According to a recent study by Microsoft, the average attention span has dropped to just eight seconds – less than that of a goldfish.
But at Lansdale Catholic High School, dozens of students are setting aside their digital distractions for a full hour of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament – week after week.
“It was actually initiated by the students,” said Father John Nordeman, school minister at Lansdale Catholic. “That says a lot about how interested the students are in their faith.”
About 35 to 40 students attend the weekly holy hour every Thursday night at 7 p.m. in the school chapel, according to Father Nordeman.
Most of them have participated in Kairos, a peer-led spiritual retreat that has been popular with Catholic youth for the past 50 years. Grounded in Jesuit spirituality, Kairos encourages the individual to develop an intensely personal relationship with God.
“Adoration has become a big part of our Kairos retreats,” said Father Nordeman. “Because it’s such a great experience on retreat, the students wanted to bring it back to the school. Our weekly holy hour has been going on for about five years now.”
To prepare his students for the holy hour, Father Nordeman starts with the sacrament of reconciliation. “On the retreat, I give a short talk about confession, and during the weekly adoration, I hear confessions after reading the Gospel and giving a quick homily.”
The students then play worship music, recite the rosary and offer prayers of petition and thanksgiving. The holy hour concludes with benediction.
Senior Pat McCabe, who leads the worship music, describes the holy hour as “a good break” from the daily routine.
“It’s relaxing not to have to worry about keeping up with everything, like social media,” he said. “When you’re before the Blessed Sacrament, you can really visualize where God is and how he has given everything for us. You’re seeing his body there.”
Fellow senior Mary Kate Burger agrees. “I don’t even look at my phone during the holy hour; I just turn it off, and I have no urge to pick it up, because you’re talking to God,” she said. “There’s nothing more important than that. You know he’s always with you, but seeing him in front of you – it gives you goosebumps every time.”
Eucharistic adoration has a dramatic impact on the busy lives of these students.
“I take time to reflect on my life once a week, what I’ve done wrong and what I can improve,” said Burger. “I see myself becoming a lot less stressed out, because I’m taking time to talk with God to work on being the best version of myself that I can be.”
“I think about what I’m thankful for – all the blessings God has provided,” McCabe added. “I consider how I can best use the gifts he’s given me.”
As a priest, Father Nordeman draws on his quiet time with the Lord to sustain his ministry to over 700 students.
“Our gym is right above the chapel, so it’s only quiet during seventh period when there’s no gym class,” he said with a laugh. “I get to sneak in here then, and it really helps in celebrating Mass. I take in what happened at the Mass, while I was acting in the person of Christ, and what that really means.”
Both McCabe and Burger plan to continue their practice of eucharistic adoration after graduation.
“A lot of the college kids come back to our holy hours when they’re on break,” McCabe said. “So I’ll definitely be a part of that when I come back, and wherever I go to college, I’m sure there will be a chapel where I can go for quiet time.”
Burger, who is considering a number of local colleges, intends to do the same. “I also have a 24-hour adoration chapel that’s just two minutes from my house, so I can always visit when I come home,” she said.
Father Nordeman advises his students, and anyone, to spend time in the presence of the eucharistic Lord whenever the opportunity arises.
“The Eucharist is the source and sum of our faith,” he said. “His presence – if you can really get into the moment and allow yourself to be drawn in more deeply – changes hearts.”