.
I realize that I am pretty blessed (in a strange way) because I have always had my adoration hours with the kids alone. There is absolutely no way that I could bring them if we shared the hour with someone else.
Yes, bringing my kids to Jesus is a huge blessing, for them and myself. BUT, if I am honest with myself I have not been approaching it like that. Lately there has been a looming sense of dread as Thursday morning arrives. We scramble to get dressed and out the door. I usually forget to grab a few books or the saint dolls, and we arrive slightly late and very loudly.
We go inside, genuflect, and Xavier and Zelie tell the gentleman who has the hour before us “bye” about 15 times, with some knee hugs thrown in. After he leaves, I try to get my thoughts collected before attempting to pray with the kids. Usually our prayer time is a few songs, a story chosen from the limited supply in the chapel because I forgot something from home, some petitions and usually a decade of the Rosary. This all lasts about 20 minutes. Sounds angelic, right? I hope it is in God’s eyes.
Most often Xavier demands to be nursed and kicks at us as we read the story, Gus doesn’t want to participate in one or more types of prayer, Zelie rolls around on the floor, the two olders argue because someone else is touching them on the knee, no one wants a rosary at first, but then everyone wants a rosary, and I struggle and fail to not loose my cool in front of the Lord of the universe.
After our prayer time together I encourage the kids to “find something quiet and prayerful to do”. If I thought ahead I brought some coloring books and supplies for Gus, and the play saints for Zelie and Xavey. At this time I try to say “Morning Prayer,” which usually takes over 30 minutes because of what all is involved when you take young children into a small, quiet place where they can’t touch a lot of things. Usually Gus is pretty good during this part, although I have to encourage him to not draw pictures of things exploding or sword battles. Zelie is back-and-forth behavior wise. Sometimes she is wonderful and talks with her little Bl. Zelie and St. Therese dolls that her amazing godmother made or will take the Rosary basket out and pass out rosaries. Other times she knocks over kneelers, bumps into Gus as he draws, and steals rosaries from Xavier. Xavier is mostly a toddler, which means he tries to get into the trash can. Cries for five minutes because I won’t let him have the remote that controls the ceiling fan. He also plays a complicated game with me and the six cupboards in the chapel that involves him trying to open them up (they contain goodies like scissors, cleaning supplies, holy water, and a toddler’s dream supply of chew-able holy cards after all) while I move in front of them to block him.
After I finish Morning Prayer we clean up and get ready to leave.
Sounds prayerful, right? I was beginning to suspect differently over the past few months. I mean I *knew* that it was a good thing to bring my children here. It was good to pray with them, sing with them, and read with them before our Lord. But it sure didn’t feel prayerful. In fact, it felt downright exhausting. And the truth is that I was getting kind of irritable about it and doubting how beneficial this was for me, the kids, and how respectful and reverent I was truly teaching the kids to be.
This past Thursday was a typical trip to adoration. Noisy entrance, I forgot to bring things for the kids. As we settled into our prayer time I took down “The Young Reader’s Bible.” Usually we start with a song and some petitions, but this morning I was feeling worn down, and just needed something scripted to get us started. Gus picked out the story of the Finding in the Temple, from Luke 2 and Zelie picked the out story of Jesus and the little children from Matthew 19.
As they were returning to Nazareth, Mary and Joseph realized their son was lost. But Jesus was a little boy and He was in the Temple. His parents looked and looked for Him, and they found Him in His Father’s house. Part of the reason He was in His Father’s house was because Mary and Joseph took Him there. It was a familiar place to Him, so familiar that Jesus seems surprised with Mary and Joseph. “Did you not know I had to be in my Father’s house?” he tells them. And Mary pondered these things in her heart as she watched her son grow taller and wiser.
The story was a cause for some self-reflection. Are my children familiar with the Lord and his house? Do I encourage this familiarity, or do I approach our time in adoration as a burden? Do I think about how I can help them be familiar with the Lord?
The consolation came when I read the story about the little children. In the version I read the parents say, “We want Jesus to pray for our children. We want Jesus to give them His blessing.” Later, when the children come to Him, the version reads, “Jesus hugged the boys and girls. He held the babies. And to the delight of the mothers and fathers, Jesus laid his hands on all the children and blessed them.”
Its hard putting into words why this touched me. Perhaps its because the parents in the story were persistent. They knew that Jesus had something for their children that couldn’t be had anywhere else. Maybe they didn’t think these things aloud or even consciously act on them, but they did understand that Jesus’ love was special. So they persisted, and the parents delighted in the love the Lord had for their children.
Now, I know that not everyone who reads this is able to take their kids to adoration with them. I get that, really I do. I know there are a lot of reasons that it isn’t possible, or feasible or mentally and spiritually beneficial. I didn’t write this as a guilt trip or an illustration of my holy mothering (ha!). I just share this story because it touched my heart and reminded me of something that I had lost sight of.
Our God is with us, always. In those good moments and bad, He is there and so is his grace. And even when it seems like all the efforts that we make keep backfiring, He loves that we keep trying. And sometimes, honestly, the best prayer we can give to Him is to ask for the desire to want to be with Him and to want to be with those we love. He will respond.