Have you ever stopped to consider what an amazing responsibility the Great Commission is? Jesus is asking us to teach “all that He has taught.” How do we do this with children?
Children need to be formed in the richness of the faith even at the youngest age. The fact that they have been baptized they have the grace receptors they need to respond to and listen to God.
Jesus’ parting words to His apostles became His “Great Commission” to the Church.
All authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age. (Mat 28:18-20)
So Christianity’s center is Christ. His every action, His every thought, word and deed become sacramental graces for the Church to live into and usher the whole world into.
As Christian’s it’s important how we understand the nature of childhood. This becomes the foundation to build our catechesis upon. The Christian view of the human person is vastly different in many ways from modern day anthropology. Most approaches to teaching children see them as being “empty,” like an empty container and the task of the teacher is to “fill them up with knowledge.”
Of course we bring to children the wealth of the Church’s treasury of knowledge and truth. This is a given. In age appropriate stages they can dive into all of this. But the Church should not see children as being “empty.” St. Paul tells us that the baptized are “earthen vessels” full of grace. This means the soul is where the “transcendent power of God” is discovered. (2 Cor 4:7) Children have sanctifying grace, they are filled with the Holy Spirit. Their life of grace is “confirmed” and empowered later in the sacrament of Confirmation.
Listen to Holy Scripture:
“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1Co 3:16)
“By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His own Spirit.” (1Jo 4:13)
“When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will declare to you the things that are to come.” (Joh 16:13)
This indwelling of the Holy Spirit is foundational for the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. The Holy Spirit teaches by guiding and opens the soul of the child to God’s presence. The catechist listens to this dialogue between child and God and invites the child to discover the movements and love of God for them.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly! (Col 3:16)
What we do in catechesis is strengthen the child’s soul much like a muscle is straightened. (Eph 3:16 and Heb 4:12)
The presentation of a biblical story and addressing the sacred items of worship and liturgical actions are but examples of how the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd draws the child deeper into their faith.
Sofia Cavalletti uses the image of a pebble entering into water. We see from this illustration of simple beginnings stir the Word move within us. Consider the pebble. When the pebble enters the water it sends ripples across the water’s surface while entering it’s depths. First small ripples, but they increase in size and influence as the pebble penetrates the water. Jesus’ presence begins with the simple gesture of water and prayer. In time Jesus sounds out through our whole being. He penetrates our soul through the Holy Spirit in deeper and deeper relationship.
In the atrium Jesus is acknowledged and encountered. The atrium has dedicated catechists who themselves are renewing always their faith in God. Children need continuity in the atrium and need to be present. Remember God is searching for us! God always takes the first steps, and draws near to the child in the atrium.
Over time the two parts of the Holy Eucharist are assembled in the child’s life. First, the child learns how to listen with God at the “table of the Word” which is the Holy Bible. As they engage the biblical stories there is forming within them a theology of faith. For example they learn how God is the Good Shepherd and they are one of His sheep. This prepares them to listen with God at the “table of the Eucharist.” This “table” is the Altar in the sanctuary. They learn to listen here through the sacred items and prayers and movements of the mass how God feeds His sheep.
From both parts of the Holy Eucharist children hunger to receive Jesus who loves them, and will come and make His home with them. (Joh 14:23)
The Great Commission calls us to catechize in ways that invite our children become God’s very “habitat” where He dwells “richly.”