By MICHAEL WOJCIK
KINNELON - Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament offered a feast for both the senses and the soul that was able to hold spellbound more than 200 very energetic grade-school religious education students last Friday at Our Lady of the Magnificat Church (OLM) here.
During the bright sunny morning, all eyes of the students, from first to fifth grades, were fixed on the Blessed Sacrament - displayed in a gold monstrance - that Father Raymond Orama was processing up and down the aisles of OLM Church. Incense perfumed the air, while the children prayed and offered up their own feast for the ears - singing the hymn "I Will Sing, I Will Sing."
With all these sights, sounds and scents, OLM capped off the two-week alternate summer religious-education program with something richly spiritual that these children had never before experienced - Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Through Adoration, the Morris County parish aimed to connect these children - most of whom attend public school and many of whom do not worship at OLM - more deeply to the Eucharist, the source and summit of our faith -and with the ancient traditions of the Church, said Father Orama, OLM parochial vicar.
"I believe in Adoration. It's my time to relax," Father Orama told The Beacon before Friday's service for the younger religious-education students, who attended the daytime sessions on week days. "Adoration is a heart-to-heart conversation between God and me," he said.
Many of the young students' religious education teachers, their parents, siblings and even grandparents joined in by attending. Students traveled back to the Church's early days, singing a Latin hymn, "Pange Lingua Gloriosi," accompanied on piano by Michael Pierce, the music minister. The night before, OLM celebrated Adoration for the program's older students, grades 6 to 8.
During Adoration, OLM students were acting on one of Bishop Serratelli's central passions as the diocese's spiritual leader - to encourage parishes to become even more Eucharist-centered, especially through Adoration. Many parishes have been following the bishop's lead, having added it to their schedules, while many other faith communities around the diocese have long celebrated Adoration.
"It [Adoration] intensifies our union with the Lord," Bishop Serratelli wrote in "The Real Presence: Life for the New Evangelization," his recent pastoral letter. "Where the Eucharist is treated with respect and deep reverence both by clergy and laity, where the Eucharist is adored and worshipped, the community grows in love; many are brought to faith; marriages become stronger; families grow closer; and vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life increase," he wrote.
Before Adoration last Friday, Father Orama promoted that reverence for the Eucharist by opening up a question-and-answer dialogue with the students in the pews. He asked them, "What is Adoration?" A boy raised his hand, stood up and declared, "We put the Body of Christ in the monstrance."
"Good," replied Father Orama, who along with Msgr. John Carroll, OLM's pastor, had prepared all 404 religious education students - both younger and older - for the Adoration during earlier class sessions. "We must stay quiet. Jesus is in the house. It's the true Body of Christ. During Adoration, some people pray and some people just spend time with Jesus," he said.
Smiling that day with great satisfaction that Friday morning were Father Orama and Franciscan Sister of Peace Ellen Denise O'Connor, OLM's religious education director, both of whom had proposed the idea for Adoration.
The service capped off OLM's summer program - a busy two weeks filled with a fast-paced schedule that included classroom learning, the singing of hymns and hands-on crafts, like those made for the parish's Old Folks' Picnic. After Adoration, the third-graders unfurled a quilt that they made for a child, who is battling cancer.
At night, the older students delved into spiritual topics, aided by talks from clergy, parish staff, and returning program alumni, including talks by a few graduates, who had completed intense service here and abroad, Sister O'Connor said.
Actually, Friday's Adoration marks the second occasion that OLM has celebrated the ancient rite with their religious education students. A few years ago, when Bishop Serratelli started promoting adoration in the diocese, OLM introduced it to their classes. Sister O'Connor said that she and Father Orama felt that this year was an opportune time to re-introduce Adoration.
"The students were in awe," Sister O'Connor reported about the OLM students' first experience with Adoration years ago.
The OLM students filed out of the church after adoration and walked back to their classrooms in OLM School, waiting for dismissal. While in the church they marched by a table that promoted the parishes' first Friday Perpetual Adoration, held from 9 a.m. 5 p.m. Waiting for her 6-year-old son, Joseph, was Maria Lazazzera, who also attended with Joseph's younger brother and sister.
"It was nice. [Before the service], Joseph kept talking about Adoration. He was so excited," Lazazzera said. "He had a great time with program. He shares the religious songs and prayers with us," she said.
Waiting in the school, fourth-grader Brianna Wittig told The Beacon that she enjoyed singing "Pange Lingua Gloriosi" -"because it was in a different language" - and smelling the incense. Fellow fourth-grader Olivia Leonardo said she enjoyed praying during Adoration.
During Adoration, Father Orama didn't miss the opportunity to evangelize both the students and their parents - a faith-filled challenge that rang out beyond the walls of the church.
"Wake up your parents on Sunday, so your family can go to church," Father Orama told the students. "Give a hour to God. He will give us so many great things that we need."