November 24, 2017

National Catholic Youth Conference 2017

Thousands enter into silence in eucharistic adoration at NCYC

Father Joseph Espaillat II blesses thousands in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Nov. 17 in solemn Benediction during a general session of the National Catholic Youth Conference held in Indianapolis on Nov. 16-18. Kneeling in prayer on the stage during the liturgy are monks of Saint Meinrad Archabbey in St. Meinrad and youth participants in its One Bread One Cup youth liturgical leadership program. They joined more than 20,000 other conference participants in prayer. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Father Joseph Espaillat II blesses thousands in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Nov. 17 in solemn Benediction during a general session of the National Catholic Youth Conference held in Indianapolis on Nov. 16-18. Kneeling in prayer on the stage during the liturgy are monks of Saint Meinrad Archabbey in St. Meinrad and youth participants in its One Bread One Cup youth liturgical leadership program. They joined more than 20,000 other conference participants in prayer. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

Early on the evening of Nov. 17, Lucas Oil Stadium throbbed with the music of popular Catholic music artist Matt Maher while youths rushed to get near the stage on the center of the stadium’s floor.

Further out on the floor, multi-colored lights flashed back and forth while youths danced in long conga lines, giving high fives and free hugs to perfect strangers in a joyous expression of faith.

Later that evening, though, the cavernous stadium quietly echoed with the centuries-old Gregorian chant sung by Benedictine monks of Saint Meinrad Archabbey in St. Meinrad and participants in its One Bread One Cup youth liturgical leadership program.

Then the stadium was enveloped in a deep, prayer-filled silence as more than 20,000 youths and adults adored the Blessed Sacrament exposed in a monstrance on an altar on the stage.

Father Joseph Espaillat II, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York who served as an emcee of the conference’s general sessions, blessed the thousands present with the Blessed Sacrament in solemn benediction.

The monks and One Bread One Cup youths also led the conference participants in praying Compline, also known as Night Prayer, from the Liturgy of the Hours, much as such liturgies occur in the monks’ Archabbey Church of Our Lady of Einsiedeln.

The liturgy concluded as the monks and youths processed to a statue of Our Lady of Fatima where they and all in the stadium chanted “Salve Regina” (“Hail Holy Queen”), an ancient antiphon that praises the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“It was mesmerizing,” said Andrew Yock, an NCYC participant from the Archdiocese of Chicago, of the silent prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. “I broke down in tears during adoration. It was unbelievable. Having the silence, that atmosphere of peace and tranquility just made it really feel like God was present.”

Benedictine Brother John Mark Falkenhain spoke afterward about leading 20,000 youths into silent prayer and a quiet chanting of psalms in the Liturgy of the Hours.

“Because this sort of prayer is so ancient, it speaks to everybody immediately,” he said. “Not that there’s anything wrong with the noise and sound, but the silence is the perfect complement, and when we pray the word of God and then leave room for silence, then it resounds within us and we realize how much the word has become a part of us.”

Brother John Mark also reflected that the monks benefited from the example of the youths at NCYC.

“To see so many young people interested in and excited about their faith gives witness to us,” he said, “and is a challenge to us to always be mindful and grateful for the opportunity that we have to pray on behalf of the Church and with the Church and to lead the Church in prayer. It reminds us that we have to be deserving of that.”

Other youths in Lucas Oil Stadium on Nov. 17 were drawn into the atmosphere of prayer created by the monks and One Bread One Cup youths.

“You don’t see men cry much, but myself, I teared up,” said Kyle Zimmerman of the Archdiocese of Dubuque, Iowa, who said the time of adoration was his favorite NCYC moment. “You see 25,000 people all quiet. You could hear a pin drop. It’s just amazing to see that, and then you feel something. You feel the spirit of Christ.”

Beth Wimsatt, a member of St. Mary-of-the-Knobs Parish in Floyd County, also valued the silent prayer.

“You can really get a feel for what the whole Catholic faith is about in the silence,” she said. “God truly speaks to us in the silence as we’re sitting there listening to him.”

Tammy Becht, a member of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in New Albany, has seen many youths enter more deeply into the Church’s rich liturgical tradition in her ministry as director of One Bread One Cup.

“It’s such a gift to be able to do what I do, to minister to the young Church in a way that brings the love of God through the liturgy, through the prayer of the Church, to the young people,” she said. “They need stability and love silence when it’s offered to them. And they respond to it. That was so powerful tonight.”

Since it was started in 1995, more than 4,600 youths from more than 40 dioceses have participated in One Bread One Cup. Witnessing 20,000 youths enter into quiet, prayerful liturgy in one night was powerful for Becht.

“I have a cold chill all over myself right now,” Becht said moments after the evening session ended. “When I think about [20,000] people in this stadium, with the Blessed Sacrament exposed, and not a sound came from any place—it was complete silence.

“I kept waiting for that still, small voice to whisper in my ear. And it was like, ‘Tammy, this is what I want. This is what I desire. I desire the hearts of the young people, the hearts of everyone who calls themselves my follower.’ ”

One of the youths who has given his heart to the Lord that helped lead the liturgy in Lucas Oil Stadium was Nolan Snyder, a member of St. Boniface Parish in Fulda, a few miles from Saint Meinrad Archabbey.

A high school senior and four-time One Bread One Cup participant, Nolan gave a reflection in the stadium about eucharistic adoration, something that he had difficulty appreciating until he had a special experience in the summer of 2016 at Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary in Indianapolis. In that moment, he was given a powerful awareness of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

“This is our God reaching out to us, speaking to us,” Nolan said. “This is the same God that sacrificed himself at the Last Supper, the same God that offered himself as a sacrifice on the cross, the same God that is present at Mass when the presider holds up the body and blood and says, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God.’ ”

He then invited all present in the stadium to enter into the silent prayer that was about to begin.

“Tonight, as we celebrate adoration, we are called to listen,” Nolan said. “Keep in mind, though, that this isn’t just silence. Even in the silence, God’s voice speaks to us. Let us pray that tonight we hear God’s call and reach out to his extended hand.”

That prayer was answered for Noah Tyler, 17, an NCYC participant from Lake Charles, La., who said that the time of adoration was “the climax” of the conference for him.

“It’s where you can fully open your heart to God, to be fully present with him,” said Noah. “It’s just an awesome feeling to see him right in front of you, so vulnerable and so raw. It’s amazing.”

(Criterion reporter Natalie Hoefer and freelance reporter Katie Rutter contributed to this article.)

 

(See all of our NCYC 2017 news coverage here)

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