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Muslim-Style Adoration for Catholic Children


At first glance, one might think the children in this picture, below right, are practicing meditation at a break time in some auditorium. But no, the chairs in the far left hand corner are the first rows of the kneeler-less “pews” in a modern Catholic Church.

Children at the Children of Hope Church pray in Muslim style prayer positions

Children of Hope in an adoration hour
Like little Muslims on their prayer mats, these Catholic children pray faces down on the floor, bottoms up in the air. Before them on a table behind the flowers we glimpse in the picture is the Most Holy Eucharist exposed for adoration. The children make this prostration three times in the Children of Hope’s hour of adoration.

The Children of Hope was founded in 2000 by a young French priest Fr. Antoine Thomas and an American mother Sandy Rongish. The program professes a very lofty and beautiful aim: “leading children into the mystery of the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, so as to realize how much He loves them” (Children of Hope website). Certainly it is good to encourage parents and children to be aware of the real presence in the Blessed Sacrament, to make frequent visits to Our Lord where he resides a Prisoner of Love for us, and to approach Him often with prayers of adoration, supplication, contrition and petition.

But if one examines this particular program closer, problems appear. The Children of Hope’s Eucharistic Adoration is based on the assumption that today’s children are too restive and agitated to approach Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament in the traditional Catholic way. That is, to enter the Church silently, genuflect on both knees before the Blessed Sacrament, and then kneel and adore Our Lord in the Sacred Host exposed on the Altar.

Children of Hope chapel with parents and children seated casually

The priest sets a casual tone for the parents and children before the Blessed Sacrament

Children at the Children of Hope chapel sitting on the floor casually
In lieu of this profound reverence, an informal casual atmosphere is encouraged, one supposedly more inviting to the modern child. The children traipse into the church and seat themselves on the floor space right below the sanctuary. They are supposed to sit on their heels in a kind of slouching-kneel position, but any sitting position is fine, so long as they are comfortable. You can see in the picture at left before the exposed Blessed Sacrament the priest sitting on an altar step giving a little talk to children and their mothers, who are also sitting cross-legged on the floor.

Then the activities begin, with the children taking turns leading Hail Marys, making their petitions aloud, singing songs, hearing short Scripture readings and little spiritual talks by the priest or adults on religious topics. At any sign of fidgeting, it is suggested that the prayer leader begin another activity.

Undoubtedly the most disturbing aspect of the Children of Hope Holy hours is the three prostrations. The participants all put their faces on the ground, their derrières up in the air waggling this way and that, depending on the squirminess of the group.

To deal with a secondary aspect of this suspect pedagogy, in a video showing 4th or 5th graders at a Children of Hope adoration hour, there were girls tugging on their blouses to be sure their backs were covered in case the boys behind them might be peeking. It seems to me that adolescent girls with any sense of modesty - and there may not be that many given the fashions of our days – would be embarrassed to be viewed in such a position.

Children Of Hope chapel muslim style prostrations

The program includes Muslim style prostrations
Really, it is a whole new concept of Eucharistic Adoration, one of Muslim inspiration that fits well with the de-sacralized and pro-activity Novus Ordo liturgies. Fr. Thomas affirms this, saying that the Children of Hope Eucharistic Adoration helps the children become “more involved and take a more active part in the Mass.” On the other hand, he notes that another “benefit” of this behavior is that the children experience “a pacification of body, mind and spirit” (ibid.) It sounds like an advertisement for a Buddhist exercise or transcendental meditation.

An egalitarian type of worship

The casual and informal style of the Children of Hope’s adoration hour is the opposite of the traditional Catholic exposition and adoration of the Holy Eucharist. In a 1931 Fr. Lasance prayer-book Let Us Go to Jesus, the children are told:

“Jesus Christ is really a King: the King of kings and Lord of lords. His Empire extends over all the nations, over Heaven and Earth, over angels and men. … All homage and tribute every duty and service which subjects owe to their princes are due in an eminent degree to Jesus Christ our King.”

For this reason, the proper position is to kneel before the Blessed Sacrament with reverence and humility to give Jesus a just love and observance of honor.

Traditional and reverent veneration of Our Lord in an outdoor ceremony

On the other pole of the spectrum, youth serve the priest in an outdoor adoration, traditional style. Two conceptions of Church that clash.
In the new children’s adoration hour, the majesty of Our Lord is ignored. The children are encouraged to view Jesus as their best friend, a kind of good buddy. The God of Power and Might is gone, replaced with the progressivist vision of an always-complacent God who does not demand anything or condemn anyone.

Instead of fostering the sense of mystery, reverence, and awe before the Most Holy Sacrament, the new postures of the Children of Hope’s Eucharistic Adoration follow the post-Vatican II liturgical style. It de-mystifies everything, naturalizes everything, lowers everything to the level of man, or in this case, the level of children, instead of asking them to rise to the sublime.

I am of the opinion that children, like all of us, want to see something larger and grander than themselves in the God they worship. They long for the glory and majesty of God. Parents be warned: This is missing in the Children of Hope Eucharistic devotion, which ultimately offers an egalitarian vision of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, turns devotion into a casual chat session with Jesus, and encourages a Muslim-style way to pray for youth and adults.

In short, we certainly do not need these ridiculous, prosaic Muslim prostrations to honor Our Lord or to teach children how to adore Him.

Posted November 5, 2007

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