“When we pray at church, it combines our hearts with God”, a child commented as he watched the mingling of the water and wine. Another child answered, “We belong to him. He is strong and we are weak.”
The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd answered a lifetime of vocational questions for me and become a wellspring for renewal in my experience of God. Who would have thought that the children could open, time and time again, more depths in the simplest, shortest scripture texts or liturgical signs?
The teaching method was born in the joy of children engaging with scripture, and has spread from one apartment in Rome to many countries and different denominations. Rooted in deep understanding of scripture and liturgy and lived out through Montessori methodology, it invites children into the deepest relationship with God, a relationship for a lifetime.
When I was a child, I loved the liturgical year, those special seasons marked by food, song, and ritual. My parents told me that Easter lasted 50 days, so I made my chocolate last. But coming out of the special times back into green always left me glum – until I encountered the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.
When I signed my daughter up at age 4, I would sit in for the presentation. It was a homecoming: the direct presentations from scripture with simple figures and presentations of the liturgy fed a deep yearning and enabled profound meditation. I remember seeing the presentation of liturgical colours, with four mini-chasubles on stands, and the simple words of meaning: “Green is for growing time!” Green wasn’t a lack, an empty time between special seasons; it was something important and full.
We had chosen to delay baptism for our children until they would remember it. The evening after Gabriella saw the baptism presentation, in which each child receives an Easter candle as a sign of the moment when the light of Christ comes to each of us, she pleaded, “Daddy, can I be baptized tomorrow, PLEASE?”
My eldest, working with the shepherd and the sheep at age five, set aside four sheep and put them under the table when gathering the others in the fold with the shepherd. The catechist asked about them, and he said: “It says, ‘there are other sheep that are not of this flock. I will gather them.’ Those are the other sheep.”
With older children, I presented the Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids and we wondered why the wise bridesmaids could not share their oil. One boy said the oil was like the sap of the true vine – that you could only have it by being connected to the vine.
It is not only the children who are nurtured and given a gift in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. We who work with them and hear their reflections can never grow tired, never think we’ve “mastered” the content of a parable. The gift of their joy, wonder, and depth of reflection is a wellspring of spiritual life that builds up child and adult together in the love of God. For more information about CGS, visitwww.cgsac.ca or contact me at [email protected].
Heather Skublics Lampman is a catechist at St. Luke’s, Winnipeg, and a school teacher.