Monday, December 15, 2014

Level 3 - we like to lounge

During official presentations, I prefer the children to sit up, but during follow-up chats on their work, their personal questions and meditations, and during their own personal work - one way the older children know this is truly their space is that they get to s-t-r-e-t-c-h. 

Did you know that Jesus and His apostles "lounged" rather than "sat" at the Last Supper? 

Study on Abraham:

These are new-to-atrium children who have a strong interest in overview presentations of some of the level 2 materials: Synthesis of the Mass in this case.

More Abraham: another day.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Multi-level Atrium - Just for the fun of sharing

This atrium session we have all three atriums available to the children of appropriate ages, but the level 3 children have access to all three spaces (typically going between levels 2 and 3), and we occasionally all go into level 1 for some things, like changing the liturgical color :) 

Level 1


Exercises of Practical Life: Stringing beads

Liturgy: Re-creating the Liturgical Calendar
(we have coloring pages for this - I LOVE-LOVE-LOVE
when the children make it entirely themselves instead!)

Probably a bit young from the liturgical calendar... ;)
matching up the colors though
(hm? perhaps we need some simpler such EPL materials...)

Liturgy: Gestures

Scripture/Prophecy/Prayer: Tracing a Prophecy prayer card

Awesome concentration
Tracing and illuminating Scripture passages assists in meditation

Level 3

Moses Typology: They each choose their comfortable position

Not much movement going on here

But they sure get into these readings and conversations! 

Level 2

Reviewing some geography concepts

chit-chatting, sharpening pencils -
free movement and awesome conversation
even when our hands are not on the official materials

Such joy :) 

Monday, December 8, 2014

St. Nicholas in the Atrium

This was great!

My only bummer: a 7 minute video I made, I can't seem to upload anywhere. I took it on my phone. I can watch it there, but cannot upload it to Facebook, to here or even watch it on my computer. WEIRD.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Homeschooling Sacramental Preparation

A letter I wrote last year to parents who bring their children to atrium for faith formation who want to do all sacramental preparation at home and not participate in the 5 additional meetings outside of regular atrium time and the retreats.

I reiterate: each family has a choice; each family has the primary responsibility for the bringing up of the children in that family and of the ongoing care of the members of that family. This letter is shared for those homeschool families also utilizing the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd atrium as a portion of their child's faith formation upbringing, so as to provide the fullest possible information for the family to make a fully informed decision for their own personal family situation.

The special sacramental preparation sessions are outside the atrium but are an integral part of the atrium experience. Sacramental preparation is an optional experience only in that it is reserved for those children preparing for reception of the First Sacraments – thus a 6 year old or an 8 year old (or any age) may attend, at their personal readiness. The sessions are separate so that the children preparing to receive their sacraments can have their special, focused time of more direct and intense preparation.

While respecting the right and the opportunity to homeschool our children – in academics, in the faith, in all manners of life – something to consider when placing your child in an atrium for a community experience of faith formation is that the sacramental preparation work is not presented during normal atrium sessions, thus the children will not have the opportunity to work with the appropriate materials, which their peers are working with. Children may only work with a material once it has been shared with them; another child may certainly share the material, but the depth of the meditation happens in a discussion with the catechist. 

The concepts and symbols introduced during sacramental preparation are assumed to be experienced by those children returning to atrium after receiving the sacraments of Reconciliation and First Holy Communion. New older children coming into the atrium are sometimes given presentations so they understand the symbology, the connections, the build-up into the depth of our faith; we hope to return to these sacramental preparation meditations again and again, for a deeper exploration, but many times, there is not enough time and these older children, while gaining much from the atrium, do not receive the fullest possible experience. I personally invite all older new-to-atrium children to also join the sacramental preparation sessions - are we not always in need of preparing ourselves to more and more deeply receive the Sacraments? 

Your home preparation can, should and must continue. It will be different from the atrium experience, providing your child with a much fuller faith life, appreciation for family formation and, when done in conjunction with the atrium, appreciation for community formation. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Protecting Baby Jesus

In one atrium I lead sessions, the infancy narratives are all in lovely square boxes with square-fitting lids. 

I said to the child in question, "I see the box is on the stable."

The response: "Baby Jesus needs protection." 
This was a 5 year old who was well-aware of the words of King Herod to the the Wise Men. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Summer 2014 - Formation Courses and Refreshing Atriums

What a summer it has been!

At our local parish, we have

  • hosted a CGS Overview, 
  • hosted a CGS Open House, 
  • started two formation courses, 
  • updated 2 level 2 atriums 
  • and 2 level 1 atriums, 
  • and I think I glanced into level 3 from time to time (we did get new shelves in there, shifted some shelves back to create more space and I did try to start to update a few minor materials.... yeah. Time to spend a solid day in ONLY level 3!). 

Formation Courses
We have started two formation courses at my local parish this past summer, and I couldn't be more excited about working with these fantastic people!

In Level 2, we have school teachers, volunteer catechists and one out-of-parish catechist. With this small group, we have more than half completed our formation course, worked on lots of materials and -----------------------------

Our level 1 course, we have had just Day 1 thus far - all the background, some early EPL, early nomenclature (liturgical colors and altar 1), toured the atrium, and generally gave everyone that beautiful glassy-eyed look of "wow there is so much here!" For those of you in the course reading this, I promise! It does come together! Actually, everyone seems to have left that (hot!) day pretty excited about the atrium. We have homeschoolers, volunteer catechists, paid catechists, in and out of the parish participants. We even one gentleman joining us, which is fantastic! More men (fathers, grandfathers, godfathers, priests, seminarians, brothers, etc.) should come to this work. Because the initial levels are for the younger children, men tend to shy away. The last official level is level 3, for 9-12 year olds; but that work can easily move into middle and high school - and this is the most perfect age for men to be in the atrium with the children - both for the boys AND for the girls.

I hope the next time we offer level 1, we can get our local priest in the formation. He is fully supportive of the program - so now he just needs to join us! His mother is joining us - a lady I just love to be around!

I will get photos up soon of our refreshed atrium spaces. They are SO beautiful! 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Atrium Options for Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky and South-East Indiana

Just a quick post to share some opportunities for anyone seeking an atrium experience for their children:

  • homeschoolers
  • public school or private school
  • no religious ed or limited religious education available in your parish
  • or anyone looking for an awesome faith formation experience based on the core tenets of our faith, using the Catechism of the Catholic Church, The Holy Scripture and the Roman Missal as our prime sources of doctrine and knowledge. 

Cincinnati, Ohio: 
Levels 2 and 3 - actually ages 5-13
Tuesdays 3:30-5:30
(contact me for location details)

  • 5 year olds will have a level 1 atrium experience, phasing into the level 2 history presentations as they are ready
  • 6-8 year olds will have a typical (meaning awesome!) level 2 atrium experience 
  • 9-11 year olds will have a typical (equally awesome!) level 3 atrium experience
  • 12-13 year olds will have independent/adult-guided studies in typology and liturgy utilizing the level 3 materials where appropriate. 
  • Sacramental preparation will be offered in 5 additional sessions and 2 retreat days

St. Leon, Indiana (West Harrison, Indiana)
Levels 1, 2, 3, and "3+" - ages 3-13+
Thursdays 3:30-5:30
(contact me for location details)
  • 3-6 year olds will be in the level 1 atrium (led by a level 1 and 2 CGS trained mom)
  • 6-8 year olds will be in the level 2 atrium 
  • 9-13+ will be in the level 3 atrium
    • the 12-13+ year olds will have a combination of level 3 and The Teen Timeline, studying Salvation History in chronological order, utilizing level 3 materials at appropriate moments. Lots of history, typology, Scripture study and an understanding of the Church. 
  • Sacramental preparation will be offered according to the needs of the children who register. 

All children, except the level 1 children on Thursdays will be in atrium spaces coordinated by a catechist trained in level 1, level 2 and level 3; Montessori trained at primary (3-6) and elementary (6-12); homeschool mom and teacher. And formation leader for training the catechists.

Please contact me with any questions :)

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is not on the Conformity List - WHY!?

Continuing from my first post on Catechesis of the Good Shepherd - Conformity and Red Flags

The main "issue" comes down to this:

The USCCB set out to assure that published faith formation (religious education) texts are aligned with the doctrine of the Church.

Catechesis of the Good Shepherd provides hands-on materials and experiences for the children that make real to them the Catechism of the Catholic Church (contains our doctrine), the Sacred Scripture (the Word of God), and the Roman Missal and the books on the Rites (our Liturgy - the practice of our faith through our worship). Thus, our textbooks ARE in conformity, because the textbooks we use are those published by the Catholic Church herself.

We could stop there; but most people don't.

The secondary issue comes down to the fact that the experience of the child in ANY faith formation program is only as good as the catechist who allows the Holy Spirit to be in control and not bring in one's own agenda. One could be using a perfectly sound published textbook and the children will NOT get the proper teaching from it, if the catechist has a different agenda or is poorly formed in his/her own faith.

On the other hand, one could be using a perfectly rotten textbook and the catechist has the know-how to bring in appropriate teaching and appropriate experiences so that the children actually learn and grow (this catechist is being led by the Holy Spirit).

Catechesis of the Good Shepherd provides both the sound doctrine (by using the Bible, the Roman Missal and the CCC) and the proper catechist formation in one package: via 90+ hour formation courses for each level (working with 3-6 year olds, 6-9 year olds and 9-12+ year olds).

Friday, June 6, 2014

Mid-West Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Courses - Level 1 and Level 2 - Indiana (Kentucky, Ohio)

To be offered in St. Leon, Indiana this summer and into the school year:

Level 1 - Part 1:
Each day is 8a-4p
July 26
September 27
October 25
November 15
December 6

Part 2:
Choose either Sundays to correspond with the above Saturdays
July 27, September 28, October 26, November 16, December 7
or continue the Saturdays
January 17, February 21, March 14, April 18, May 9

Level 2 - Complete Formation Course: 
8am-4pm each day
June 9, 10 (see note below - it is not too late to join!)
July 7, 8
August 4
October 13
November 8
February/March dates: TBD (3 additional days)
UPDATE: 6/16/14: YOU CAN STILL JOIN THIS COURSE! Attend any days you can; missed days can be made up by meeting with the course formation leader at an alternate time, or join a later level 2 formation course and come to the needed portions.

On-site lodging available (provide your own food; lodging is a house with full kitchen)

At the lovely St. Joseph location of All Saints Parish - home to 3 atriums (one at each level). Nearby St. John the Baptist location of All Saints Parish has a second level 1 for participants to visit; and nearby St. Paul location of All Saints Parish has a second level 2 for possible visiting (need to check on that).

All Saints Parish has the only level 3 atrium in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and the longest-running parish-based Catechesis of the Good Shepherd atrium at any level within this archdiocese.

Come join us!

About the Formation Leader - Jessica Welsh is a recognized formation leader of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd National Association.
I have been in the atrium for 10 years, following the growth of my son in the atrium (starting in infancy and now in level 3). I currently have 5 weekly atrium times: 1 level 1, 2 level 3 and 2 atriums that combine levels 2 and 3. I work with children who attend public school, private school and homeschool. 
On the side, I offer online Montessori homeschool support for primary (ages 3-6) and elementary (6-12 years) - based on AMI practices and albums.
I am excited to offer these two courses in my home-town and hope that everyone who can make it can come.
Looking for a course elsewhere? I am also happy to travel elsewhere for courses, if you have enough people in need of formation :)


Monday, May 12, 2014

Mid-west CGS Formation Courses

To be offered in St. Leon, Indiana this summer and into the school year:

Level 1 - Part 1:
July 25, 26
September 26, 27
November 14, 15
Part 2: TBA

Level 2 - Complete Formation Course: 
June 9, 10
July 7, 8
August 4
October 13
November 8
February/March dates: TBD

On-site lodging available (provide your own food; lodging is a house with full kitchen)

At the lovely St. Joseph location of All Saints Parish - home to 3 atriums (one at each level). Nearby St. John the Baptist location of All Saints Parish has a second level 1 for participants to visit; and nearby St. Paul location of All Saints Parish has a second level 2 for possible visiting (need to check on that).

All Saints Parish has the only level 3 atrium in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and the longest-running parish-based Catechesis of the Good Shepherd atrium at any level within this archdiocese.

Come join us!

About the Formation Leader - Jessica Welsh is a National Association recognized formation leader.
I have been in the atrium for 10 years, following the growth of my son in the atrium (starting in infancy and now in level 3). I currently have 5 weekly atrium times: 1 level 1, 2 level 3 and 2 atriums that combine levels 2 and 3. I work with children who attend public school, private school and homeschool. 
On the side, I offer online Montessori homeschool support for primary (ages 3-6) and elementary (6-12 years) - based on AMI practices and albums.
I am excited to offer these two courses in my home-town and hope that everyone who can make it can come. I am also happy to travel elsewhere for courses, if you have enough people in need of formation :)


Saturday, May 3, 2014

Climbing the Walls

Came into the atrium one day to find this: 

Me too, Ladies - definitely me too!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Pin Map Love

I love the pin maps. They are a useful technique for mastering geography without being all boring about it ;) 

We have modified this work for our local atrium spaces. 

In level 2 and 3, we have the following: 
  1. Cities and Regions
  2. Mountain Peaks
  3. Mountain Ranges, Desert, Bodies of Water
(this is the "old" set up which we have chosen to keep - they've been modified a bit)

In level 2, there is a control map for each map and a corresponding booklet with a page for each pin. We modified the booklets to include EVERY location with a Scripture reference. 

We also removed some locations that NO ATLAS or internet search could tell me the proper location for. We ditched those ones. 

This way, the child can read the corresponding booklet, see the Scripture reference, locate the city/etc. on the control map and pin the location on the blank map. They also have access to various atlases and a large wall map, but this helps them to focus in. 

In level 3, we have all three of the above maps AND we have a wooden blank pin map that contains all of those features on ONE. There is only ONE control map: it has everything on it. 
All features and All Features control - in level 3
No booklets. Instead, I hand them a chart of Scripture references - look up the Scripture passages, find the name of a geographical feature - when the chart is complete, I check it for accuracy. When all are accurate, they have earned the privilege to use the pin maps. 

At this level, they have to use the atlases in the atrium to find their locations, place it on the blank pin map of their choosing (they can work with any of the 4 wood map options) - then use the control map to check their work. If they get something wrong, they need to go back to the atlas and see what happened - maybe one atlas says one thing and another says something different..... Tricky! 

Two level 2 children working with the level 2 versions. The control maps are photocopies of the wood maps, then we used sticky labels for the names, mounted the copies onto tagboard and wrapped in contact paper. You can see the children are on their third map (the other two are finished, in the background). 

Yes, they should be working on rugs. We are having a scenario with rugs on this particular day ;) 

up close of the Cities/Regions blank pin map

The level 2 labels in our local atrium
These are not very sturdy as the labels like to slide off
and the pins bend
But they work for getting started! 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Sola Scriptura ???

Recently, a Christian company was asked about on one of my online groups - their "about us" has this to say:

To summarize, we at Lamplighter believe:
  • Sola Scriptura – Scripture alone presents the framework of final authority for faith (doctrine) and practice.
  • Sola gracia – Grace is not only essential, but is God’s exclusive method of redemption.
  • Sola Fide – Faith apart from works is the only means of receiving redemption, justification and all other gifts of God.
  • Solo Cristo – Only Christ is savior and Lord.  There is no saving merit apart from or in addition to Christ’s righteousness and sacrifice.  His work is sufficient and complete for accomplishing our redemption and cannot be supplemented with efforts of our own.
  • Soli Deo Gloria – To God alone the glory, the only appropriate response, recognizes no other as worthy to receive honor or praise."

I guess I just don't understand stuff like this.

The Bible ALONE? But the Christian Church began before the New Testament was written; the Hebrew people lived for centuries with an in-development Hebrew Bible canon. So "Tradition" came before "Scripture" - the two work together. But ok, let's go with Bible alone for a few more moments.

God's Grace? Yep. Agreed.

Faith alone? Maybe. But "By their works, they shall be known." (Matthew chapter 7) The BIBLE (Bible alone, right?) has Jesus' teachings about HOW TO ACT in the Kingdom of Heaven. It is faith alone that gets us in, but it is our works (the *fruits* of our faith) that KEEP us in. If we do not bear fruit, we will be pruned and thrown out to be burned for eternity (Book of John chapter 10).

Christ alone? Yep. But He is part of a Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) - and we can ALL intercede for one another. Christ wants us to pray for each other - and those praying includes those who have gone before us, those with us now and those who may not even personally know us.

To God alone be glory - YES! Here is where we have a difference in definition of words. Non-Catholics have one definition for worship; Catholics have THREE. WHY!? Those crazy Catholics! Going back to the original languages, how dare they?
Dulia, Hyper-dulia, Latria.

  • Latria is the highest of worship - TRUE WORSHIP - reserved for God alone. THIS is true worship and is reserved for God alone. 
  • Dulia is a high form of RESPECT/HONOR - reserved for those humans who have lived virtuous lives and have pointed others to Christ. 
  • Hyper-dulia is reserved for the one who carried God in her womb and nursed the Lord, the Creator, at her breast: Jesus' mother: Mary. DEVOTION to the one who said YES, when our original parents (Adam and Eve) said NO. Not worship ---- DEVOTION. 
But all of this is in the Bible - or part of the Tradition that was the Church before the Bible. The Bible itself says, "There is more outside of this writing - the entire world could not contain the works of Christ during His life on Earth alone - follow all that I taught you in person, this letter is only clarification and reiteration of specific points." (The Apostle Paul - serious paraphrasing there)

The Bible itself says that it should not be used as the ONLY source. 

Otherwise, guess what? Protestants agree with Catholics on more than they know - they only think they are disagreeing. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Plan of God: Vocation

Looking to lay a strong foundation in the youth I work with - for discerning one's life - I came across this beautiful poster:

SUCH a beautiful image! Scripture, all states of life, sacraments are all included in this beautiful image.

More information can be found at - they have a DVD, resource guide outlining all Scripture and Church documents referenced, and a set of 10 lesson plans for grades 4-8.
(I make no profit from sharing this resource - I just want to share!)

I do not own or use the lesson plans just yet, but I intend to do so. I intend to modify them so that they become an independent work for the children in the level 3 atrium - as a self-study of this poster to extend the work of the Plan of God and the Personal Plan of God.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Catechesis of the Good Shepherd - Conformity and Red Flags

Some questions that come up that are perhaps not answered in the most succinct way by the CGS National Office:

Does the CGS have an imprimatur? 
Short answer: This isn't quite the right question.
Longer answer: CGS as a whole is not a published curriculum or teaching text. Imprimaturs and Nihil Obstats are reserved for publications addressing the Catholic faith. CGS is a method and an environment whose primary texts are the Roman Missal, Sacred Scripture and the Cathechism of the Catholic Church. Thus an imprimatur and nihil obstat do not apply to CGS as a whole.

Do CGS published texts have the imprimatur? 
Short answer: Yes.
Longer answer: The published texts regarding CGS have both the imprimatur and the nihil obstat; these texts are not the ones utilized by the students - these are utilized by the adults during their formation, with the primary texts of study being the Roman Missal, Sacred Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Is CGS on the Bishops' approved list of religious ed texts? 
Short answer: No.
Medium-Long answer: the Bishops' list is ONLY for *published textbooks* - thus the question doesn't apply to Catechesis of the Good Shepherd - even if the albums (lesson plans) were published, still the only "published text" the child uses is the Holy Bible and the Roman Missal.
Longer answer: Like the Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat, the approval process to get on that list doesn't apply to CGS because the teaching program that the children receive is not a published text. The (arch)bishops of many (arch)dioceses approve the use of CGS and encourage its use among the faithful, but it doesn't fit within the scope of the "approved texts list".
Even longer answer: CGS Letter of Conformity with the CCC


Censor's stamp: NIHIL OBSTAT "nothing stands in the way"

Bishop's stamp: IMPRIMATUR "let it be printed"

UPDATE: 3/3/2014 - I think I might make this post a page of its own.
I am also downloading the protocol used to assess each published text - use the same form and the same format to correlate CGS as it stands at this moment in time. CGS serves to meet the needs of the children - thus is a work-in-progress in the fine-tune details.

But this still compares favorably to published texts - just because a lesson is there, doesn't mean it happens. Due to the 3-year nature of the atrium, if something is "missed" one year, it is picked up the next - or absorbed from the work of older children who already received that presentation.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Altar Serving

My boy!

Kneeling with Father (Legoboy is on the other side, of course)

Tried to catch them bowing, but missed it. Silly camera! 

he's SO tiny!
But he did a great job ringing the bells,
seeking help when needed,
being discreet about checking to see if I was there
(I wasn't going to be - glad I was!),
staying calm when he forgot anything,
and generally making his mother SO proud!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Atrium Testings

An inherent feature of a Montessori environment is the high amount of real-life immediate feedback on the learning of the children.

Another inherent feature is faith that the planting of seeds will sprout forth in their own due time.

However, when you are in a parish with archdiocese requirements. Guess what? You might have to do outside testing. Same goes for many academic Montessori classes.

The difference? Well, there is no inherent difference actually. Only in the reactions that some people have. School-based tests are taken far more seriously, even if the schools don't always place much weight on the results. In our area, it seems the religious education tests are seen as a nuisance at worst, with meaningless results that no-one cares about. So it's sort of like, "Why bother with them?"

As Montessori as I am - I feel the need to take these tests seriously. Why? Out of respect for the archbishop who is requesting they be done.

And besides - why NOT compare our parish children to others? No names are on these tests, we're not supposed to read the test responses - so none of us will ever know how any given child responded - and frankly, that bothers me. I don't need to know specific children, but I *would* like to know if 90% of my 5th graders can't answer a particular question with the answer "vocation". That means I need to emphasize that word (we utilize it in the level 3 atrium, but from a prophetic standpoint - not yet at a personal level (that is more an adolescent focus, but if our archdiocese wants these children to understand the concept of vocation - then OUR responsibility as catechists is to make it happen)).

For me, this all comes down to respect for authority. The Bishop (archbishop) has jurisdiction over our geographical area. HE is the model of the Good Shepherd for us. Unless he is requesting sinful actions of us, we are to respect his leadership, the educational standards he approves for our area and his authority as a shepherd of us, his flock.

Those test results, if we're going to provide them at all, should be utilized - they are a gauge for how well our parishes are fulfilling the archdiocesan faith formation standards. If we are consistently missing the boat, time to fill in that hole - not simply say, "We just see how the children grow from one testing year to the next year that they test in." Again I say - if there are gaps between what the archdiocese wants and what is testing for as compared to the knowledge our children are consistently showing - the very respect due to the diocesan leadership is to fill those gaps.

Here I paste a portion of a recent e-mail message:

It's really, truly not a big deal; there are no consequences for passing or failing - but it is an interesting assessment nonetheless. The questions are not worded with the greatest clarity either so the results will be interesting and we'll leave it at that ;)

However, it is important to realize what the archdiocese thinks is important and to show respect for and obedience to our archbishop, who wants the tests administered and taken seriously.

No, I will not "teach" to the test, but there are a few terms to be incorporated into our usual presentations in such a way that they become familiar to the children - not for the test, but for respect for the authority inherent to our church and archdiocese - you could say that I can, should and DO teach to the archdiocesan standards, with which the test is mostly correlated:
  • evangelize 
  • evangelization 
  • vocation (in a more personal sense than our prophet studies) 
  • evangelist (as in the Gospel writers) 
  • specifically listing the types of prayers 
  • familiarity with the basic hierarchy of the church and incarnation. 
These are all CONCEPTS we already cover - and cover quite well when the children are engaged; but we don't always use these terms in a way that translates into what non-atrium children are speaking (this happens in academic Montessori environments too).

Regarding those standards - as compared to the atrium:
No curriculum fits the standards to a T. There are approved published texts, but none are a perfect match. Thus there will be gaps between the book-learning and the arch/diocese standards (same thing happens in academic schools).

As a Montessori environment, the atrium (just as an academic Montessori class) provides several wonderful blessings --- not only can we provide what the universal child needs at a particular stage of development, honing in on the developmentally appropriate key tenets of our Faith, but we can also meet the needs of individual children and their particular interests. In addition, we have the benefit of ensuring that any local educational standards can be met 100%. That doesn't mean every child "gets" or understands or retains everything, but that we are indeed able to provide everything - and at least plant seeds for later development.

Items added to the atrium to match the archdiocese standards:
  • the booklet on the types of prayer
  • booklet on the hierarchy of the Church
  • vocations
  • I still need to determine the best route for introducing the social justice principles into our particular environment - likely with the virtues work, but I'm not 100% sure yet.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

When Lighting the Paschal Candle... sure to snuff it out.

72 hours later: 
(pile of wax removed from the side, candle removed from base)

For perspective:

Maybe 1/3 gone? Much less than the half I thought it was until I compared the actual photos. 

Thank you God for your goodness and grace - and your prompting to keep school open on a day everyone around us closed. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Sacramental Preparation: Reflections

I'll say it upfront: the ideal retreat layout is ideal for a reason - because it works.

However, in the United States, we have this tendency to think that we are so special, that what works for the universal child can't possibly work for our special American kids. We must always be modifying-modifying-modifying.

I say that entirely seriously - we truly believe that about ourselves and about our children! I catch myself doing it. all. the. time. It annoys me to no end, yet I'm indoctrinated into it because this country is my earthly home.

Reality-Check: Multiple Parishes and Dioceses:
With that said, the atrium situations I am in right now, I am not ready to rent out a retreat center for 4 long days (the ideal) and try to coordinate across several parishes (since one of the dioceses I am in requires 1st sacraments to be done in one's own parish - just about ZERO exceptions --- CGS experience would not be an acceptable exception) and three dioceses.

With the variety of parishes the children attend, some children did Reconciliation in December, some in January, 1-2 in February, the rest in March or more likely April. First Holy Communion will be in early May for just about everyone due to the Lenten/Easter schedule this year. So if we could have coordinated Reconciliation, we MIGHT have been able to coordinate retreats with Communion - but no, because the parents want family time the weekend of First Holy Communion.

The Retreats:
The ideal: 4 full days leading up to and including the Sunday of receiving First Holy Communion. Thursday, Friday, Saturday 8am-8pm (or so) and Sunday from before Mass until several hours after Mass, returning to the atrium or the retreat area for a post-communion reflection. The children LOVE this experience! Parents not so much - because we (I include myself in this!) want the fancy dress/suit, the pictures afterward, the party, the celebration - the outer JOY! to express our inner joy.

Should this time of sacramental celebration be focused on the child's reception - internal growth in the faith? Savoring that spiritual moment and not clogging it up with outer signs of joy?

Our Experience:
In a way, my son's experience was sublime in that regard. His first Reconciliation was with a wonderful priest friend (and spiritual director) of ours, who traveled across the country (for other reasons) and coordinated hearing Legoboy's first reconciliation in our local/geographical parish (where he attended CGS, but we were not members). We were within our own diocese, and within our geographical parish's boundaries - but not at the parish of our membership and not with the priest associated with a local parish. We received all the appropriate permissions - and it was a quiet day, with no one else present in the church. We went out to lunch together afterward - just the three of us.

Focus on the spiritual.

He did the one-day sacramental preparation retreat with his atrium group - a week before they did their First Holy Communion (he did not receive there because he was waiting for another particular special day that was upcoming.... see below). This was his second reconciliation and he had a unique experience at that retreat day.

For First Holy Communion, he received at the cathedral in a neighboring diocese where his Godfather was being ordained a priest. There was no announcement, no banner, no pew decoration, no mention in the bulletin (although his name was mentioned for something else I think), no party for "him" afterward though we had a quiet reception of a few gifts from Godfather at one point and the priest friend from above at another time (he also heard my son's confession again before the ordination Mass began).
We received all the necessary permissions there as well. Intricate to plan, but quiet for the child.

Focus on the spiritual.

He LOVED it.

We had a small party in our home the following day for local friends and parishioners from our parish. Two weeks later, we had his party in another state with the rest of our friends and family. He enjoyed the parties and everyone enjoyed sharing this moment with him.

But the focus on the "day of" was on the sacrament itself.

As it should be.

The White Garment:

The "ideal" in CGS is for the children to wear their white garments received after Reconciliation on Saturday - to their First Holy Communion on Sunday. No fancy dress or suit; everyone dressed in a long white flowing garment - think something like altar servers.

I like the concept.

But honestly - I like the dress-up too! This year, I am blessed with the opportunity to make a beautiful veil for a wonderful young lady receiving her sacraments for the first time. I have not seen her dress, but I am sure it is lovely - and special - worn by others in her family before her.

There is something special about having that connection with our immediate family AND with the universal church. I don't know if *I* could give that up for the sake of the children wearing a simple white garment during their First Holy Communion Mass.

But the children get it. White garment - all the parables, all the teaching, Baptismal garments, etc. White garment. Unstained. They GET it. They go deep with it.

I have a tough time with this one - I see the benefit both ways - and I want to do it both ways!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Concerns of the Children

At one evening atrium, early in January, I just wasn't prepared for our intended Epiphany celebration. We have many materials and presentations I could do with the children - so I thought we'd start at the prayer table and discern which materials we should work with based on a light conversation.


Our light conversation covered the following topics: 
  • Let's celebrate Christmas until February 2nd - for the traditional 40 days of Christmas - the original date for the Presentation in the Temple - and because we prepared for approximately 28 days so the celebration can be longer than the preparation time - and so we could actually celebrate True Christmas in the atrium. 
  • Because what is True Christmas? The coming of the Light into the world - 2000 years ago, at our baptisms, and at the Parousia. We are ALWAYS to be preparing for the Coming of the Light. 
  • We got to looking at our liturgical calendar (sitting on the prayer table) - Easter is longer than Lent - and we end with a Sunday in red: Pentecost. 
  • But what about the other red days? 
  • And why doesn't our calendar show the rose Sundays for Advent (Gaudete) and Lent (Laetare)
  • (we reviewed why we use rose and how to know which Sunday is rose and why that Sunday in each season)
  • We began reading our Liturgical Colors booklet, going through each color, explaining the significance and definitions of any new words - quizzing on what they already know. 
  • New terms up for discussion: Requiem Mass, age of reason, children dying before the age of reason, children dying in the womb
  • Discussing All Saints Day, followed by All Souls' Day - purgatory came into the conversation. Do you know we have NOTHING in the atrium (officially) on purgatory? On the Church Militant, Church Suffering and Church Triumphant? This is CORE to our faith and we have missed it as an official work in the atrium. Hm. 
  • So we talked about the 3 portions of the Church; the reality of Purgatory - not as an alternate to Hell, but a place all its own - for purging the remnants of stains from our white garments (tying in to the Baptism studies we've done, the parables we've done that mention white garments such as the Wedding Feast, Holy Communion, Reconciliation, etc.) - as a place that we CHOOSE to go when God pronounces our particular judgment at the moment of death (Heaven or Hell) and we ourselves realize our uncleanliness to be in Heaven - thus we choose Purgatory to finish purging, cleansing - so that we enter the gates of Heaven whiter than freshly fallen snow. 
  • This led back to the babies who die before being baptized; who die in their mother's wombs. What does the Church teach us about them? 

These were 9-12 year olds, entirely guiding the conversation where they wanted it to go. 

These were real conversations, real concerns, real questions - real spiritual needs be addressed. 

Thank you Lord for these precious souls before me, revealing to me the core of our Faith, the purest questions we have, and most essential responses. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Level 3 - new space

Work in progress, and changes have already been made - but thought I'd show off ;)

Two months ago:
(curtains have been added in the meantime too)

Salvation History
Or History of the Kingdom of God
this shelf is more or less unchanged

Typology and Art supplies
calligraphy has been built up
sparkly pens box made more accessible
additional art supplies on the bottom shelf

overall untouched - details filled in though

Moral Formation
Bibles, Scripture charts, information on Scripture
more or less untouched

Prayer table, information on prayer, communal prayer
(white table holds the liturgical calendar)
communal prayer has been built up
(we now have 3 levels of planning - new post soon)

our prayer table supply cabinet

resource area and children's folders
podium moved to prayer area
additional end table inserted and both turned
so folder containers for 2 atriums are out at the same time
(no more switching them around work for me)

Geography and charts
charts box is looking great now! will have a post on that soon
geography shelving needs work - would like that dark brown
on the left to slide under the medium brown on the right
Contemplating making the brown table taller
(rather than cut down the nice furniture that the
dark brown end table truly is)

practical life supplies

long wall and covered chalkboard (so we can mount timelines!)
Swapped out 2000 Years for History of Israel
added a pink wall-folder-hanging-thing on the corkboard on the left
tall basket holds the large timelines

the children move  the lamps and the low tables around as/where needed

view from one corner
the tables get moved around a LOT

view from another corner

and a 3rd corner

and the 4th corner

another view of the long wall. I LOVE this thing! 

UPDATES in January (prior to posting):

  • curtains hung on windows
  • timeline on wall swapped out for History of Israel
  • 2 larger tables with chairs - removed (for now they are against the wall under the timelines, for our epiphany celebration - but with that move, it cleared up so much space, I think we'll remove the tables entirely and see if we can get some equal-height shelving under that rail to have a "surface area" with storage underneath (curtains hung to cover it) ---- remove all but 2 chairs (for visitors and adults who can't sit on the floor); use floor tables (seen in last photo above - two are stacked under the 2000 Years timeline), get more of those; and we have hard mats for the floor and two other lower tables. 
  • Geography: I propped the one table up higher, so the map of Jerusalem table slides underneath now, with a drawer to hold the movable pieces. The children can pull it out, use it, put it away. This frees up space to the left (along with the removal of the table) to have a nice box for our large charts to the left of the geography (shown above to the right, with the charts at an angle - this has been made larger, so the charts now sit flat against the back)

Yeah, need to get some new photos ;)