CGS Connection – Sacrament Preparation – Part 1

Sacrament Preparation – Part 1

Yet another great privilege we have when working with the children in the Level 2 Atrium of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, is the time of sacrament preparation. We strive to follow as best as we can, what is known as “The Rome Model” of preparing children for First Reconciliation and First Holy Communion. In the next series of articles, we’ll highlight some details of the journey of children at our Latrobe Atrium.

Of course the indirect preparation began years before, with the children having been taken to Sunday Mass to witness their family and their wider Church family receiving our Lord. Secondly, there are all those times that they have waited with a parent or sibling while the other parent went to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The “Absorbent Mind” of the small child up until age 6 “recorded” all those instances and made a mental note of “things we do as a Catholic family.” [Yes, it might be a struggle, but Yes! It is worth it!]

In the Level 1 Atrium, the children have also had three years of indirectly getting ready for these most special gifts. They have tangibly practiced the model altar and items of the Mass, the most visible gestures of the Mass, the preparation of the cruets and the chalice, and the words that the priest says while doing each of those gestures and sacred acts during the Mass. They have also received the Cenacle material to situate the 1st Mass at a particular time and place in history (accomplished in coordination with materials of Geography of the Land of Israel, the City of Jerusalem and the Liturgy of the Light of Easter.)

One of the most incredible materials in the Level 1 Atrium is called the “Eucharist Presence of the Good Shepherd.” First the children received and pondered the Gospel of the Good Shepherd – and delighted in the sheep being called BY NAME!  Later the material gently transitioned to show how the Good Shepherd leads His sheep to the BEST food and the BEST drink with a similar but different looking “sheepfold” and with a tiny “table,” “plate” and “cup.” All the while we invited them to ponder just who these very special sheep could be?… A very strong note here… we NEVER tell the children that they are the sheep…. This is a profoundly personal moment to realize that I am the sheep and that He knows ME and calls ME by name. Children and Adults alike are transformed by this knowledge! When the child came to us to either shout with joy or whisper like a super sleuth, “I know who the sheep are!!” we replaced with figures of sheep with people and called the altar, paten and chalice by name. It is a brilliant material which seamlessly conveys to a 5 or 6 or 7 year old, (or 28 or 40 or 65 yo) how we receive all the cherished attributes and actions of the Good Shepherd in the Body and Blood of Holy Communion!

Hopefully this very quick glimpse of some of the Eucharistic aspects of the Level 1 Atrium (not to mention there is now Toddler Atrium!) conveys just how important it is to start children in Catechesis of the Good Shepherd earlier than we might be used to for traditional faith formation. Ages 2-6 is an incredibly valuable time to have the children simply absorb the good, the true and the beautiful of our Faith. Certainly we can offer it after that… but it will be a more cognizant, rational transmission of “information.” But when begun so early, (and consistently,) often CGS children are longing to receive our Eucharistic Lord!

Stay tuned for Part 2…