Saturday, September 10, 2016

History of the Kingdom of God is Present NOW

Since the beginning of time, a plan has been present in the mind of God to give mankind His life in His kingdom. 

Parousia is a hidden, not yet happened moment - that we have some clues for, but which we do not as yet fully comprehend. 

God will be all in all.

And His kingdom will have NO END. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

What will my child learn in the atrium?

These charts show the progression of themes throughout the three levels of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd atrium. 


This image represents our three main sources. The two key sources highlighted the most often are the Bible and the Liturgy, remembering that the new universal Catechism of the Catholic Church is recent. 

Level 1 - ages 3-6

At this age, everything centers around the experience of Jesus Christ in the world. 

Level 2 - ages 6-9

Level 2 condenses and deepens level 1 while adding in some components, including history.
Creation - purple here represents the Old Testament (preparing for Jesus to come); gold for the time of Christ; "gray" (to off-set the white background) for the current time or the blank page, including the way that we see Jesus today - on the altar; and gold again for the time we are awaiting: Parousia, when God will be all in all. The colors used in the atrium have tan for the "Old Testament" time period, but we have already introduced the children to purple for preparation with the prophecies in level 1 and learning the colors of the liturgical season, thus I chose purple for my purposes on this chart. 

Level 3 - ages 9-12+ (appropriate for teens and adults too!)

And at this level we really highlight the "golden thread" that connects all of Salvation History. 

This post gives something of a quick overview of each level as well: 

Interested in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd formation courses ("training") - or interested in knowing what the catechists study in their 90-120 hours courses to be a catechist at any given level? 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

3, 2, 1 - Atrium!!!

3 AWESOME ladies!

2 brand new level 2 atrium spaces!

1 fantastic week!

This is not even *all* the material making done by these 3 awesome ladies during our recent level 2 formation course. We covered all of the Kingdom of God presentations, all of Moral Formation, all of Incarnation which includes the level 2 prophecies, level 2 geography, and level 2 Infancy Narratives), and all of Paschal Mysteries.


Given these ladies worked through the several evenings as well, this is still a phenomenal feat to have most of the new materials done for these presentations already!

They even did more after this - decoupaging their maxims tablets and Greatest Commandment tablets, drilling one last hole in a pin map, additional layers of polyurethane, probably some more nail filing too!

Want to join us for an upcoming Catechesis of the Good Shepherd formation course?

Level 1 Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Formation Course
Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception
Lafayette, Indiana
Part 1: June 6-10
Part 2: July 25-29

$300 includes all course fees, overnight accommodations, 2 meals a day, some small materials, lots of prayer time and learning by all!
Books purchased separately (the required book list will be e-mailed to you)

Overnight accommodations provided on-site (in the old convent above the parish offices) - 2 single beds (with all needed linens) per room, shared bathroom, multiple shower stalls; access to a kitchen; snacks, lunch and dinner provided; on-site wireless internet access.

No experience required to begin! Just an open heart!

Level 1 Catechesis of the Good Shepherd focuses on the child who is 2.5 years old through their 6th birthday or the school year they turn 6. Many of the principles involved are universal through all stages of life and all periods in time.

Part 1 will focus on the foundations of CGS and on the 3 year old child (first year in the atrium).

Part 2 will focus on the work and experiences of the 4 and 5 year old children.

Montessori Essentials Course for all Montessori adults! 
       Catechesis of the Good Shepherd *assistants*
       Montessori Homeschoolers
       Montessori Classroom Assistants
June 6 8a-5p
Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception
Lafayette, Indiana

Learn the basics of Montessori that apply to all environments, along with the following:

  • History of Montessori
  • Exercises of Practical Life - preliminary skills, care of the environment, care of self and more
  • Grace and Courtesy lessons
  • Walking on the Line
  • Silence Game/Activity
  • Basic art lessons

$50 for the day (evening-before lodging available only as space permits)

NB: While the focus of the whole course is on the religious potential of the child as seen through a Montessori whole-child perspective, this first day will primarily focus on the universal aspects of the Montessori approach to life; thus anyone of any faith background who wants to utilize or learn more about the Montessori approach will benefit.

Level 2 Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Formation Course
Dover, Indiana
Part 1: June 20-24 
Part 2: TBD
$200 for Part 1

The level 2 course focuses on the 6-9 year old - includes review and more intense depth of all level 1 concepts while initiating exploration of Salvation History, focusing on conscious moral formation, and formal preparation for the sacraments of First Holy Communion and First Reconciliation.

Limited on-site overnight accommodation may be available. Nearby lodging options available for an additional fee.

Contact: Jessica Welsh for more information

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Prophet Studies in Level 3

In the last several weeks, our lives have taken some pretty major turns. For the better? Only God and time will tell.

In lieu of being in a consistent atrium each week, I have been subbing in a variety of locations - which is awesome because of the variety of ideas and the freshness of sharing atrium experiences with different children ---- and not so awesome in that I am still recovering from an early bout of the flu 2 months ago, picked up from a new germ pool at a new atrium. While I have been able to fight off everything else, the cough just goes on and on and on and on. So I will be pulling back from subbing, just in time for all the teachers to get sick and need subs more often. Sorry! I need to heal up!

This all means I have spent a solid 36 hours in bed (I am *never* that sick!), our classroom is only half ready (read: MESS), Garden of Francis orders are no longer "caught up", Keys of the Universe videos have not been finished, and Legoboy has not participated in all the things he was going to do, simply because I no longer can get him there. So my hope for this year was to streamline both businesses to spend less time on them, spend less time with my son (we homeschool, he's 11, he needs some time away from me ;) ), and not require 50 hours in a day. Now I am spending *more* time on the atrium and the same amount of time elsewhere.

At least Legoboy's schooling is moving forward. And he remains healthy. Healthy enough to get braces! Hehe.


The whole experience, and the events that led to the changes, have put me in the mind of the prophets. Most of them were persecuted in their own homes, shunned by the very people God led them to speak to, tortured emotionally and physically, yet most of them trusted God in all moments (ahem, Jonah!) and they all, using a word from the final prophetic book of the Bible, Revelation or the Apocalypse, *overcame.*

With God's grace, they were Overcomers.

All of us who are persecuted can be an Overcomer.
There are so many lessons to be learned from the Prophets. 
Each of us are called to be a prophet. Always.  


Within the atrium, our official studies consist of the following:

Level 1:

  • 5 messianic prophecies during Advent
Level 2: 

  • 8 messianic prophecies (same 5, plus 3 additional), looking towards the moral prophetic message in some of them
  • We also look to the Books of the Bible and many atriums have a set of command cards guiding them through those books, which have some questions on the Prophetic books section
Level 3: 
  • Tying in the moral and messianic and looking to the future, Parousia
  • Study on the Call/Vocation of the Prophets
  • Study on the Content (Moral/Messianic) of the Prophets
  • Study on the Struggles of the Prophets
  • We also look to a set of prophecies related to the Parousia, matching the passage with its title and discussing what it might mean: The Holy Bible & Parousia

Personal Experience: 

In the level 3 atriums I have been in?

We began here: 
2012 Seeking the Plan of God post on Prophet Studies

Over time, we found our groove.

At level 3, our Prophecy Binder has veered a bit from the official CGS material, based on feedback and requests from the children themselves. I will not reproduce the CGS material here, but anything I have that is not found in the CGS materials is available for download at Garden of Francis.
Update with a note: The older CGS prophet study included a great deal more than it does now. Now (as of 2011-2015+) we almost solely focus on Isaiah with a tiny bit of looking at the call of 3 other prophets. The chidren were not satisfied with this to say the least, so I pulled out the older materials and adapted them a bit. The details follow.

The Binder Cover
I used a 2 inch D-ring (I would not use anything NOT a D-ring!)

Inside the front pocket:
Map of the Middle East during the time of the Prophets
Prophets Scripture Chart (several copies - each student takes one)
Before the Sun Burned Bright song - some children like to learn it

Instruction page (first page in the binder - in a sheet protector)

Added a set of cards to guide the children through studying a prophet or prophecy.
These are based on the old prophet study.
Some children created additional ones for each other and for themselves
- I encourage the older children to find ways to extend the work.
Stored in a pouch. 

Scripture chart - with a letter to the left side of each set,
corresponding with a booklet.
This may be based on the old material; it is modified for clarity. 

Each booklet in its own lettered pouch.
Book 'a' comes first; the others can be any order.
CGS used to use the books; then said use for catechist study only.
My atrium children have all gained a LOT from them!
But we needed modifications to aid in personalizing the experience. 

Last year, we made multiple copies of the first book,
since all the children need to read it each year.
And we had a HUGE class. Too large. 

What follows are the modifications I made to each booklet - 
notes to guide the children's follow-up work. 
(these should be pictured in order from book a to book e)
The children are always invited to artistic response: art, writing, creation of a project, etc.

We also have this really cool poster:

It shows the kings aligned with the prophets,
through 3 time periods in Israel.
VERY cool. 

  • One atrium has a beautiful wooden treasure box that holds index cards. A set of blank index cards is next to the box. As the children find a prophecy (anywhere in the Bible - prophetic books, Revelation, New Testament, etc.), they are to write the Scripture citation and a quick summary (if the passage is longer) on one side. On the other side, they can write a title for the prophecy. This work was inspired by a combination of our updated/older-fied Prophet study and the Holy Bible & Parousia material. A child put it together. 

It is always good to have additional reading materials on hand. This particular book is very nice!

A sample page - beautiful illustrations, good information!
The style connects the children to the art heritage of our faith. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

After-Atrium - Adolescent Faith Formation

Some rough notes for what to do with children leaving level 3 Catechesis of the Good Shepherd atrium.

Current book offerings: most of the USCCB approved textbooks include the Life of Christ and Church History for middle schoolers. The children in the atrium have a large majority of the Life of Christ and really don't need to spend an entire year on it. Church history is good - but the books used are ghastly.

In no particular order, thoughts and ideas gleaned from a variety of sources.

Please note in comments if you have additional suggestions, thoughts, resources to look into to meet a particular need, or another idea :)

Middle School: 

Continued Access to the Level 3 Materials: 
Children in a typical religious education experience will not have had more than 30 hours each year in the level 3 atrium (and many significantly less). They can continue to benefit from the materials and experiences they have not yet completed, as these materials are actually appropriate for RCIA programs.

Mass Study - Altaration:
This 4 week resource could be saved for the end of 8th grade or utilized in high school. The segment on vocations ties in nicely with the Vocation Tree. Not so much walking through the Mass, more focusing on the meaning of the Mass, some history and the true depth of what is happening.
Resource: Altaration
Connect to Level 3: Match index cards with noted Scripture passages to each of the prayers in the Roman Missal (Colored Base) material.

Bible History - Encounter:
10 week DVD/workbook lessons covering an overview of the Bible. This is the middle school version of Ascension Press's Bible History studies such as The Teen Timeline (for high schoolers) and Great Adventure Bible Study (for adults - varying lengths).
Resource: Encounter
Connect to Level 3: Review the 5 Typology Timelines at the pertinent moments in the DVDs; any additional studies of interest. Create a new typology timeline based on another Old Testament event or person.

Vocation Tree:
10 lessons of 40 minutes each.

Resource: The Vocation Tree
Connect to Level 3: Review the Rites timelines and materials for all sacraments; utilize Holy Orders and Matrimony Rites timelines and materials (review if used in level 3; add in here if not used in level 3)

Church History: 
10-15 weeks, going through 1-2 centuries each class. Look to events, popes, saints, apologetics, heresies, and connect to world history. This could be in story format, with options to explore areas of interest in art, music, literature and more.

Resource: no ideal one is currently available; there is one in-progress.
Connect to Level 3: Review 2000 Years timeline and create own version with key points from the stories (perhaps a few that are required to note, then additional events of choice). Continue to locate passages in the Scripture related to Parousia and the spreading of the Kingdom of God in our own time.

Timeline of the Life of Christ:
In small groups or individually, read through a chosen Gospel account and record the events of the life of Jesus on a timeline. Since not everything is dated just so, this will invite the children to look to context clues and make inferences. They may need to utilize other resources to understand the variety of ways to interpret the reading of the Gospels within the realm of the Catholic faith. This study could take as little as 1 class or as many as needed. Perhaps over the course of the 2 middle school years, all 4 Gospels are read by every child with all details added into their own timeline.

Resource: The Holy Bible! ;) and graph paper or other timeline of choice
Connect to Level 3: Review the Miracles, Teachings and Parables of Jesus; create a personal list, chart or diagram of each miracle, teaching and parable. Create a new Miracle timeline based on the style of the included Level 3 timelines.

Service Projects:
Whether part of religious education or youth ministry or in another capacity, the children should be actively engaged in community service and other projects, further exploring and sharing their talents with the world, as they prepare for their future vocation.

Chastity - Theology of the Body for Middle Schoolers:
8 week study of Theology of the Body directed specifically for 6th-8th graders

Resource: Theology of the Body for Middle School
Connect to Level 3: Looking at moral formation components, personal choice; also considering local diocese requirements.

High School: 

Spend 1 year each on an area of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, looking to apologetics and personal vocation within each one.

Resource: The Catechism of the Catholic Church 

Supplemental: Biblical Walk Through the Mass

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Pin Maps of Israel

The materials I created for our local level 2 and level 3 atriums.

I started with the materials manual (the last two versions of the level 2 printed manual and the online materials manual), I checked atlases and other resources (both ones the children would be able to access in the atrium as well as resources accessible outside the atrium) and did some serious modifying.

I then created my own documents and materials that reflect the actual appearance of Israel and what we can determine historically. No two atlases are 100% identical, so what I have prepared is what I hope to be a good representation of Israel while also reflecting the nature of the regions puzzle map we utilize in the level 1 (and early level 2) atrium.

Pin Map Love - a previous post about this material.

The materials are available for purchase at Garden of Francis - Israel Pin Maps - Time of Jesus. A portion of this work was developed with direct assistance of a handful of catechists at our local parish, so a portion of all pin map sales will be directly tithed to that parish. Pins are to be purchased separately.

All features on one control map
and a working (mute) map with all features
Level 2 might not have this set -
more likely to have a larger control map available
as well as individual control maps for the maps described below. 

the mute working map for "Cities and Regions"
the  mute working map for "Mountain Ranges, Desert, Bodies of Water"
the mute working map for "Mountain Peaks"

For level 2, it is BEST to have a separate container for each pin map. So the children go to the shelf and have for each of the pin maps

  • Working mute map (this is the one with holes)
  • Control map (can be the wooden map photocopied and mounted onto tagboard, add labels)
  • Booklet (this provides some information on each location, the corresponding Bible verse - and tells them the name of the place so they can find the pin to place it on the map)
  • And the box of pins for that map only

At level 3, they can have ONE box with all the pins and a set of atlases and other maps to research where to place the pin for each geographical location. In my level 3 atriums, the children earn the privilege to work with the pin maps by researching and filling in two pages listing each of the locations by Bible verse (they look up the Bible verse and write in the name of the location). 

The pins for the maps: 

I bought ours from Nienhuis (Heutink in the US). They are sturdy pins with sturdy flags, available in all the colors we need. I order the "extra flags" in sets of 10, currently $6.60 for a pack. Shipping is expensive through them, but I try to order other items to bring down the shipping cost. Nienhuis/Heutink Pin Map Flags in packs of 10

This particular tacklebox is a "Flambeau Incorporated"
I cannot locate an item number.
A Plano 345500 6-12 Compartment Adjustable is rather similar, but smaller.
The Plano 2360099 Prolatch 3600 Stowaway seems quite identical to this one.

The tacklebox I use for level 3 is perfect for this age - they can have the pins in one container, divided out like this. It has 6 compartments; I have inserted a divider in one to split between the two land ranges of "mountain ranges" and the one "desert." I would like to add a symbol above where I labeled the section (on the underside of the lid) to show which color combos go in which section.

I have also labeled the contents on the underside of each slot. 

All of the cities we use
Cities are represented in red.
The three key cities the children already know from L1?
Those are written in red on the white flags - to emphasize them. 

Mountains are represented by green; and yellow shows a land "area"
So yellow with green for the mountain ranges.
Yellow with black for the desert.
Green with black for the mountain peaks.

Blue is water - that's the easy one ;) 

Anything with two names, I wrote the second name on the back of the flag.
The Sea of Galilee is also Lake Tiberias
Golgotha is also Mount Calvary

Biblical Geography Scripture charts: 
The level 2 children also have these charts on hand -
they can look up a geographical location in the Bible
to read more about it. 

The level 3 children have this blank chart they fill in, using context clues
from the heading of that particular page and the Scripture verses noted.
Then they can work with the pin maps in any order they choose. 

The booklets:
I don't have a ready photo of the booklets. The pages I personally utilize fit 3 to a page and the booklets have red or green covers depending on the color scheme chosen by the atrium I create them for. I only recommend using them for level 2 as the information they pull from is best researched by the level 3 child using the blank Biblical Geography charts.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Brothers of Jesus: a Catholic Response

Jesus did not have biological siblings. 

This is not made up by the Catholic Church. The Church has few points of doctrine or dogma when it comes to interpreting the Scripture on any matter. What does the Church teach about the siblings of Jesus:

  • Catechism of the Catholic Church with cited sources at the bottom of that page
  • 499 The deepening of faith in the virginal motherhood led the Church to confess Mary's real and perpetual virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made man.154 In fact, Christ's birth "did not diminish his mother's virginal integrity but sanctified it."155 And so the liturgy of the Church celebrates Mary as Aeiparthenos, the "Ever-virgin".156
    500 Against this doctrine the objection is sometimes raised that the Bible mentions brothers and sisters of Jesus.157 The Church has always understood these passages as not referring to other children of the Virgin Mary. In fact James and Joseph, "brothers of Jesus", are the sons of another Mary, a disciple of Christ, whom St. Matthew significantly calls "the other Mary".158 They are close relations of Jesus, according to an Old Testament expression.159
    501 Jesus is Mary's only son, but her spiritual motherhood extends to all men whom indeed he came to save: "The Son whom she brought forth is he whom God placed as the first-born among many brethren, that is, the faithful in whose generation and formation she co-operates with a mother's love."160
  • 154 Cf. DS 291; 294; 427; 442; 503; 571; 1880. (DS is actually the Enchiridion Symbolrum - abbreviated here according to its editors' names)
    155 LG 57. (Lumen Gentium)
    156 Cf. LG 52.
    157 Cf. Mk 3:31-35; 6:3; 1 Cor 9:5; Gal 1:19.
    158 Mt 13:55; 28:1; cf. Mt 27:56.
    159 Cf. Gen 13:8; 14:16; 29:15; etc.
    160 LG 63; cf. Jn 19:26-27; Rom 8:29; Rev 12:17.
On the Perpetual Virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary by St. Jerome

What is open to interpretation - possible theories of the reference to "brothers": 
  • Joseph's children by a previous marriage - not likely since they would have been mentioned in the Infancy narratives (all that traveling). While this theory has some basis in the protoevangelium, it would be nice if Catholics let it quietly slip away, because the evidence in the inspired Gospels doesn't hold up. 
  • The original language used could have meant "other extended family" - akin to "brethren." Maybe. It holds up to scrutiny when you consider the number of times the disciples (the 12 and all the others who followed Jesus) and the apostles (specifically the 12) are referred to as brothers as opposed to the other group. (see references noted above)

Evidence that Jesus did not have brothers:

  • No siblings are mentioned during the Infancy Narratives pre-Egypt
  • No siblings are mentioned during the return from Egypt. ("Take the child and His mother")
  • No siblings are mentioned when Jesus was 12 and stayed behind in the Temple. Were they all born after Jesus was already 12? 
  • Mary was given into the care of John - what was wrong with the siblings who had allegedly been with her when He said, "Who are my mother and brothers?" and the variety of other citations used by Protestants to prove that Mary had other children of her own womb

Finally, no evidence here, but a thoughtful question: 
Joseph knew that Jesus was the Child of the Holy Spirit - the angel told him that - would he seriously dare to have such physical relations with the woman who carried this precious Child in her womb? Even if, especially if, he didn't fully understand, the lack of understanding alone would put the fear of God into him. 

Just because the Scriptures say, "He did not have relations with her until she gave birth to her firstborn," does not then have to lead to the conclusion that he did have relations with her afterward. 
St. Paul's quotation from Psalm 109:1, "For He must reign 'until' He has put all enemies under His feet.'" (1 Cor.15:25) ---- and then He no longer reigns? Um. Nope. He keeps reigning! 

And firstborn? My firstborn is 9 years old, sitting at the coffee table creating a "Math Wizardry" notebook. He is and always will be my firstborn. He has zero younger brothers and sisters. The lack of siblings does not remove his title as "my firstborn". Nor does a lack of Jesus' siblings strip away His title of Firstborn. 

(This post was written several months back - my son is now a bit older - still my firstborn - and only born ;) )