“Adoration. Rise Up 2013. Ottawa. What an experience!”
*For those who are unfamiliar, Eucharistic Adoration is a time of worship and prayer where people honour and ‘adore’ Christ, who is present in the Eucharist. Cristina Bolzon attended CCO’s Annual Rise Up Conference for the first time, and wanted to share her experiences!
Testimony written by Cristina Bolzon
First Year Graphic Design Student at York University’s YSDN Program
I had always heard stories about how great adoration is and its life changing capabilities, and so I built up high expectations for my first time in adoration. It was back in September at a university retreat. I kept telling myself, “I want to feel something, I want to be moved, I want to cry!” Yes, crying would be epic. I wanted to reignite my faith so that I could be more passionate about it, and make a greater dedication to God. I was nervous however, because I did not know exactly what one was supposed to do during adoration, so I talked to some other students about it. The obvious answer was to pray, and many of the retreat’s talks focused on prayer: having a conversation with God. “Ok”, I thought to myself, “that’s easy enough.” Then I was told that everyone expresses themselves differently during adoration; some people close their eyes and sit in silence, some sing to themselves, some dance, and some even lie on the floor in front of the altar! That last part threw me off—I told myself, “if there is one thing I will not be doing during adoration, it is that.”
And so, when adoration started at the retreat, I tried to pray to Jesus, talking to Him about my life and the struggles I had with my faith; but no matter how hard I tried, I could not convince myself that the Eucharist was truly Jesus up on that altar during adoration. And deep at the back of my mind, I kept hoping for that special feeling to bubble within me. But nothing came. I walked away from adoration feeling more confused then ever, and let down. I did not understand what I was missing or what more I could have done. However, reflecting back now, the problem was I did not really know what my faith—my religion— was all about. Thus, I did not understand that it is about an encounter with Jesus, instead of a “feeling”. These were the things Rise Up helped me discover.
Based on that experience, I was again afraid for the adoration to come during Rise Up. What if the same thing were to happen? I feared that I did not have a strong enough connection with God to be able to encounter and experience Him personally during adoration, and so I was worried that I would not know how to act, but boy was I wrong! Okay, maybe I was right, adoration started off a bit uneasy for me. Once the Eucharist was exposed on the altar, I did not know how to begin praying to Jesus. However, I reminded myself that this year’s Rise Up conference was focused on encountering God, saying yes to Jesus, and allowing Him to renew my life. And so, on my knees, that is what I began to pray for: for me to open my heart to Jesus and let Him in so that He could work wonders through me. I continued to talk to Jesus and ask Him to help me not be afraid and say that simple yes to Him, but also to mean it.
As I was praying, my sister put her arm around me, and let me tell you, experiencing adoration with a sibling by your side is by far the most amazing and comforting thing ever. So when she first put her arm around me I smiled. It was kind of her to do, and having her hold me tight brought warmth to my body—literally—because I was freezing (I was kneeling below an air-conditioning vent). Next thing I knew, as she held me and we sang together, and as I stared upon the altar at Jesus, a wave of heat came over me because I realized what was actually happening in that very moment. My yes to Jesus had been heard, and it was the Holy Spirit that was working through my sister to comfort me. I smiled, and was filled with joy, and felt like I was about to burst into tears…but I did not. I just grinned, and suddenly began to feel shivers again. It was awesome. But it gets better.
We both continued to sing and pray, kneeling before the Lord, but after a while I sat down and took a deep breath preparing myself for what was to come. I began to pray to Jesus for courage, for at the beginning of adoration, we were told that there were three kneelers at the front of the room—right in front of Jesus—with a special prayer attached to them for anyone who felt a special calling to Jesus, but did not know how to pray to him, or for anyone who was experiencing adoration for the first time and did not know how to react to all that was happing around them. As soon as I heard this, I had a deep desire to go and kneel at the front, right before Jesus and pray that prayer, but I had many doubts and fears. I was afraid to walk down the aisle, past all those sitting and lying down, afraid of all the eyes I thought would be watching my every move, afraid of praying at the very front before everyone in the room, and most importantly, before Jesus himself. I kept telling myself, “I need to be up there. I have to be up there. Jesus is calling me.” But I was too afraid. I continued to ask Jesus that He wipe away my fears, but I did not move an inch from my seat. I was torn inside.
Then, suddenly, the Holy Spirit worked though another individual, so that I may encounter Christ further. The girl seated beside me noticed that I kept glancing down the aisle to see if there was a clear path to walk down, for I was especially afraid of tripping on my way up. And so she turned to me and asked me exactly what I had been waiting to hear: “Do you want to go up there with me?” A huge smile appeared on my face and without a second of thought, or doubt, I excitedly said: “yeahhhh!” We got up in an instant and made our way down the aisle, past all those worshipping, and stopped before the altar. There was only one empty bench left at the front and again, I was hesitant to walk over and kneel, but she kindly nudged me to go first. Making sure no one else was headed to claim it, I happily bounced on over to the bench and knelt down.
“There was no turning back.”
At first I became anxious because I was focused on my posture and was worried about all the eyes that might have been staring at me; but there was no turning back at that point. I had made it that far, and needed to finish what I had started. Taking a deep breath, I kept my head bowed down. I think I was embarrassed to look straight at the face of Jesus. So I began with a greeting, asking for strength, and then began to pray the prayer taped to the armrest of the kneeler, which invited the Lord to be at the centre of my life. I said it slowly, breaking it down, one sentence at a time. And I read it out loud, repeating and stressing the words that stood out to me. After going through it several times, I was ready to repeat it aloud again, this time looking up, directly to the Lord. And so I did. I suddenly forgot about all of my previous anxieties and all those behind me and just focused on Jesus and his love for me.
I lifted my head to the Lord, and boy is he beautiful. So warm, inviting and bright! All the lights were shining down upon him, as he gleamed a dreamy golden hue. I smiled and got shaky, but in a good way. I began to recite the prayer bit by bit again, out loud, to the Lord. It was truly amazing. After that, I continued to pray aloud, gazing at the Lord right before my very eyes and then bowing my head back down. To be honest, I do not even remember half of the things we talked about, but it was awesome. I was ready to say goodbye and return to my seat, when the individual kneeling on the middle bench beside me suddenly caught my eye. I could see he had his head buried in his hands, and seconds later, he began to wail and cry. Knowing me, my immediate reaction would have been to laugh, but I didn’t. Instead, I smiled and began to pray for him because his reaction to encountering Jesus, front and centre, was so moving! I could only imagine what thoughts were stirring in his mind, and I thanked God that although I did not cry (which is a lot more dramatic) when I encountered him, at least I was still able to do just that: encounter and experience him in a deep and personal way, for as I kneeled before the altar, I knew Jesus was before me and I felt so at peace.
After that, I was ready to return to my seat. I looked to Jesus one more time, thanked him for all that he had blessed me with in that moment and then ventured back to my seat, feeling amazing. I had done it! And I had encountered Christ! But the story still gets better!
I returned to my seat and my sister put her arm around me again, asking how it went. But I was not ready to talk, I kept my eyes on Jesus, who now seemed so far away, longing to go back to the kneeler in front of the altar! Then, my sister said something to me that she has told me countless times before, but has never impacted me as much as it did in that exact moment. She said, “I was praying for you.” After hearing that, I was fine at first, but once I slowly understood what those words actually meant, tears began to roll down my cheeks. I started to cry! I realized how powerful prayer is and how wonderful it feels to know that someone genuinely cares for you and keeps you in their intentions. Maybe it was her prayers that pushed my anxieties and doubts away while I was kneeling at the front! At that point, I was so at peace. I continued to sing, reflect and pray, and soon the girl that walked me to the front had returned back to her seat beside me. I looked over at her and thanked her for her help. She was the extra push I needed to journey to the front so that I could truly encounter Christ, and I felt so calm and confident following beside her. She smiled at me and—almost too good to be true— repeated exactly what my sister said to me: “I was praying for you.” Again, uncontrollably, I began to cry, and so did she! It was beautiful. This time, my eyes swelled with tears because hearing yet another person tell me they were praying for me reminded me that I am so loved and cared for, not only by Jesus but those around me! It was very touching. And I guess God had even answered my prayer of the past because he moved me to cry, something I had always secretly wished for! After that point, I shifted the focus off myself and began to pray for others, with the hope that one day they too can experience God’s love for them.
Adoration that night is something I will never forget. And it was all I had ever hoped for. I truly believe I encountered Christ that night and know for a fact that I personally witnessed the Holy Spirit work through three people! But the best part of it all were the lyrics from a song that we sung at the end of adoration,
I have decided to follow Jesus! There is no turning back, no turning back
And it is true, after all of that, there is definitely no turning back! I have made a commitment to Jesus and will live it out each and every day. Since being back to classes, my resolution was to visit the chapel on campus every day, and to begin with prayer every morning. I have been following through with that commitment, and am glad that is what I choose to do, for it has helped me to connect with Jesus in a more personal way, and focus my life and daily actions around him. I have also—through the grace of the Holy Spirit—finally said yes to leading a Discovery Faith Study. Before, I feared I was too young to lead one and was afraid of not knowing all the answers to a question if I was challenged. However, I have learned that I have nothing to fear for God never gives us more than we can handle, and age doesn’t determine a good leader, experience does, and so the sooner I start the better!
“Father, I believe that you know me and love me. I have not always chosen to love you, and have broken my relationship with you through my sins. Thank you for sending your son Jesus who proved your love for me on the cross. Lord Jesus, I open the door of my heart and invite you to be at the centre of my life—to be my Saviour and my Lord. Direct me by your Holy Spirit and help me to live the Gospel with my whole life. Amen.”
– Prayer of the Heart