Catechesis of the Good Shepherd
"Respect for the child's nature, which God Himself demands of us, compels us to search most carefully for those conditions in which children can abandon themselves most easily to God."
-Dr. Maria Montessori
Elements of CGS
THE ATRIUM: PREPARED ENVIRONMENT
“The atrium is a community in which children and adults live together a religious experience which facilitates participation in the wider community of the family, the church and other social spheres.
The atrium is a place of prayer, in which work and study spontaneously become meditation, contemplation and prayer.
The atrium is a place in which the only Teacher is Christ; both children and adults place themselves in a listening stance before his Word and seek to penetrate the mystery of the liturgical celebration.”
-CGS 32 Points of Reflection, #2
The Atrium is the prepared environment that is made especially for children to cultivate their relationship with God. When a child is invited into a space, knowing that is was made just for them for this specific purpose, something happens. When freedom within boundaries are given, the children make the environment their own.
For example, the first session is when the children are introduced to a few ground rules for our time in the Atrium—specifically how to talk and how to walk in the Atrium. They are also introduced to the concept that they can only work with materials that they have been shown. Once they have been shown the material, they are free to choose to work with it if it is available.
Another key feature of the Atrium is that the themes that are presented find their roots in Scripture and the Liturgy.
“The themes presented in the atrium are those to which the children have responded with depth and joy. These themes are taken from the Bible and the liturgy (prayers and sacraments) as the fundamental sources for creating and sustaining Christian life at every developmental stage and, in particular, for illuminating and nourishing the child in his/her most vital religious needs."
-CGS 32 Points of Reflection, #5
ROLE OF THE ADULT
“The catechist is not a teacher, remembering that the only Teacher is Christ himself.
The catechist renounces every form of control (such as quizzes, texts, exams, etc.) in the spirit of poverty before an experience whose fruits are not her/his own.”
-CGS 32 Points of Reflection, #4
“The attitude of the adult has to be marked by humility before the capacities of the child, establishing a right rapport with the child, that is to say, respecting the personality of the child, and waiting for the child to reveal himself/herself.
The tasks of the catechist include:
...to go deeper into the Christian message through the knowledge of the biblical and liturgical sources and of ongoing living tradition of the church, including the theological, social and ecumenical movements which enliven the church today;
...preparing an environment and maintaining order in that environment (the atrium) so that it fosters concentration, silence and contemplation in both the child and adult;
...preparing the materials oneself as much as possible while collaborating with others in areas that are beyond one’s abilities.”
-CGS 32 Points of Reflection, #23, 24
VIEW OF THE CHILD
In the early part of the 20th century, Dr. Maria Montessori observed and explored the developmental needs of the child. She used her background as a medical doctor and scientist to research her hypothesis that children are not just vessels waiting to be filled with information, but rather active learners absorbing everything in their environments.
The young child (ages 0-6), is actively engaging in their environments with their greatest needs being that of language, order, and movement. They learn to construct their individuality (knowing that they are a separate person from their parent(s)) through exploration of their environment and understanding through concrete expression (handling of materials). As the child works with these materials the child will move to more abstract thoughts.
It is assumed that the child, before stepping into the Atrium, has a relationship with God.
“The materials prepared by catechists for the atrium are faithful to the experimental models of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. The designs of these models are the result of a long, collaborative work of observation and experimentation and have been developed according to the needs of the child at each developmental stage.
The material makes it possible for the catechist to assume his/her proper “post” as “the useless servant.” (Luke 17:10) This expression indicates that the catechist has a task to perform, a role to fulfill, whose results, however, go much farther from what he/she does, because the only Teacher is Christ.” -CGS 32 Points of Reflection, #20, 21
The materials are created to help connect the child to God. Each material was developed by Maria Montessori, Sofia Cavelletti, and Gianna Gobbi through research, observation and experimentation. The materials present in the Atrium does the teaching and connects the child to God, who we trust will speak to them.
*Subject to change according to the movement of the Holy Spirit
how can you help?
Is your heart stirring with a desire to get involved in some way? Here are some ways you can support this mission that reaches the youngest disciples of our community:
Begin the discernment process to become a Catechist in the Atrium. This starts with an initial meeting to discuss the steps of discernment and training needed.
Become an assistant in the Atrium.
Make materials (i.e. Calligraphy, Painting, Woodworking, Peg Doll Painting, Sewing, Thrift store shopping, etc.).
Purchase materials from our wish lists below.
Attend “Come and See Nights” offered during the year. See formation calendar for dates!