All posts tagged: Catechesis of the Good Shepherd

Summer Symposia Recap: Forming the Person as Icon

In late June, the Center for Liturgy of the McGrath Institute for Church Life facilitated a summer symposium designed to creatively explore the senses of Scripture. Drawing from Sofia Cavalletti and Gianna Gobbi’s Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy sought to nurture and develop the sacramental imagination of the symposium participants and, consequently, the faith communities to which these individuals would return and catechize. While the symposium offered intellectual formation pertaining to the literal, allegorical, moral, and anagogical senses of the Scriptures, the structure of the week allowed participants to experience these senses. According to the principles of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, it is this paradoxical structure of the human person’s physical and spiritual natures that allows the child to experience, and, more importantly, participate in, the story of sacred history. Here it is helpful to turn to Cavalletti’s own writing: [Sacred history] seems to unite elements derived from two different worlds. . . . Indeed, the expression “sacred history” could appear to be a contradiction in terms. But …

An Act of Faith: a Parent’s Experience of the Atrium

My first window into Catechesis of the Good Shepherd was actually as a senior in college, through an Atrium at a Montessori school.  I was surrounded by six, seven, and eight year olds busily coloring, arranging flowers, inviting friends into processions and little prayer services, and unrolling the longest ribbon I think I have ever seen to illustrate the History of the Kingdom of God at work (humans don’t come into the scene until about the last foot of the ribbon).  I was delighted by what I saw, and it also seemed a bit foreign—a particular language and culture with which I was not familiar. One of my favorite moments as a rookie to the Atrium that first year was when a small first grader (the son of a theologian, to be fair), came up to me and showed me his Alleluia banner—a montage the children draw during the Easter season.  He had created scenes from the Old Testament and the New Testament: the Burning Bush, the parting of the Red Sea, the Last Supper, …

Mission of Charity: Catechesis of the Good Shepherd in Northeast England

In 1933, Maria Montessori published a little-known book entitled, simply, The Mass Explained to Children. This wonderful, slim volume argues that the Mass is perfect for children. Note well: Montessori is describing the Tridentine rite, which might seem utterly impenetrable to young minds. But, she argues, a child’s sensibilities tend toward awe and wonder, and the Mass could elicit these very responses, if the child was brought to an understanding of its meaning. “Our Lord,” Montessori wrote, “perceived in children something that the adult did not perceive two thousand years ago and does not perceive today. Yet the Gospel says plainly that many mysteries shall be revealed to these little ones…We must always keep this fact in mind, so that we may be prepared not only to offer children the noblest teaching, but to offer it in a worthy form”.[1] Twenty years later, Sofia Cavalletti began to discover the perception Montessori described, and eventually published her observations in The Religious Potential of the Child (1979). Together with Gianna Gobbi, an educator who trained and worked …

Editorial Musings: Sacramental Formation in a Secular Age

In early 1950s Rome, two women—a biblical scholar and a Montessori-trained educator—began the great catechetical experiment known as Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. In a way, Sofia Cavalletti and Gianna Gobbi’s partnership is a kind of model for the mission of the McGrath Institute for Church Life, where we strive to nourish the Catholic imagination for the renewal of the Church. As a scholar of biblical languages steeped in ressourcement theology, Sofia Cavalletti never intended to tend souls in the garden of religious formation. Yet, through her unlikely collaboration with Gianna Gobbi, which spanned over half a century, she developed a method of catechesis rooted in the retrieval of the tradition that takes seriously the exigencies and dignity of children. They shared a commitment to the education of the whole person and an unwavering faith in the mystery of God revealed in Jesus Christ, which is unleashed in Scripture and Sacrament. Indeed, the catechetical method Cavalletti and Montessori developed serves as an icon of the kind of sacramental catechesis needed to nourish the imagination and …

Catechesis of the Good Shepherd: Cultivating the Christian Imagination of the Child

Recently I was talking to a mother of two young children, who explained that she drops her youngest son off at childcare while she attends Mass because “he is too young to get anything out of it.” Implicit in her remark is the assumption that the child, particularly the young child, neither possesses within himself a hunger for God nor is capacitated for worship—that his age prevents him from meaningful participation in the liturgy. She primarily envisions worship in terms of utility. It exists in order for us to “get something.” Cast in therapeutic, moralistic, and individualist terms worship functions either to meet one’s subjective needs, to make one “feel good,” or to make one a generically “better person.” Such a view, both of the nature of the young child and of worship is deeply imprinted on the Catholic imagination in the United States. Children are seen as a distraction to adult worship—hence, the emergence of strategies to get kids out of Mass: “the cry room” and “children’s Liturgy of the Word.” In fact, there …

The Secret Lives of Children

Since school has ended (and so too the endless number of meetings), I’ve been dropping my son off for his final days at preschool. Along the way, we listen to Caspar Babypants, the greatest of all child artists. After listening many times to Messy Face, his favorite tune at present, I drop him off. My son has never been one to bemoan school. Actually, as soon as we mention that the present day is a school day, he gets off the couch and waits at the door to leave. He loves to be apart from us, learning to write his name, to participate in circle time, and presumably to play an array of toddler games that we can only imagine. His mother normally must drag him away from school when it’s time to go home. Over the last semester since he began his scholastic career, I’ve noticed that our son has learned things that we didn’t teach him. He has become an expert at spelling and writing at least the first two letters of his name. He …