THE CATECHESIS OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD
Just another children’s program?
The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd began in 1954 in Rome by Hebrew and Scripture scholar Sofia Cavaletti and her Montessori trained collaborator Gianna Gobbi. Guided by Montessori principles and an essential curriculum rooted in Scripture and Liturgy, this unique catechetical approach has as it’s direct aim to “help the child fall in love with God.”
A classroom for children?
The Atrium is a purposefully designed space that supports the relationship between God and the child, in a manner that meets the child’s developmental, intellectual and spiritual needs. It is not a classroom for instruction, but a place for community and worship in which the catechist and child listen, wonder and together ask, “God, who are you? How do you love us?”
In early church architecture, an atrium was a gathering place between the liturgical space of the church and the street. It was a space where the faithful recollected themselves before entering into worship and where catechumens received instruction in the faith as part of their initiation into the Christian community.
The Atrium in our parish serves a similar purpose. As such, it is neither a drop off program or daycare, nor a child’s church separate from the adult church. Rather the Atrium is an aid to the fuller participation of children in the liturgical and communal life of the one church that includes baptized Christians of all ages.
The child’s “work”?
After discovering a room devoted entirely to the religious formation of children, adults next remark on the catechetical material found in the room. Often and inaccurately referred to as “props”, these carefully and specifically designed materials are for “the work” of the child and are used by the child to foster meditation and prayer. “The catechetical material is a way of letting the child prolong the meditation begun with the adult.” (Sofia Cavalletti, The Religious Potential of the Child)
How does sorting beads, lacing cards or a pasting activity help my child to pray?
In keeping with the Montessori method, the materials in the “Practical Life” section of the Atrium help the child gain control of their movements and develop their concentration, thus cultivating an independence where they can later be shown “a work” and execute it on their own. This discipline to slow down, is the building block to the child’s quiet contemplation and “enjoyment of God.” “Help me to come closer to God by myself”.