Story published in the April 2023 FAITH Grand Rapids magazine | Written by Maryalene Laponsie | Photography by Heather Abram
Sitting in silence before the Blessed Sacrament can seem daunting – not to mention unproductive – in today’s busy world, but Nikki says the rewards are profound. “When I come out, I’m filled with this sense of peace that I don’t get when praying elsewhere,” she explains. Eucharistic adoration has become a family affair for the Brown family, which includes three boys ages 8-14. Those hours in the presence of the Lord have brought Nikki not only inner peace but also the realization that God was calling her to serve him in a new way.
TIME FOR THE LORD
As members of St. Patrick Church in Portland, Nikki and her family are fortunate to have three opportunities a week to sit in the presence of the Lord. The parish offers eucharistic adoration on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in a chapel across from the church. Nikki and her husband, Brian, were interested in attending, but it wasn’t until they were asked to commit to a specific hour that they made it a habit. “We didn’t make the time, but the Lord forced us to make the time,” Nikki notes.
Just the two of them attended until one weekend when Nikki went out of town. Since it is requested that two people be present during adoration at all times, Nikki’s husband decided to take all three boys with him. After that first foray, the family decided it wanted to make eucharistic adoration a part of their regular schedule. “We would take them (to church) for 15 minutes to start,” Nikki explains. They wouldn’t go during adoration, but rather at other times when they could answer questions and point out various parts of the church. Once their boys became comfortable with the practice of sitting silently, they moved on to making adoration a regular part of their week.
Now, you can find all five Browns in the parish chapel on most Friday nights, and it has become an activity that all in the family have grown to appreciate. “What better way to end a busy week and start the weekend than spending an hour with the Lord as a family?” Nikki says.
HEARING GOD’S VOICE
When Nikki started attending eucharistic adoration, she had no idea the dramatic way it would change her life. She had spent years working in the Senate Majority Policy Office of the Michigan Legislature and was happy with her job. “I love nothing more than being with my team and helping them grow,” Nikki shares. However, all her time in prayer seemed to be nudging her in another direction.
“In April [of 2022], I had this push to get a certificate in theology,” she remembers. “I didn’t know why, but it seemed like something I should do.” Then, in August, during a conversation with the faith formation director for St. Patrick, she was asked to consider taking on the position of youth and campus minister. The job would be a radical departure from the career in government that she had spent so many years cultivating, but she couldn’t help but feel pulled to the idea.
“You get these feelings in your heart,” Nikki explains. And when she told herself that she wouldn’t know how to be a youth minister, she recalls God’s voice in her head during adoration clearly saying: “And now you have to depend on me.” It was like a cloud lifted, according to Nikki, and any trepidation she felt about the change was replaced with excitement. She started the new job just after the first of the year and looks forward to helping the students of St. Patrick Parish walk with the Lord.
NO RIGHT OR WRONG WAY
With family calendars already packed, it can be easy to think of eucharistic adoration as something you’ll get around to when the kids are older or out of the house. However, Nikki encourages people to make time for adoration right now, regardless of where they are in life.“How do you grow in a relationship with the Lord if you don’t spend time with him?” she asks. Still, she knows that the idea of adoration is foreign to many people, and she and her husband weren’t exactly sure what it entailed when they started either.
“One thing that tripped me up was, ‘What was I actually supposed to be doing?’” Nikki remembers asking herself. She heard one priest say just sit and bask in the glory of the Lord. Sitting in silence was not the norm for Nikki, but she learned to appreciate the opportunity to be in the physical presence of God. “When I am in adoration, I see myself sitting at his feet,” she says, noting that there is no right or wrong way to pray in adoration. If her family is alone, they may say the rosary aloud together. Otherwise, their boys might read the Bible, and the youngest has been known to walk up to the kneeler in front of the monstrance when he feels the need to move.
Nikki says she used to be worried that her children might be distracting to others but has not found that to be the case. Instead, they are often greeted with smiles and have heard from other adorers how nice it is to see children in the chapel. To prepare kids for eucharistic adoration, Nikki recommends starting small. “First and foremost, don’t make it an hour,” she advises. She and her husband took their boys in small increments during non-adoration hours when they could discuss what was in the chapel and also acclimate them to the idea of sitting silently. Now, they go for an hour each week, and it is something the whole family looks forward to.
“Adoration is such a gift the Lord has given us,” Nikki says. “I am so thankful our boys are learning what it is and the beautiful peace that comes from just sitting in his presence."