By Jenna Ebener
More than 1,100 middle-schoolers were gathered in a large room … and it was silent. At a weekend retreat with my youth group, I knelt in awe and wonder as I praised our God with them in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The room was dark, except for the light shining on Jesus in the monstrance. After we knelt in beautiful silence, the priest slowly processed with the monstrance around the room, pausing each time he got to a new section of people. The light followed him the entire way. As he processed, the band played praise and worship music. Descriptions could continue, yet would not be able to capture the beauty and power of that holy hour.
I have never felt the presence of God as strongly as I did in those glorious moments. I always know God is with me, but there are times when I am even more in tune to his presence. That night I felt Jesus so strongly that my heart felt like it was going to explode from the outpouring of his love. Not only did I feel his love for me, but I also felt his love for those around me and their love for him. His love came from every direction! I not only worshipped in new ways, but saw others worshipping in a variety of ways.
I sang, I cried, I stared in wonder at Jesus in the monstrance. I spoke to God, kissed my crucifix and pictured myself embracing Jesus. I held my arms up and gazed in love at those around me. I realized how many different ways there are to praise God. Each of us has forms of prayer that unite us to God in a unique and special way. I learned that night that there are many ways I feel connected to God. The form of that connection shifts depending on what in particular I am expressing to God. When I am in awe, I sit in silence; when I am full of gratitude, I kiss my crucifix, and when I am full of love, I sing. Each of those forms of praise and worship soothed something in my soul. As we started the weekend, I asked God to help me find a way to overcome my fatigue and see him through my tiredness. He more than answered my prayer. He showed me how to put him first, no matter how I felt inside. I also recognized there is no right or wrong form of prayer, for each is an expression to God, which he joyfully receives.
I pictured the joy that God receives when we seek him out in prayer when I woke up one night to find my cat laying next to me. Somehow my arm had found my way around him when I was sleeping, and he was contentedly purring in my ear. When I started to pet him, his purring grew even louder. I imagine God, similarly “purring” with joy just to be with us, his children. Picture how much his joy increases when we seek out that connection with him. For,
“Holy, there is no one like You
There is none beside You
Open up my eyes in wonder
Show me who You are
And fill me with Your heart
And lead me in Your love to those around me.” (Build my Life)
(Jenna Ebener graduated in 2015 with a Master of Social Work from St. Ambrose University in Davenport.)