I am so grateful for the true community of Catechesis that I am able to be a tiny part of.
Like its Montessori counterpart, the Catechesis is not a program, not a club, not a cult, not a "method" (it uses a variety of methods, such as method of signs, method of parables...), not a classroom.... it is an experience. It is an approach to life. But not just life - Life (capital L). Faith life, that nourishes every area of life in general.
Academic Montessori, without these particular components that fulfill the spiritual needs of the child, brings the child's (and the adult's) soul to a brink - an edge - a precipice - of something greater than itself. The Montessori approach is already so rich, so fulfilling - it opens up the soul, enriching it, fulfilling it... and when religious expression is integrated into the whole (as it should be), the child's soul is truly fulfilled.
Education as an aid to life. To LIFE.
Those children with a fully integrated approach through Montessori and Catechesis of the Good Shepherd are not faced with a precipice hovering over nothingness - but complete fulfillment.
Within the atrium, for children who are not typically in what would be called a Montessori environment during the rest of their week, there is an opportunity to have needs fulfilled. To know that one's soul will be heard even without speaking a word.
Those adults who recognize these qualities of Montessori and Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, recognize that there is a community - a community of the faithful. It is not "this atrium" against "that atrium", but a coming together of the entire community of the Faithful.
There is no competition of who is the best catechist or formation leader; whose atrium is better than another; whose children are learning more... When the adults set aside their worldly issues, we truly come together as a community - sharing what we have learned, assisting each other in our faith journeys and in our journeys as catechists, offering and accepting assistance to and from one another - and sharing with the greater community the joys present in an atrium experience for the children.
Sadly, there are those both within the CGS-trained community and outside of it who are not able to set aside their own prejudices (and wounds) to truly see what is happening in the atrium. Perhaps because of the way that CGS was first brought to them, they feel that the atrium is a bit "snobbish", or thinks itself better than other "programs." These are the same people who are not able to understand why we don't present the Scripture texts regarding the death of Jesus to 3-6 year olds, stating that we are presenting an incomplete picture of the Paschal Mystery, thus forgetting that most programs for 3-6 year olds focus on "I am special; you are special - God made me and everything in the whole world."
What we provide in the atrium meets the child's developmental needs which includes the development of their relationship with Jesus as the Good Shepherd. We do talk about His death, but it is not appropriate to get into the details with a 3 year old. At 6 and 7, we introduce particular texts and by age 8, they have generally read the full Scripture texts that cover the entire Way of the Cross from start to finish, including the steps that are left out of the devotional for the Way of the Cross.
We may not memorize the 10 Commandments during Sacramental Preparation, but when a child leaves the level 3 atrium (if he has had 2-3 FULL years in level 3), said child will know the full historical and theological context and significance of the 10 Commandments, how they relate to the maxims and the Greatest Commandment, how they fit within the life of the Church today, where to find the various "versions" within the Scriptures themselves (explicitly: twice in the Old Testament and once in the New; but implicitly in many other places) - AND be able to explain the significance of Moses BREAKING the 10 Commandments.
(what!? he broke them!? Yep. Every single one. God had to re-write them. So much for writing them in stone, huh? ;) )
Fulfilling the child's needs at the appropriate times, means that a child leaving a level 3 atrium (even leaving the level 1 or the level 2 atrium), will not be on the same page in another religious education class as a child who has never attended the atrium. It is SO hard for adults with deep wounds to understand and accept that it is they (adults) who may need to adapt to the needs of the child, rather than forcing the child (or the catechists who teach the younger grades) to adapt to the adult's expectations.
But I digress into two topics....
1) I am grateful for the communities in which I am currently involved, both face to face and online.
2) I continue to pray for those who are so wounded that they have caused harm to these current communities, to themselves and most of all to the children.