Why do we in Catechesis of the Good Shepherd care about the religious potential of children? Some might answer, “Because children are the future of our Church.” But they’re mistaken. Children ARE our Church.
They get the mystery of our faith. They love Jesus because they know Jesus loves them. They know it, maybe in their heads, but definitely in their hearts.
When you love someone, you want to know more, get closer. What better way to get closer to Jesus than to participate in the Mass?
Children can get to church only one way: when someone takes them. Parents are their first educators, and children grow in their faith when they experience it, especially from a young age.
One of the focal points in the earliest atrium of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is the altar area. Children learn the names of the objects used in the Mass, from the chalice and paten to the ciborium and the sanctuary lamp. They also learn about liturgical gestures that demonstrate God’s gifts to us and our response. The priest’s words accompanying those movements, which the children learn later, expand their understanding of parts of the Mass such as Epiclesis and Offering.
Children also grow in their faith through prayer in the home, simple prayers, grace before meals, a morning prayer, a bedtime prayer, a blessing when family members leave for work or school. As children grow, they learn formal prayers as well as prayers of petition and forgiveness. But when they are younger than 6, their prayer is based on God’s unconditional love and gift; it’s one of thanksgiving and praise. Provide some words so children can pray on their own, words such as
Glory to God!
Thank you, Lord!
I love you, Jesus!
The Prayer Table is a second focal point in the atrium. There, the children gather for song and spoken prayer. We look to Scripture for words of thanksgiving and praise and encourage the children to use them in their own conversations with God. We lift up songs of the Church, often psalms or refrains, and sing them as part of our atrium experience.
Sometimes, a child wants to spend quiet time alone with Jesus the Good Shepherd at the Prayer Table.
Another way for children to grow in faith is to witness a life of social justice as Jesus taught. That life begins in the home, with respect for the dignity of all people in the household and in the extended family. How else can we show children how to live rightly? Use kind words. Exhibit compassion. Express joy. Demonstrate humility. Show love. Live faith.
“Help me help myself.” That’s what children want from us. One way we do that in the atrium is through Practical Life, where the work allows children …
- To develop controlled movement as an aid to prayer and contemplation. It then becomes a spiritual work.
- To foster a sense of belonging to and caring for the atrium environment.
- To build a sense of independence, self-direction and confidence.
- To develop order, coordination and concentration, small steps in preparation for more difficult work.
Experience the religious potential of the child in an atrium of the Good Shepherd. Contact the SonFlower Region of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd to find one near you.