Maria Montessori, in her book “Spontaneous Activity in Education” tells of an account of Vladimir Ghidionescu, PhD that he shared at the International Congress of Pedagogy in Brussels in 1911. He told the story of a young child who had not received the benefit of any religious formation. One day he broke into tears. He cried, “Do not scold me, while I was looking at the moon I felt how often I had grieved You, and I understood that I had offended God.” Maria Montessori has many examples similar to this one. She tells of a seven year old boy who also had no religious formation. He was taught the theory of evolution according to Charles Darwin and others. One day, he asked, “from whom did the first creature come from?” “The first,” a friend responded, “was formed by chance.” Upon hearing this the boy laughed and calling his mother, he said, “Just listen! What nonsense! Life was formed by chance! That is impossible.” When his mother asked him to explain his comments, he said that life was formed “by God.”
Another beautiful story is told by Montessori of a three year old girl who again grew up with no religious formation. Even her grandmother was an atheist. This girl had no contact with Christian instruction. One day she asked her dad about the origin of the world. And her father explains in Darwinian terms about the origin of the world. But the father does add the comment, “However, there are those who say that all of this comes from a very powerful being, and they like to call Him God.” Upon hearing this, she runs around the room in great joy shouting out, “I knew what you told me wasn’t true; it’s Him, it’s Him!
These examples teach us that before the intellect develops there exists already a relationship between the child and God. This relationship is more deeply rooted than in the intellect alone. Children have a knowledge of mystery that is natural and it recognizes God. They have a capacity to penetrate effortlessly beyond the veil of signs and symbols to where there are no barriers between the visible and the invisible.
The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, a Montessori structured program of Christian formation, that we use at St. John’s nurtures and helps the child to grow in grace with God, who is love. The program opens “windows” so children may encounter God in authentic and life-giving ways. This type of spiritual formation will stay with them their whole life long.