Fr Antoine Thomas speaking to students of De La Salle School during his recent trip to Singapore.
It’s not as difficult as one thinks, says Fr Antoine Thomas, who promotes children’s Eucharistic adoration
“You see, they put Jesus in that little box over there and He’s all alone. Can you tell your mommy, ‘After we finish our shopping, can we drop by the church to visit Jesus in His little box?’”
This was one intriguing suggestion Fr Antoine Thomas gave on how adults can get children interested in Eucharistic adoration.
The priest, from the Community of St John, was speaking to more than 120 young Catholics at the Catholic Archdiocesan Youth Centre on Feb 13.
During the evening session, titled Adoration Before The Blessed Sacrament For Youth Leaders, Fr Thomas showed how easy it is to teach young children, especially those preparing to receive their First Holy Communion, to adore the Blessed Sacrament.
His demonstration included instructing kids on how to sit and kneel before the Blessed Sacrament and how to make a simple prayer to Jesus.
“Pray, ‘Jesus, in the little tabernacle of my heart, I adore you and I thank you for coming into my heart,’” shared the priest, who has been promoting Eucharistic adoration for young people for 15 years.
Fr Thomas, who is based in Christchurch, New Zealand, is firm in his belief that children are much more capable of appreciating the Blessed Sacrament than most adults would think.
“If you teach children how to pray, that will teach you how to pray,” he said.
Fr Thomas’ session at the CAYC was just one of many that he gave to various Catholic groups in the archdiocese, including schools, catechists, parents and children, from Feb 9-17.
The priest is the founder of the Children of Hope, a worldwide movement of children’s Eucharistic adoration.
He was in Singapore for a short visit in April 2010 during which he shared the importance of Eucharistic adoration for children. Since then, this has taken roots in four parishes – St Bernadette, Christ the King, St Ignatius and Divine Mercy.
Reaching out to students
During his recent trip, organised by the Archdiocesan Children Eucharistic Adoration Ministry, Fr Thomas also conducted workshops in Catholic schools such as St Patrick’s, Catholic High and De La Salle. Students from Pri Three to Sec Five attended the workshops, which usually lasted for about an hour.
These began with Fr Thomas engaging the students in a dialogue, explaining about Christ’s real presence and the importance of connecting with Him through the Eucharist.
The priest explained what to do in front of the tabernacle and the postures to take. Then, accompanied by soft instrumental music, the children either knelt or prostrated in silence. He also encouraged the students to visit the Eucharist outside of Sunday Mass to talk to Jesus.
John Brian Nayar a Sec Four student from St Patrick’s School said he found the session reverent and felt that it would be nice to have it once a month.
Daryl Kok, a Sec Two student from Catholic High School, said it gave one the opportunity to encounter Jesus.
Fr Thomas also conducted a retreat from Feb 11-12 for more than 200 catechists and parents, including several participants from Malaysia and Hong Kong. The event was held at the Church of the Holy Spirit.
The priest shared that it is important to have time for quiet and solitude, to reconnect with Jesus and oneself.
This is especially urgent when people are now prone to constantly check their computers, iPhones and iPads, and children are often left to their own devices – literally – such as video games, the Internet, TV and iPod, all of which often leave one’s soul empty.
On engaging children in adoration, he noted that young children are often influenced by example, such as adults’ genuflecting and keeping a reverential silence when entering a church.
Preparing children outside the chapel and processing them in, explaining gestures such as genuflection and describing sacred objects on the altar such as the monstrance help make the faith come alive, he said.
Youths and young adults
On Feb 16, Fr Thomas led a time of prayerful contemplation for some 200 youths and young adults at the Church of the Holy Spirit.
The parish has a young adults group called iAdore, which holds monthly Eucharistic adoration sessions.
“The search for love and the search for truth are absolutely essential for the young adult,” the priest said. “Be in love with Jesus and all the rest will flow from that friendship with Jesus. What is proper to the wise man is the order, and if we put Jesus first in our daily life, everything will be pleasing to God.”
Many participants said they felt energised by the two-hour session.
Civil servant Pearl Chan, 27, described her experience as “awesome and a good time of consolidation”, while Mr Ong Zhenxi, 28, a catechumen from the parish of St Francis Xavier said his experience was “profound and beautiful”. REPORTING BY: CAYC, MICHELLE PNG, DON GURUGAY AND REMIGIUS D’SOUZA