In the last 4 months I’ve helped out in 3 different cities assisting at adoration for college students (and hearing confessions part of the adoration time). Each one was run a little different. Edmonton does Adoremus which sticks to the rites and has an ethereal feeling. Hamilton and Calgary use the same basic format as they’re both run by CCO but they feel different: Hamilton felt more solemn while Calgary felt more like a great gathering of friends.
Yet all of them had a huge attendance for events with both “Catholic” and “College” in their description.
Think about that. So often we’ve spent hundreds or thousands on pizza, a cool youth room, and fun events like trips to the local amusement parks yet an event that requires minimal investment is getting teens and getting them at something that’s way deeper than pizza or an amusement park. Deep prayer events like this are also what we so often deprive teens of (if you want more on this read my blog on contemplation as a youth ministry goal).
Sherry Weddell tried to explain why: “Adoration… is, in fact, an ideal form of devotion for the nondevout… Adoration appeals to postmoderns because it is experiential, mysterious, and accessible to everyone: the nonbaptized, the non-Catholic, the unchurched, the lapsed, the badly catechized, the wounded, the skeptical, the seeking, the prodigal, and those who aren’t sure that a relationship with God is even possible.”
Once I was in adoration and this young man came up to me since I was wearing clerics and asked to talk, so we slipped over to the parish hall. He told me about some struggles he’d been going through. “Because of [my struggles] I feel like I can’t go to Mass on Sunday but I make sure I come here 2 or 3 times a week; here I feel God present.” He isn’t alone. I’ve met other young people with other struggles who hungering for adoration more than anything else spiritual.
Most of our teens are post-moderns where experience is a better judge of truth than rational arguments, where experience is personal not so much felt in a formal rite, and where authenticity goes above else. With these traits, looking at Jesus in the Eucharist and speaking with him often speaks to them more than a formal Sunday mass where they know many parishioners are there for social or semi-religious reasons not because they want to learn about Jesus and relive the passion (what mass is really about).
Beyond all this, adoration can be one of the deepest forms of prayer. So often, we have trouble teaching young people to move their prayer beyond asking God for things to a relationship and adoration naturally does this.
We may need to help teens a little more than college students. Often when I do a Friday to Sunday retreat for middle school or high school, I’ll do an hour of adoration on Saturday evening. And then I’ll usually add a brief reflection or song every 5 to 10 minutes. (If you’re using songs, Ken Yasinski says to use Praise songs then Surrender songs.)
Now it’s time for each of us to ask ourselves where adoration can become a bigger part of our youth ministry. Even as I write this, I think I can use it more at the school I’m chaplain to.
Please tell me your ideas in the comments. Why is adoration so powerful with them? Why do they like it so much? How do you do it better?
UPDATE: Someone from CCO told me that although the students in Hamilton use the CCO format for their adoration, CCO has no official presence at that University.