CGS Connection – Catechists in the Field – Part 2

This week we continue learning from practicing Catechists. We are blessed by this reflection of Mrs. Carrie Archual, Beloved child of God, Wife, Mother, IMF Student and CGS Level 1 Catechist in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis:

A fellow catechist took this picture of the children and me at the prayer table the other day and, revealing her artist’s eye, commented on how the sunlight was shining on my heart. I thought to myself, “What a beautiful making-visible of the essence of the relationship between God, the catechist and the child in the atrium!” The sunlight pouring in through the window seems to be seeking to permeate my heart, just as my God seeks. Inasmuch as I allow Him to, He will be able to flow out of me to His cherished little ones in our time together in the atrium.

The recently published Directory for Catechesis spoke powerfully of the necessity of the catechist’s own formation, and here, the simple axiom that one cannot give what they do not have, rings very true. In the measure that I allow His mysteries to penetrate my being, I can open that storehouse of riches before the children, even without words. As I allow the Son to shine on me, to permeate the skin of my being so to speak, there is something beautiful and mysterious – the very mystery of the living God! – to open before the children. What child isn’t enthralled by mystery? The Holy Spirit, in His mysterious ways, can somehow transmit the beauty, love and truth that He has poured into my heart to these very small children, simply through my own formation and willingness to open my heart to Him while I am with the children.

In undergrad I studied education, and something that always grated on me was sensing an immense pressure to be the expert, have all the answers, and then somehow to cram them into the small child’s brain. I was profoundly relieved and admit that I even encountered healing in this area of my heart, to find in my CGS training that in a sense, the opposite was called for in the atrium. While my continued intellectual formation is integral, what is even more fundamental is my openness to allowing the Holy Spirit to be the primary ‘lead’ – first in my own heart, and then as an overflow, in the atrium. When I am in the atrium, I sense a clear call to exist as who I truly am – a cherished little one of the Father, moving about alongside other cherished little(er!) ones of the Father. In the atrium, I am invited to live out the reality of my littleness before the mystery of God, as when I prepare the environment, present simple works to the children, and ultimately hand over to the Holy Spirit these very small things that I have done. The deep work in the child’s heart is ultimately His to accomplish.

These musings are revelatory of a personal favorite theme in the Level 1 atrium – God chooses the very small to accomplish His Very Big. For example, in one work, the children are presented a globe, which makes visible the vastness of God’s creation, with a tiny red dot on the land of Israel. The children are invited into the mysterious contrast of God’s choice of a very small country out of the whole big earth. Later, the children work in preparing the chalice, and consider that the very small amount of water they add is taken into the very large amount of wine that is already there. On another occasion, they are invited to hold an almost visually imperceptible mustard seed on the tip of their finger and ponder the mystery of this very tiny thing growing into a very massive tree. There are so many beautiful juxtapositions like this in the Level 1 atrium!

His very big mystery is somehow made manifest through my very small being in the 120 minutes out of the entire week that I share with these children. In The Religious Potential of the Child(3rd Edition,) Sofia Cavaletti firmly reminds the catechist of her ‘place’ in the atrium when she says, “The adult’s function as a mediator is necessary in evangelization; nonetheless, it should not be overvalued. The catechist proclaims a Word that is not one’s own.” I find a sweet freedom in knowing that to be an ‘effective’ catechist in the atrium, I need not attempt to cram information into the brains of small children, but instead simply to remain faithful to my own continued formation – intellectually, yes – but even more importantly, in the melding of my own heart into union with His. Ultimately, that is the heart of a catechist which will, by the warmth of the Holy Spirit that resides there, bid the children to gather round to ponder together His profound mysteries.