Father Antoine delights in his mission to lead children in Eucharistic adoration, and has learnt that they are receptive to spending time with Christ in the Eucharist. Photo provided by Father Antoine Thomas
SINGAPORE – Thanks to a French priest’s vision and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, hundreds of children have learnt to participate in Eucharistic adoration around the world.
Father Antoine Thomas, 52, from the Congregation of St. John, who believes that “children love to play, but also love to pray”, and who has led children to the Blessed Sacrament around the world, will be in Singapore in April.
Invited by the Serra Club as speaker at their 15th Bi-Annual Serra Club Convention from Apr 16-18, Father Antoine will be staying on to lead sessions on Eucharistic Adoration in the Third Millenium, targeted at those who want to lead young children to discover the hidden and loving presence of Jesus in the Eucharist (details in advertisement below).
Father Antoine has been a speaker at many youth retreats throughout the United States, as well as seminars and retreats for seminarians, and to religious Sisters. He has also formed a children’s Eucharistic Adoration programme “Children of Hope”, which is implemented in parishes around the world.
In 2005, he led over 1,800 children to adore Jesus in the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, as was broadcasted by EWTN on the special day of Worldwide Prayer of Children. Father Antoine continues to lead children in adoration in parishes, Catholic schools, family conferences, and Cathedrals all around the world.
In each place he visits, his message is the same – “To bring children close to the Heart of Jesus and to gaze upon Him in Adoration.”
Father Antoine shares why he believes it is important for children to engage in Eucharistic adoration: “How will young people be able to know the Lord if they are not introduced to the mystery of His presence?”
“By learning the words of the prayer of the heart, they will be closer to the Lord, who will accompany them in their spiritual and human growth... all interior life needs silence and intimacy with Christ in order to develop. This gradual familiarity with the Lord will enable them to be involved... and to take a more active part in Mass.”
Father Antoine believes that Eucharistic adoration is a great way to help children “receive Jesus in their heart through spiritual communion” even before they are of age to receive their first Holy Communion.
He has observed that parents are usually the ones who are worried about their children getting bored with adoration – but they stand to be amazed by their children in adoration.
“The children have a great excitement about being part of this kind of prayer group... they enjoy being at the feet of Jesus, resting under the loving gaze of who He is,” he explained. “They have a deeper desire to pray and are more attentive at Mass, and have an unshakeable faith in the real presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.”
As to how he keeps the children attentive and focused during adoration, Father Antoine remarks that “none of us will ever fully understand this mystery. What we [can] do is to remind them of the love Jesus has for all.”
“Once the children realise they are spending time with Jesus, they are thrilled to come (for adoration) – it is their time with Him.”
He looks forward to coming to Singapore – his first visit to Asia. He hopes Catholics here will find “great stimulus and hope for the young generation” through the Children of Hope programme.
“Indeed, how the children of the Third Millenium, rapidly addicted to technological gadgets of all kinds, will be able to believe that God is among them, present in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, know Him and love Him, if adults do not lead them where He is the most substantially present?” he asked.
He encourages parents, first and foremost, to bring their children before Jesus in regular adoration – make time either before or after school for a visit, arrive early for Mass to visit Jesus in the tabernacle for a few minutes, or stay behind after Mass in prayerful thanksgiving together.
“I will emphasise the fact that the last few popes, moved by the Holy Spirit, recommended and even urged adults, responsible for the formation of the Catholic faith and prayer life, to lead children to the Eucharistic presence of Jesus.”
Father Antoine will also lead times of adoration and will be available to respond to questions and encourage those who wish to start children and family adoration in their parish. More information about the programme at www.childrenofhope.org
By Joyce Gan