Monday, December 28, 2009

Big in love

Q. How is God's kingdom like a mustard seed?

Lara, age 6: It's like Jesus who started as a tiny baby and grew and grew - big in love.

Friday, December 25, 2009

It's Jesus' birthday!

My son Scott (6 years old) and I were in a toy store shortly before Christmas. Standing in line with a few toys, a man looked at Scott and said, "Don't you think toys are just the best part of Christmas?" My son's eyes widened and he said with emphatic reverence, "Oh no! It's Jesus' birthday!"

Monday, December 14, 2009

"My Lord!"

Six-year-old Diana to depict Mary's visitation with her cousin Elizabeth.

Monday, December 7, 2009

"Blockages, Blockages"

During their preparation for First Communion, a group of 3rd graders were doing meditations on the parable of the True Vine. From his catechist's perspective, on boy seemed to be unengaged in the discussion. But at Christmas time, the catechist was saying there are people who celebrate Christmas without ever thinking about Jesus. He said mournfully, "Blockages, blockages."

Monday, November 30, 2009

Waiting and Preparing

Vincent, age 3, was engrossed in gazing at the Nativity materials--stretched out, elbows on floor, chin resting in palms. He stayed this way about 30 minutes. He had "wanted something with the baby Jesus." (Actually, wanted Annunciation, but another child was working with it.)

The week before during a spontaneous group exploring of "Light" Vincent commented, "It's light like baby Caleb (his brother)." That same day he was overheard singing a song at the altar about infant Jesus and angels with descriptions of Mary, the stable, animals, and had been "reading" the Bible in the Baptism corner. He went to the assistant excitedly saying, "I found the page that tells about when Jesus was born. Come See. Come see."

Monday, November 23, 2009

During the last week of Advent the group reflected on the prophecy of the names.The catechist asked, "Are there any other names for this child?"

Micah, age 5, jumped, whispered "Redeemer," jumped, whispered "Comforter," jumped, whispered, "Good Shepherd."

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Christopher and Hans, both age 4, and Nicki, age 3, were discussing with me the sheep wool placed under the Peace Bowl. I asked what the wool reminded them about God. Nicki said it reminds us to be quiet so we can listen to God. Hans said it reminds us that the Good Shepherd watches the sheep and that Jesus died and that the sheep reminds us that we are good boys and girls. Christopher said that is reminds us that Jesus died, rose again, and will come back to earth.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A few months after my mother's death my daughter Felice, who was not quite three at the time, asked, "Mommy, where is Nonnnie?" I replied, "Where do you think she is?" We had often discussed Nonnie's presence now in heaven with Jesus. Felice most profoundly responded, "She is in heaven." She paused slightly then continued, "That means she is in the body of Christ, the Bread of heaven." There was another brief pause then she proclaimed, "And so am I."

Monday, October 26, 2009

Q: Do WE have enemies?
Will: Yes! Our enemy is the dark side.

Q: What did the Good Shepherd do with the wolf?
Will: The wolf is one of God's creatures, too. If the Shepherd killed it, he'd be a bad creature, just like the wolf.

Q: So what do you think of the hired man?
Will: He's just scared. he's not so bad, he's just scared.

Monday, October 19, 2009

"Oh, Lord, Shout for Joy!"

After presenting the Mustard Seed to 3 and 4 year old children, Betsy sang with them "Oh, Lord, Shout for Joy." The children added verses including, Early in the morning..., late in the afternoon..., When you wake up..., and finally a three year old sang, When you die...When you live...
Here is a story of Owen, who at 8-months-0ld accompanied his mother one afternoon during a weekend of formation in the Catechesis. All afternoon Owen had been happily occupied with his mom and a few nearby objects which she had provided. At the end of the day, the participants meditated together on the good shepherd. As I proclaimed this passage of Scripture, Owen straightened his torso and focused his attention at the sheepfold. As the figures of the Shepherd and the sheep were brought out of the sheepfold during the reading he outstretched his arms, cried out "aaahhh" and strained toward them, his face alight. When the figure of the Shepherd was rotated (away from Owen) to face the wooden sheep, Owen's face fell and his arms sagged. Noticing this, I turned the Shepherd toward Owen again. His glow returned and his arms returned to the upright and welcoming position until the end of the passage.

It was a wonderful moment, particularly as Owen is our Godson. I'd known in my heart that we would eventually be together in the atrium listening to the Good Shepherd. I didn't realize that moment would first arrive when he was 8 months old?

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Good Shepherd

Sean, age 3 1/2 was doing the Good Shepherd work. He asked me to join him and asked me to light the scripture candle. I cannot recall all he said, but he talked for 10-15 minutes almost nonstop about the Good Shepherd. A sampling follows:

(Holding the sheep) This is me. This is me when I was a baby.
(Picking up another sheep) And this is my brother.
(Pointing to the flock) This is the Good Shepherd's family.
(Taking a sheep out of the fold.) This sheep is lost. He is not really lost. (Placed sheep on back side of sheepfold with nose through twine.) He's looking in the fold. He wants to come in.
Here I began reading the scripture booklet. "The Good shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out." (We placed the Good shepherd and the sheep out in the pasture.) And then we walked. And we took a little trips. And then I climbed up. (Sean placed his sheep up on the Good shepherd shoulders.) And then my dad did that too! (He had much joy in his voice.) And then we closed up our sheepfold so we could live in that.
And this is the watch out person and these are all the sheep.
He paused. I read, "When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them and his sheep follow him." (Sean spoke) And then the leader comes along too. Some sheep are the leaders. Only two sheep have to be the leaders.
I read, "The sheep follow him because they know his voice." Sean spoke: Can you help me make it further so the other sheep get in? (He wanted me to help move the Good Shepherd and sheep around the sheepfold to make room for all the sheep to follow.)
The sheep are following the Good Shepherd and then some want to come in the fold. Then they lift up the gate.
I said, "And the Good Shepherd always makes sure that the sheep are safe."Sean: And no stranger comes along.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Look, Mom. It's Jesus

Nora is the catechist and mother of a four year old boy, Nolan, who generally appears to need more movement than many other children of the same age, verbal, and loud. His work is often in the gray area between work and play. He and his best friend were at the cenacle. Then Nolan started taking things from the cenacle over to the altar. Nora reached a "that's it!" moment and heads over to the altar area with just enough presence of mind to ask first about Nolan's work. He unlocks the tabernacle, opens the door, and says, "Look, Mom. It's Jesus!"

Monday, September 14, 2009

Roberta 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 Daniel enter the atrium, for three years. Finally, she would hear her own name called! Roberta 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.

Monday, September 7, 2009

An Introduction to the Atrium

The children were gathered around the prayer table for welcoming and an introduction into their special place,the atrium. We then gave every child an item from the prayer table, from the cloth to the Good Shepherd statue, to hold as we very slowly and quietly processed around the room singing, "Come into God's presence singing Alleluia! Alleluia!" Then, as we came back to the prayer table each child in turn placed their item back on the table. (We had 18 children and 6 adults that day!) The children were asked if they had a song they'd like to share and 3 1/2 year old Nena leaped from the floor and very solemnly began to sing, "Twinkle, twinkle, little star" All of the children proceeded to sing along in the same solemn manner.

After another song Nena jumped up again and began to sing something entirely of her own creation - in this small lilting voice. Not all of it was intelligible - "love" was mentioned and "beautiful". It only lasted a few seconds and then she shyly sat down - it was so lovely and certainly set the mood and tone for the rest of the morning for all of us - children and adults - in the atrium.

Monday, August 31, 2009

In her Montessori classroom, Becca, age 6, wrote this story with the Movable Alphabet:

wus along tim ago win ther was no wrld
ther wus onl god becus he wus ol bi himslf
so he mad too peepl

Monday, August 24, 2009

Jesus is the boss of the Earth

Elliot, age 6, asked his Mom, "Who's the boss of the Earth?"
"God," she answered.
"Nah," he responded.
"Then who?" she said.
"Jesus is the boss of the Earth; God is the boss of heaven," Desmond replied.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Eucharistic Presence

Dana, age 5, had been coming to the atrium infrequently. Her catechist finally had the chance to present to her the Eucharistic Presence--a meditation which connects the Eucharist to the Good Shepherd feeding his flock. Immediately after receiving the presentation, Dana worked alone for an hour and drew this reflection. The drawing includes a group of people gathered around the altar with bread and wine, and an image of a sheep above the altar.

Monday, August 10, 2009

"It’s all made of pearls"

From Catechist Dan Teller's Journal:
The priest makes the gesture of epiclesis during the Eucharistic prayer at Mass, by lowering his hands over the chalice and paten, and praying over the gifts, “And so Father, we bring you these gifts…” This gesture is presented to the children as an indication of the first part of an exchange between God and people: God sending the gift of Himself in the Eucharist; people responding with the gifts of themselves, through the prayer of Offering that the priest makes in elevating the host and precious blood (“Through Him, with Him…)

Uri, age 4: “It’s all made of pearls.” (as the glass chalice and paten are brought out, a week or two following a lesson on Jesus’ parable, “The Pearl of Great Price”, which indicates the value of the Kingdom of God)

Rowan, age 6: During conversation of the priest’s hands being held down, and the meaning of this: “God is a gift to us; we are a gift to God.”

Monday, August 3, 2009

Wow -- birth and death -- all at once in the same place

Walter, age seven, has been in the atrium for three years. When he received the City of Jerusalem presentation, we lit a small candle next to the empty tomb to symbolize the resurrection. Walter then went to do the baptism work for the umpteenth time. He was about halfway through lighting the small candles from the large paschal candle, when he paused, looked at the paschal candle and the smaller candles, and said, "Wow -- birth and death -- all at once in the same place."

Monday, July 27, 2009

I was giving the presentation of The Wedding Banquet to a group of 6-8-year-0ld. I told them to listen carefully so they could tell me what Jesus was trying to tell us about the Kingdom of Heaven. They listened intently. So intently, that one little fellow said when I had finished, that he needed to hear it gain. He also asked me exactly what "binding hand and foot" really meant. So we went through the whole presentation again. Then we thought about it. They were very good at figuring out what Jesus meant. However, the little fellow still looked very concerned. Finally, he asked me if we could add another figure to the story. The figure of a queen. Intrigued by his thought pattern, I asked why. He was very clear. "Well, you see, if there had been a queen, she'd have given the fellow who showed up without a wedding robe a second chance."

Monday, July 13, 2009

God is everywhere

Lara, age 8, was outside with her mother afterschool. She started raising her arms and saying, "Thank you, God. Praise the Lord," and then bowing.
She said to her mother, "You know, Mom, God is everywhere, in everything, so it doesn't matter where you bow."

Monday, July 6, 2009

One of my favorite moments came when I was in the atrium by myself, cleaning and straightening after a delightful and chaotic Sunday morning, in which the children had planned a lovely prayer service. Left on the prayer table was a small slip of paper, no bigger than 1 square inch. It read:
O God, this werl needs to be com

Monday, June 29, 2009

After the Eucharistic Presence presentation, Henrik 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. Henrik 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.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Jesus is in everything

During bible study we read the passage in John I: All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. I asked what this could mean, and Oliver, age 9, answered, "It means that everything created through Jesus had a little of Jesus as part of it. Jesus is in everything."

Monday, June 15, 2009

"It changes us."

During a presentation of the leaven with a 6-9 group I asked, "Do you think the kingdom changes anything in the world?
Felicia, 6, answered, "It changes us."
"It makes us grow - like the seed."

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Good Shepherd invited them.....

Submitted by catechist Mary Lennard:

Following the presentation of the Found Sheep, two four-year old girls were working with the sheepfold. After a time they burst into joyful laughter. I looked over to see that the sheepfold was empty. No sheep were in sight. "Where are the sheep?" I asked. Confidently
they showed me the altar. They had arranged the sheep around it.
"The Good Shepherd invited them to eat bread and drink wine," they
explained. The catechists rejoiced in awe that the Shepherd had led
them to a new pasture.

Monday, June 1, 2009

God can speak our language.

Bethany, age 8: "When we get baptized, we start learning about God. And we're just babies! Our parents take us to church and we CAN UNDERSTAND THINGS!! We can understand things without anybody telling us because GOD is telling us. God can speak our language. And when we sleep, God sends angels into our dreams.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Jesus is my only power.

During a Pentecost celebration. The children had lit small candles to place in front of the "gift" candles with the Paschal candle behind all. We were enjoying the moment, singing or being quiet. Kristopher, age 5, made this bold proclamation:

Jesus is my only power.
He was born and rose from the dead.
He is the (my) light,
the only son of the Father.'

Monday, May 18, 2009

Jesus can break into a million pieces

(Excerpt from a discussion between two 5 year old boys)
Tyler: Jesus can break into a million pieces, so He can go into everyone's heart.
Simon: Doesn't he get weak? If He's into a million pieces...
Tyler: No! He's as strong as ever. Each piece is all of Him.

Monday, May 11, 2009

We are in Jesus and He is in our hearts

In working with the preparation of the chalice, Kendall's response after talking about the wine being changed into Jesus was, "We are in Jesus and He is in our hearts." He then thanked God for waking his family up this morning.

Monday, May 4, 2009

"I will hug you as if you were my mother"

"God, I will never leve you out of my heart. And I will do the same things for you Jeses. When I die I will see you for the first time and when I see you I will hug you as if you were my mother."

Taylor, age 8, wrote out these words after receiving a presentation on the Origins of the Eucharist.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Without this light....

As she was working with the Baptism material, 5-year-old Morna said, "Without this light, we would be in darkness forever."

Monday, April 20, 2009

I'm not afraid

Edward, age 4 has leukemia.
At the beginning of the Women at the Tomb presentation he said, "I'm dying."
Later while working a catechist said that the women were afraid. He leaned over and said, "I'm not afraid."

Monday, April 13, 2009

Liturgy of the Light

During a celebration of the Liturgy of the Light:

Lina, age 4, looked frightened as she gazed into her lit candle. I asked if she was scared of the fire. She nodded yes without blinking or taking her eyes off of the flame. I asked if she wanted to blow her candle out. With equal intensity she shook her head no. Lina was experiencing deeply the power of the mystery; innately she knew that this power was greater than her fear.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Dorothea, age 5, drew a picture of the Paschal Candle and said, "Jesus is in the candle, he is getting born in the candle."

Monday, April 6, 2009

We were talking about the Kingdom of God in relation to the preparation of the chalice and Xandro said that the wine is Jesus and the water is us. He then went on to say that when the water is mixed with the wine, we cannot see it. Then I asked, "Can we see the Kingdom of Heaven?" He said, "No, but it is there just as we cannot see the water in the wine."

Monday, March 30, 2009

Dorie, age 4, had come back to the atrium for her second year. She had prepared the altar many times but had never had the Last Supper presentation. One day in the fall she sat for a long time gazing at a 2-dimensional wooden model of the Last Supper - a work of art kept near the material on the shelf. The cup and plate were crude looking rather like a wooden knob and a flat chip. I (the catechist) went and sat quietly beside her for a while. I touched the cup and plate and said, "They are like the chalice and paten." She looked at me and said intensely, "They are the chalice and paten."

Monday, March 23, 2009

But Jesus didn't stay dead

Delia, age 3, was fascinated with the Last Supper (Cenacle) presentation and asked for it on perhaps six successive weeks. When it was presented to her each time, the figures of Jesus and the twelve were taken one by one from their box as they were brought into the upper room and put around the table. Delia, however, when working alone with the material, always carefully lined the figures up behind Jesus and moved them in and out of the room in this way. I finally realized that she was connecting them with the Good Shepherd story and have since watched her move the figures both in the Good Shepherd parable and Cenacle the same way. She had discovered a great theological truth.

One Sunday after several weeks of this, she was listening to the Eucharistic prayer in church. She asked, "Where is Jesus?" I wondered how best to respond. Last fall our beloved dog died. Delia has been trying to understand death.

Leaving church one Sunday during the weeks she was so involved with the Last Supper story, we passed a large crucifix, with the feet of a life-sized Jesus at her eye level. She approached it and felt the nails, carefully tracing each piece. "Are these real?" she asked. I replied that they were part of the statue, a picture of the real nails. Delia caressed the feet, kissed them, and paused for some time.

Then her mood brightened, she said, "But Jesus didn't stay dead." I asked her what happened. "He got up," she said, and skipped off for cookies and milk at coffee hour.

Monday, March 16, 2009

One of our 2.5 year olds was talking to herself in the Atrium: "Nobody plays with me, I want to play with Jesus." And when she walked to the other room with the Nativity and the relief map of Israel, she took the baby Jesus from the Nativity, moved to the map and took out the cross, then placed the two against each other. I never saw a baby Jesus on the cross, and was impressed with how she found the association.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Jesus, Remember Me.....

During Lent some children (five year olds) were working with the altar materials (a boy and a girl). The little boy began to hum a song... the girl recognized it and began to sing, "Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom." A child nearby was copying Psalm 23. She stopped and began to sing. Three girls doing tracing also stopped and began to sing. Soon most of the children (20 in class) were singing! I was near the two who were mixing the Leaven. They also sang. When the song stopped, several of the children laughed and the two I was watching just smiled at one another and went back to work. I knew then the real power of the leaven lesson!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Fettuccia Presentation II

From Dan Teller's Journal of Children's Responses
The Fettuccia is a 50-meter long ribbon that gives the elementary child an impression of the vastness and unity of the kingdom of God. The following responses were offered during this presentation to the children:

Una (6): “God gave us the gift of the whole world. What gift can we give to God?”
Catechist: “What could we give him?”
Una: “Gold.”
Catechist: “Gold. Could we give Him anything else.”
Una, then the other children: “Our love. Our kindnesses, gold, (other responses).”

Towards the end of the ribbon, a figure of a human being and a hand represent the first human beings, created in God’s image. Nolan (6), while reflecting on the figure of the human being and the hand, remarked “We help God create!”

Monday, February 23, 2009

Ben and the Rosary

In the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, catechists prepare an environment and provide resources to aid children in entering deeply into the prayer and work that calls to them. In this story, Catechist Karen Waters tells of a "big work" which a sixth-grader in her atrium created for himself, and the response of the atrium community around his work.

Rosary Work in the Level III atrium
By Karen Waters

The Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis has a requirement that all children learn how to pray the rosary. This fits in well here at St. Mary of the Lake and it fits in well with the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. We use Rose Paul’s Level II/Pax Christie album pages to launch the new year in Level III along with a review of Communal Prayer Planning and how to “live in the atrium.”
Last year one of our sixth graders, Ben, was an emerging leader in search of a “big work” to capture his attention and allow him an opportunity to delve into some meditative activity each week (he’d been attending the atrium since third or fourth grade). Through the grace of the Holy Spirit we came up with an idea where he’d create a giant paper bead rosary using the colored strips of card stock that we had on hand to support learning the prayers of the Rosary (Yellow/Apostle’s Creed, Blue/Our Father, Rose/Hail Mary, Green/Glory Be and Purple/Hail Holy Queen).
Ben made a yellow cardstock cross with the Apostle’s Creed written on it. He made the cross by attaching two strips of cardstock with a stapler. He then wrote out two blue Our Father strips and three rose Hail Mary Strips and used a stapler to make a “bead” of each prayer. He then used a hole punch and yarn to string the beads together in order. This work captured the interest of the other children and he welcomed their participation by having them write out the Hail Mary prayers on rose cardstock. Ben added each “bead” as it was completed and kept track of which prayer was needed for the “giant paper rosary.”

This work in progress was pinned up around the edges of the classroom. It took several months for the work to be completed and every child, assistant and catechist in that atrium contributed at least one bead to giant paper rosary. When it was finally all strung together, Ben lead a procession of children holding the giant paper rosary down the hallway to the bulletin board near the church entrance where we display the work coming out of each the atria. He worked hard and his pride was evident as this great work was put on display for everyone to see. Today the giant paper rosary is strung up on the walls just outside the door leading to the cryroom at our church.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Insistent Friend

After hearing the parable of the insistent friend, a seven-year-old said, "We are the person who comes in the darkness, it is Jesus who welcomes us, and then He goes to the Father and asks for Bread."

Monday, February 9, 2009

We're Lucky

In this picture, Jasmine, age 6, has depicted Mary and Joseph talking with one another.
Mary says, "We're lucky." Joseph responses, "It's good to be the second father of God."

Monday, February 2, 2009

Lizzy, age 9, drew this picture of the baby Jesus, Mary, and Joseph being bathed in the light of a large star. She wrote these words:

If I we're a wisewoman Lizzy

January 4, 1995

If I we're a wiswoman, I would
bring Jesus some wheat so he could
make bread. I also humn him a song
of joy!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Give Peace to the People

"God, give peace to the people.
God, please give peace to the whole world.
God, please fill the hearts of people with joy and peace."

Keith, 8-years-old, wrote this prayer to be part of the children's Epiphany liturgy. It was written in the aftermath of 9/11/01, during the war on Afghanistan.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Simeon and Christ the Lord

Of the presentation of Jesus at the Temple, Frida wrote, "Simeon new that God wouldn't let him die until he saw Christ the Lord. After Christ the Lord was born the angel said that Jesus was born to the shepherds. Christ the Lord."