April 5, 2024

Unusual school program draws families closer in prayer and closer to Christ in the Eucharist

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson ritually breathes on chrism oil on March 26 during the annual archdiocesan chrism Mass at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. Assisting at the Mass are transitional Deacon Bobby Vogel, left, and seminarian Samuel Hansen. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

The “traveling monstrance” program at St. Michael School in Greenfield has helped students and their families come together in prayer and closer to Jesus. Michael, left, Katie, Zeile and Mary Bauer—all students at St. Michael School—kneel in front of the family altar that has been created in their home. (Submitted photo)

By John Shaughnessy

As an educator, Ruth Hittel believes an unusual yet uplifting program can help bring families closer together—and closer to Jesus.

As parents, Meg and Brian Bauer insist the program reinforces their emphasis on having their children understand the importance of prayer and seeing God in everyday life.

As elementary school students, Mike and Mary Bauer notice how the program has an impact on their faith and the faith of their classmates.

And they all agree that the “traveling monstrance” program has increased their commitment to—and reverence of—the Eucharist during this time of the National Eucharistic Revival.

In its second year at St. Michael School in Greenfield, the program revolves around the monstrance, a receptacle which holds a consecrated host—transformed into Christ’s body—during eucharistic adoration.

“We’re in the eucharistic revival, and we were trying to think of ways to infuse more of our faith into after-school hours,” says Hittel, the principal of St. Michael School. “We do things during the school day. We go to adoration and Benediction every Friday. I had invited parents to join us for adoration, but busy schedules made it difficult for many families to join us. So we thought, ‘How can we take it home?’ The idea of being able to take a traveling monstrance home bloomed out of that.

“Each of the classes has created their own traveling monstrance. Within their portable box is a replica of a monstrance, a journal and some prayer cards to help the families know where to begin. They can use their own prayers, too. We want to make sure we’ve given our families every opportunity to pray together.”

It’s important to note that the traveling monstrance doesn’t contain a consecrated host when students bring it into their home. Instead, the purpose of the traveling monstrance is as a symbol to remind families of the importance of coming together in prayer. It’s also had the impact of drawing them to eucharistic adoration and a closer relationship to Christ.

“It absolutely has an impact,” Hittel says. “Immediately after the school Mass on Friday, Father [Aaron Jenkins] will do the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. And sometime during the day on Friday, each class spends a half hour to 45 minutes in church in adoration. On Friday afternoon, we come together as a school for the Blessed Sacrament to be reposed and we do that in Benediction. To spend time in quiet prayer with the children is amazing. It warms the heart.

“The students are more prepared, too, and they have a greater understanding of what the expectations are in eucharistic adoration. The wiggles and the jiggles and the squiggles are far less because the students understand the reverence they need to have. We try to help them understand on their level, whether it’s kindergarten or eighth grade, what the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament means.”

‘It allowed me to see that I can bring Christ into our house’

In the program, students take turns bringing the traveling monstrance home for a couple of days. As part of the program, the children are given journals in which they write about what their family did together with the monstrance in their home.

“Some of the journal entries are about just being thankful for our Savior, Jesus Christ. Some children have written about how it made their family feel to pray together,” Hittel says. “It has gone over really, really well. Even with our non-Catholic families, it’s time their family can come together in prayer.

“You know how busy everyone’s lives are. This is just five minutes without a video game. Five minutes without watching TV. Five minutes where even if the family just spends that time talking together, then we’ve made progress. I couldn’t be more pleased.”

As students at St. Michael, Mike and Mary Bauer see the difference the program has made to them and their classmates.

“It’s been a good way to get families to pray together,” says Mike, an eighth-grade student. “It allowed me to see that I can bring Christ into our house. Even at home, I can pray to him, and he’ll hear me.”

“They like the idea,” Mary says about her sixth-grade classmates. “It’s a way they can pray with their family and have other people pray for their family, not just at school but at home, too. It definitely shows that even if you don’t have the ability to go to eucharistic adoration, you can still worship God in your home even without the traveling monstrance or even going to the church for eucharistic adoration.”

Seeing God in everyday life

The parents of Mike and Mary also praise the program. Meg and Brian Bauer have seven children, ranging in age from 2 to 17—with four of them attending St. Michael School.

“This is the second year we’ve done it. It’s been a really good thing,” Meg says. “It reinforces exactly what our family focuses on at home. We have our own family altar. When we bring the traveling monstrance home, we set it up on our family home altar, and it joins with all the other sacramentals we have here.

“We incorporate it into our nighttime family prayers that we pray together. We do special prayers for different things going on in our family’s life. It helps raise and recognize the importance of prayer and seeing God in everyday life.”

Meg says, with a laugh, that their prayer time together isn’t always quiet, especially with a 2-year-old, “but we still have the reminder of the presence of God in the Eucharist.”

The traveling monstrance program also supports the commitment that their family has made to eucharistic adoration—a primary goal of the program. On first Fridays at St. Michael Church, the Bauer family is represented at eucharistic adoration from 11:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.

“Sometimes, it’s my husband. Sometimes, it’s me. Sometimes, it’s our eldest daughter,” Meg says. “Oftentimes, we’ll even take the younger ones with us, even if they end up falling asleep.

“It’s a good, quiet, restful period to try to listen to God, listen to Jesus, and be there in his presence—to make the effort to show up and be there with Jesus. I’m really thankful that my husband and I work to make that happen. But it does take effort to show up and be there.”

Her daughter Mary has also embraced the blessing of eucharistic adoration in her life.

“For me, it gives an opportunity to know you’re in the presence of God completely in the Eucharist,” says Mary, who is 11. “That’s your time where you can just freely listen to him and ask him for help. I like that the school gives you time to do that.” †

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