This is from our “Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Explained” series written for our December 2018 Parish Newsletter by Laura Nelson, Coordinator of Children’s Catechesis.
“It’s so quiet in here!”
That’s something people often say when they encounter the children as they work in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS) classroom, often called an “Atrium”. Parents find it hard to believe that a group of 15 children, ages 3 to 6 years old can be calm and quiet for an hour and a half. They will say things like, “Maybe your child can be quiet for that long but my child…”
I smile when I hear these things because I remember thinking the same things myself when I first encountered CGS. I was skeptical that “real” children would respond to this method in the beautiful way that I was hearing about.
But, the reality is, the children thrive in the quiet that we give them in the Atrium. They have time to breathe and calm themselves after a long day at school. That’s something we all need in our fast-paced world. For the children and the catechists who lead the group, the weekly time in the Atrium is like a small retreat where they can get away from the noise of life to reconnect with God.
The silence isn’t there for the sake of the catechists, although they do enjoy it. No, the silence is intentionally created for the children. We tell them at the beginning of the year that we use a special voice in the atrium so that we can listen to God’s voice. That, often, we can’t hear God’s voice with our ears but that we must use our hearts to hear him. The children understand this intuitively and eagerly offer their silence to draw closer to God.
We occasionally play a game in the Atrium called “The Silence Game”. We practice making silence with the children and ask them to listen for God’s voice. After the silence is broken, we ask the children what they heard or what God said to them when they made silence. Recently one child here at St. Francis told their catechist, “He said that He loves me.” Now, that’s a beautiful thing for anyone of any age to hear!
There’s so much more to the Atrium besides the quiet atmosphere but without the quiet, the rest of our method wouldn’t be possible.