Special Opportunity! For any child 3-6 years old this September St. Anthony’s will be beginning an Atrium for the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd based on the Montessori method of teaching.
Classes will be held from 6:30pm to 8:00pm on Mondays.
Please contact the Religious Education office at email@example.com or 703-820-7111 ext. 136. Spaces are limited so please contact us soon!
The Atrium is like a retreat center for children; a “dwelling place” of prayer designed specifically to meet their spiritual needs. By means of the beauty, silence and prayer fostered here, the mystery of the child encounters the mystery of God. Lovely hand-made materials to work and pray with, proclamations of God’s Word, meditation and song, all appropriate to the child’s way of approaching God, invite him or her into a lifelong relationship with the Good Shepherd who gives “life to the full.”
Young children are most open to the enjoyment of being in relationship with God. Before the Catechism is to be learned, children delight to simply bask in the love of God; to be known, called by name, and to belong to the Good Shepherd. Every child of God should receive the great gift of coming with joy into the “courts of the Lord” in the Atrium. This touchstone experience will provide a “heart orientation” of love for continuing moral formation as your child grows to adulthood. For as a wise person once said: “when all is said and done, one cannot obey more than one loves.”
The atrium is the meeting ground of two mysteries:
- The mystery of God and the mystery of the child
- An interpersonal relationship is always a mystery; it is more so when it involves a relationship with God; when the relationship is between God and the child the mystery is greater still. (Sofia Cavalletti, RPOC, p. 30)
Children’s Religious Formation
The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is an approach to the religious formation of children that is based on the conviction that God and the Child are in relationship. Our role as adults is to protect and nurture this bond. In the Catechesis we present age-appropriate themes from the Bible and our liturgy with manipulative materials the children use to internalize and ponder the great mysteries of our faith.
- We try to put the child in touch with those “sources” through which God reveals and communicates Himself in living form; namely, the Bible and Liturgy, in balanced proportion. (Rebekah Rojcewicz, RPOC, p.28)
Catechesis of the Good Shepherd
Developed by Sofia Cavalletti, an Italian Hebrew scripture scholar, building on the work and methods of Maria Montessori, the Catechesis seeks to give children the guidance and vocabulary which enable them to become aware of their relationship with God and give expression to it. With the Catechesis we help each child to continue to fall in love with God while building community among peers.
- [The atrium] is a place where the child comes to know the great realities of…life as a Christian, but also and above all, a place where the child begins to live these realities in meditation and prayer. There is nothing of the academic classroom about the atrium; it is not a place for religious instruction but religious life. (Sofia Cavalletti, RPOC, p. 56)
Materials aid the children in understanding Scripture & Liturgy.
- The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd takes its name from the parable and image of Jesus that seemed to appeal most to young children, no matter what their race, gender, and/or socio-economic status. The statue above is representative of the one of the earliest known Christian images, discovered in the catacombs of Rome.*
Each level of the child’s work explores the fundamental theme of covenant, God’s call and our response, as reflected in the Bible and as lived in liturgy. At Level I the 3-6 year-olds have the capacity to receive and enjoy the most essential elements of our faith: the mysteries of the Kingdom of God, the announcement of God’s love given for us in the person of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.
Children need their own place to work with these essentials and many other key elements of our faith. This place is called an atrium. Montessori coined this term recalling the part of the Early Christian church building where catechumens would gather in preparation to join the church. Each atrium is specially designed with child-sized furniture including a prayer table for gathering, a model altar, as well as materials to deepen their familiarity with more parables and the Mass itself. After being presented with new material in a small group, children are free to choose work which particularly speaks to them to foster the growth of their own relationships with God.
The role of the adult in the atrium is secondary. It is the child’s own inner guide and teacher, the Holy Spirit, which directs the mind and heart. The importance of the catechist is to place materials within reach and share scripture that fills a particular longing at each stage in a child’s spiritual life.
Biblical geography helps place Jesus in time and space.
Creating an Atrium: Part of the Deep Formation Process of a Catechist
The atrium is a calm and peaceful place where time seems to slow down. Children and catechists listen to God together through silence, scripture, liturgy, song, formal and informal prayer, ordinary practical life exercises, and movement. In this setting, and given the opportunity, children often reveal profound things about God that no one has ever told them. The materials and movement are an aid to their reflections on scripture and liturgy and their rich relationship with God .