Monday, December 17, 2007


Orphelia drew this picture at age five, saying,
"This is Jesus and this is his light. And this is Mary and she's very happy. And this is Joseph and the shepherd with his stick. And this is the angel."

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Annunciation

The Annunciation as retold by Hannah, age 5:
Mary lived in a house. She was poor.
One day, an angel came and said to Mary, "Hail Mary, the Lord is with you."
Mary thought, "Ohhhhh!"
"Mary, do not be afraid of me," said the angel. "You are pregnant."
Jesus was in Mary's tummy.

I think God was in Mary's heart.

Monday, December 3, 2007

A 6-9-Year-Old's Drawing of the Annunciation

Alexander, a six-year-old, said this upon entering Advent, the time of preparation for Christmas, "'s like we're birds preparing our nests."

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

This work of art is an example of a child's synthesis of several themes offered over a period of years in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. It shows that she is not compartmentalizing the materials but allowing them to inform one another.

It is a synthesis of the historical Biblical passage of the nativity (central image), the liturgical sign of the Advent Wreath, the parable of the Good Shepherd, the Maxim to love one another, and a snippet from the creed "true God to true God (sic)" and a prayer of thanks. Our reflection here is to consider each part in relation to the others.

In the context of the Nativity what do we learn about how Jesus loved us, the season of Advent, the image of the Good Shepherd, the creed, and our thanksgiving? How is our prayer of thanks informed by how Jesus loved us, the Nativity, the Good Shepherd, Advent, or the Creed? This work of art is indeed a guide for a rich meditation.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

"We're Eternal"

Aidan, 6, said during a reflection on the Wolf and Hireling, "The Good Shepherd's not afraid to stand in front of the wolf. He's eternal. And we're eternal, too. Not in this life; in a whole brand new life after this one."

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Look! Jesus is everywhere here!

A catechist told the story of a 3-year-old's first day in the Atrium.
Rosanne practically danced outside of the Atrium, in the courtyard. It was finally her turn to come to the Atrium! She had been coming with her mother, watching her older brother Devin enter the atrium, for three years. Finally, she would hear her own name called! Rosanne was the first to offer to model a "quiet walk", to whisper her name using "quiet talking", and was very eager to name the items she saw on the prayer table. When I asked what she saw, she said, "I see Jesus, holding a lamb." How amazing to me that children intuitively know Jesus is our Good Shepherd. And as we walked through the environment, quietly taking in all that we could with just our eyes, she stopped before some artwork of the Good Shepherd, which hung on the walls near our Mass area. "Look! Jesus is everywhere here!" Another year is underway.

Friday, October 12, 2007

What is Life all About?

Twelve-year-old Deidre's written reflection:
What is life all about?
The sun comes up, the sun goes down.
The tide comes in, the tide goes down.
You wake up, you go to sleep.
Is life just a routine?
Our purpose in life is not to see who becomes the richest.
It is not to see who is the most beautiful.
But it is to serve the Lord and learn to love Him.
So don't waste your time trying to become rich or beautiful,
spend it on learning to love the Lord and serve him.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The Lost Sheep

After the Eucharistic Presence presentation, Henry worked with the material. He had the Good Shepherd go out and find the lost sheep, and when the lost were found, the altar was set for a grand celebration, to mark their return. Henry said that the people around the altar "couldn't believe it," so amazed were they at what the Good Shepherd had done. The people were "so surprised" to have a celebration like this.

When evil comes

Immediately after a presentation of the Wolf and Hireling, an 8 year old, whose parents were in court challenging one another for possession of the children in a divorce case, said: "Jesus told this because we're the sheep and He's the shepherd. When evil comes, we're just gonna get back up with the shepherd. It's gonna be all right."

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Good Shepherd is keeping his eye on him

A catechist was presenting the Good Shepherd parable to four-year-old Oliver, a child often known as the class clown of the atrium.

As they read the Scripture Oliver moved the figures. At the end, he chose not to move the sheep back to the Good Shepherd. Then he took one sheep from the group and moved it away from the others, and then into the sheepfold, alone. The catechist asked him, " ...this sheep is not with the others?" He said, " The sheep doesn't want to be with the others right now." He thought a moment and added, " But the Good Shepherd is keeping his eye on him anyway." The catechist said, "The Good Shepherd and these sheep may be very far away - can he see the sheep still?" He answered, " Yes."
Later, he moved all the other sheep into the fold to join the one. He looked at the Good Shepherd and said, " His face is beautiful. The sheep like to look at him....he has a beautiful face."

Monday, September 10, 2007

Step by Step

A seven-year-old girl drew this prayer card for the Growing Time of Pentecost. She wrote, "Step by step you'll lead me and I will follow all of my days."

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

First Day of Atrium

From the Atrium Journal of catechist Dan Teller:

"Today was our first day of atrium, and I had a striking interchange with a six-year old, Natalie. Natalie had completed Level I, and this was my first encounter with her at level II. I recorded what I could of what she said, and only wish I could have written more ... but feared that it would have become my memory of her words, rather than the actual words she said.

"What was so striking to me was not her words, but the deep urgency and sincerity with which she said them. This was expressed through her eyes, her gestures, her tone of voice, and her body.

"Natalie was at the Baptism area, exploring the articles of Baptism. Upon smelling the chrism, she remarked to the catechist, "That's how Bethlehem smelled years ago." "Why?" asked the catechist. "Because God is good and made that place good." Many other statements about believers and non-believers followed, which I was unable to record.

"A few moments later, we lit the Paschal candle and I offered Natalie to light a small candle from it. She replied, "I want you to have it. Everyone should have the light. Even if you don't believe in God, you should know He loves you."

"Finally, gesturing to the light and the entire Baptism area, Natalie said, "The light is the path and God speaking to you. Everything is God speaking to you, the cross, the candle, the water, the Bible. Everything is God speaking to us. That's how you know He loves us."

"Later in the atrium session, Natalie was remarking on how beautiful God's words are, and how much she desires that all people love Him. I took her to the tablets with the Great Commandment, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." (Luke 10:27). I invited Natalie to cut out a paper the shape of the tablets and write these words down. With the greatest care, she traced and cut the tablets and wrote the first part of the text down, carefully saving the rest of the work for next week."

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

When we're born, it's like caterpillars

After watching everything being brought to the altar, we were sitting, enjoying the beauty of the prepared altar. The candles were lit and shining. Suddenly Blake, age six, said quietly, "When we're born, it's like caterpillars. While we live, we're building a cocoon. And when we die, we break out of the cocoon and FLY."

Monday, July 30, 2007

"Jesus in My Heart'

Putting my granddaughter Faith to bed after story and prayer I said, "God bless you." Faith replied, "You don't have to bless me, I have Jesus in my heart." Age 5

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Jesus Died. Jesus Rose!

In our school community, which has the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd integrated into the classrooms, the children come from a variety of religious backgrounds. Once a year we gather in a nearby church for a special liturgy.

As we settled into our pews, one four-year-old boy pointed up to the crucified Jesus on the cross above the altar. He leaned over to a five-year-old boy and whispered, "Hey look! Jesus died!"

The second boy whispered back, "Yea. But He Rose."

Monday, July 16, 2007

Feasting on love

During a discussion of the words said at the Breaking of the Bread: "Therefore let us keep the feast, Alleluia", Nicole, 8, had this to add: "Therefore let us keep the feast--don't you understand? We've been feasting on love! It's a feast! That's the kind of feast you WANT to keep in your heart. So much love."

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Jesus' Heart was Broken in Two

After a presentation on the Breaking of the Bread during Eucharist, as five-year-old said,
"Jesus' heart was broken in two. Then he shared it with everybody. Not just one or two people. EVERYBODY."

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

The Good Shepherd goes on a Picnic

Taryn, just turned 6, worked with the Good Shepherd material. She moved the sheep out of the fold, then moved the Good Shepherd back into the fold. She told the adult, "He's taking them on a picnic." Adult: "And he has left them outside the fold?" Taryn: "He has gone to get them something to eat...He is bringing them bread and wine." She moved the Good Shepherd to each sheep in turn.

(This atrium did not have the Eucharistic Presence of the Good Shepherd material which links the Good Shepherd with the Eurachist presence. Taryn had neer seen it, nor heard any talk connecting the Good Shepherd to Eucharist, but made the connection herself.)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Gesture of Peace and the Breaking of the Bread

The catechist was presenting the gestures of peace and breaking of the bread from Mass to a group of 9-year olds. A low round table covered with a white cloth held a plate (model paten) and unbroken bread (model host). After reflecting on the gesture of peace, the catechist invited everyone to stand around the table holding hands. He remarked, “Our standing like this is a way of representing the unity of the peace we experience from Christ. Is this peace just here in our atrium or our own church?”

Several children immediately replied, “No, it’s over the whole world.” Ben exclaimed, “The whole universe!” Charles wordlessly brought a model of the sun and solar system and placed it beside the prayer table (he brought this model from the Montessori classroom connected to our atrium).

Later we reflected on the priest’s gesture of breaking the bread, with the One Broken Bread as the source of our peace. The catechist referred to the broken bread on the model paten, asking “Are there many Jesuses, or just one?”

In response, Charles brought the large Paschal candle to the prayer table. He said, “It’s just like the light.” Charles was referring to the spreading of the one light to many individual lights, which are still united in the One Light. He had lived this reality two weeks before as we celebrated our Easter celebration, the Liturgy of the Light.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A mother whose children attend an atrium recounted this story about her youngest child who was not yet old enough to begin:

Kristina (5th grade), Kyle (18 months) and I were sitting on her bed. Kyle was holding a small icon picture of the Good Shepherd which had just fallen from where it had been hanging in our hallway. As far as I know Kyle had never seen it before. Kristina pointed to the Good Shepherd and said "Who is this, Kyle?" To which he responded "Mommy." I then pointed to the sheep, and asked "Who is this?" "Baby," he answered.

A short while later, my husband wanted to show us all how well Kyle knew all our names. He proceeded to ask him, "Where's Kristina?" "Where's Eric...Eliza...Mommy... Daddy?" To which Kyle pointed appropriately in turn. When asked "Where is Kyle?" he pointed to the sheep in the Good Shepherd picture he was still holding and said, "Me." I had never talked to him about the Good Shepherd.

How vividly we see the deep spiritual connection between the Good Shepherd and the child that exists and is beyond our understanding.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Jesus, I love you

During Eucharist a 6-year-old boy was seated w/ his family. He knew and said every response and prayer. At the consecration, during the elevation of the host he whispered, "Jesus I love you."

Monday, June 4, 2007

The Chalice is Like Creation

Charlie, age seven, had been in the atrium for four years. Driving home with his mother, he mentioned that he had been doing the preparation of the chalice. During the lesson on the preparation of the chalice, the catechist says: "The wine represents Jesus." (She pours a full cruet into chalice.) "The water represents you and me." (She pours one drop of water into the wine.) "Now, what could this mean for us?"

Charlie's mom, a catechist herself, asked him what he thought "the mystery of the water and wine" meant. (His mom was thinking it meant that we are so small, and God is so great.) But Bobby said, "It's like creation: the water is the people, and the wine is Jesus and God. When everything was prepared in the world, people came last, just like the water is added last after the wine is prepared." His mom asked the other catechists whether any of them might have presented this idea to Charlie, but they hadn't -- he came up with it himself.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


It is our hope that this blog, Listening to the Child with the Center for Children and Theology, will become a place to discuss what the child is teaching us about God's love. That discussion happens in the comment area at the end of each post. Below, in last week's post--The Gate is Open--you'll see a great comment for discussion. At the end of each post, you'll see an underlined area telling you how many people have left comments. Click on the link to read what others are contemplating about the post. Feel free to leave your own comments, anonymously or with your name.

This child had created a book with her drawings from several years of work in the Atrium. The book was lost, and so in her great distress, the child began to meticulously recreate every drawing from the book. To the left is the original drawing of Pentecost done when the child was 3 years 9 months. To the right is the same drawing recreated at age 5 years 9 months.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Gate is open

At the First communion Mass Fr. Joe asked the children what it means to receive/eat the bread and wine. Kenneth, age 7, answered, "It means the gate is open."

Monday, May 14, 2007

Alleluia! Alleluia!

The 3-6 year-old child's relationship with God is marked by deep affection and joy. The following is a story of a 4-year-old girl, reflecting this great love:

Francesca prepared the model altar, asked the catechist to light the candles, and then stood at the lecturn singing to her own tune the following words for about five minutes:

Alleluia (repeated many times).
You make me so happy (repeated many times).
Alleluia (repeated many times).

Jesus is with us (sung once as a proclamation).
Alleluia (repeated many times).

Friday, April 27, 2007

Why Do We Need Prayer?

During a conversation with a group of 9-12-year-olds about intercessions and petition, a catechist asked, "Why, if God loves us as you have said, and knows us and knows what we need AND how to give it to us--why then do we need to pray for ourselves and one another?" (The catechist was very honestly asking this question of the students, because she said it had puzzled her for years.)
Ursula, age 10, said, "If I give you the gift of my pencil--(and here she held out her pencil to the catechist)--the gift is not complete until you take it. That's what prayer is: taking the gift God is holding out to you."

Who in our world needs the light?

These words of 9-12 year old children reflect both their global awareness and that the light of Christ illuminates moral questions. For older children, the Risen life we celebrate during this season of Easter extends to all people and all concerns:

During the bombing of Yugoslavia a catechist asked a group of 9-12 year olds, "Who in our world needs the light?" A fourth grade girl, Dana, answered, " The Serbian people need the light so they can stop. The Albanian people need the light so they can hope."

Friday, April 20, 2007

It doesn't matter how big the darkness is, it can't put out the light.

This is a conversation between two young boys, about the power of the Resurrection.

Xavier, 6: See that candle? (the Paschal Candle) It's Jesus and God. There's at least 50,000 darkness out here and only one light. And that light challenged the darkness and won.

Scott, 5: When Jesus was killed on the cross, his light got snuffed. But when he rose, it was like his light lit up a pile of firewood--and the light was MUCH stronger. Everyone was amazed!

Xavier: It doesn't matter how big the darkness is, it can't put out the light. But even one little candle can light up this dark room.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A Hidden Treasure

(Ed. Note: So much of the child's understanding of God remains unspoken. Big revelations may come to them, but the outward signs of these new understandings might be small. We have to remain attentive and observant to get a glimpse of what the child might be contemplating about who God is.

Below is a story from our database about one small sign a catechist found in her atrium, which points to a lovely synthesis a child created. The materials described here are small so a child can use them to meditate on the Biblical passages they represent. In this case, a child took part of the material from one text and integrated it into another - enriching our understanding of both.)

When a catechist in a 6-9 atrium came into the atrium on Monday morning, she found that a child has left out the Last Supper material.

When she took a closer look, she saw that the child had gathered the disciples around the table, and placed on the table a "treasure box" (a material we sometimes use when presenting the parable of the Hidden Treasure). When she opened the box, the catechist discovered the child had placed the tiny paten and bread inside.

The love from the cross drives the darkness away

In this picture, a young 4-5 year old child has drawn a manger near the center of the page, surrounded by darkness. The cross appears to be rising out of the manger. The love from the cross drives the darkness away.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Welcome to Listening to the Child with the Center for Children and Theology!

Children have a deep relationship with God, rich in love and profound joy. They know God, even before God's name is spoken to them. God dwells in the heart of the child. The spirituality of the child has so much to teach us as adults, yet often we are in too much of a hurry to truly listen.
With this blog, we at the Center for Children and Theology invite you to listen for God with children. For over twenty years, we have collected theological reflections, artwork and prayers of children, generally in response to their work in the Montessori based religious formation program called the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.
With the first few posts, we offer excerpts from DoubleClose: The Young Child's Knowledge of God written by our director Catherine Maresca. These posts will include her own reflections from DoubleClose on the gift the child is offering us. We hope that you will add your own reflections as a comment in each post, so that this blog will become a discussion of what the spirituality of childhood is teaching us about the nature of God. Use Catherine's reflections in these first few posts as you guide.

"Thank you, Lord Jesus. He laid down his life for the sheep."

This post is again taken from DoubleClose: The Young Child's Knowledge of God by Catherine Maresca. Please feel free to add you own reflections/thoughts.

After coming home from church, Kevin, age four, sang this line again and again: "Thank you, Lord Jesus. He laid down his life for the sheep."

Theological Reflection
gift as priceless as one's life is breathtaking. As we mature, layers of meaning and detail are added to our understanding of the crucifixion. Our response may be a mixture of horror, guilt, and indebtedness along with gratitude and love. Jesus does not want us to be horrified. He gave us a celebratory meal as the way of remembering the gift of his life. He does not want us to be guilty. He said to his followers, "No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down on my own" (John 10:18). And he does not want us to be indebted. He laid down his life to free us from evil, not to enslave us in debt. The breathtaking gift of Jesus' life is a free gift, so that we "may have life, and have it more abundantly" (John 10:10). And so, we can rejoice with Kevin and sing from our hearts, "Thank you Lord Jesus. He laid down his life for the sheep."

Monday, April 2, 2007

God put a Band-Aid on Him?

The following is an excerpt from Catherine Maresca's book, DoubleClose: The Young Child's Knowledge of God. In Catherine's book, Part One explores the characteristics of young children, their potential for a rich relationship with God, and how young children know God and communicate that knowledge to observant adults. Part Two features responses of young children to the Bible or the liturgy, followed by a reflection that nurtures the reader's own relationship with God. This posting is from Part Two of the book. All names of children were changed, unless they are Catherine's own children.

We invite you to add your own reflections to this child's response, using the comments space below this post.

Henry, age four, was working at the model altar with Rob, his catechist. When he lit the candles Rob announced, "Christ has died. Christ is risen." Henry's next remark focused on the death of Jesus. So Rob said again, "He rose from the dead." Henry was quiet and then asked, "God put a Band-aid on him?"

Theological Reflection
For the young child, a Band-aid is a sign of healing and comfort. Children with a small hurt of any kind often ask for a Band-aid, and then return happily to their activities, confident that their injury is now in good hands. With a more significant cut, children have begun to witness with wonder that under a Band-aid a cut becomes new skin in a few days.
Here Henry applies this amazing phenonmenon to the death and resurrection of Jesus. Death, the ultimate injury, is transformed into the ultimate healing: new, risen life. This power of God's to transform death into life, sickness into health, sadness into joy, is present every day of our lives, not only at the time of our death. God's "Band-aid" can bless each lif. Every injury can be brought to God for comfort, for healing and even for transformation into something new when confidently left in God's good hands. Where do you need God's "Band-aid?"