Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Infancy Narratives

In the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Level 1 (ages 3-6) we limit the Bible stories to those from the life of Jesus. We do very little from the Old Testament for a few reasons. First is that our goal is to help the child fall in love with Jesus. To do that she needs to learn about Him! Second, the 3-6 year old child has a very difficult time understanding history. He is primarily self absorbed and needs to understand how Jesus relates personally to himself. Third, the Old Testament stories are more than just stories. They are imbued with typology and lead us directly to the New Testament, something many adults have a hard time grasping. The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd focuses on the Old Testament with children who are more developmentally ready to understand this history and it is focused on in the 3rd level (ages 9-12). If you ever get a chance to see how this program works in level 2 and 3 take it! Children who are able to work through all three levels of the Catechesis will be much better educated than most of us!

At this time of Advent we focus on the Infancy Narratives: The Annunciation, The Visitation, The Nativity, The visit from the Magi, The Presentation.  Because our program is part of St. Mary's religious education program, we are more limited with time than we would in a traditional CGS program. Due to that, we focus mostly on the Annunciation, the Nativity and the Magi.

Last week I presented the story of Mary and the angel Gabriel to a few students. Interestingly enough, the students were 3, 4, and 6 years old. One of the premises of the Catechesis is that we try to respect the child's interests. The Infancy Narratives are read from the Bible and can be somewhat long. Not every child is able to sit for the lesson, even with the manipulative materials. What I love about this program, however, is that while I was giving the lesson to a few children, quite a few more were sitting near by working on other projects and I could tell they were listening to the lesson.

Some children learn better by doing something else with their hands (a simple Practical Life work of spooning or pouring perhaps) which enables them to better listen to the more complicated lesson.

So, although I only presented the lesson once to a group of four children, I know that more children received that lesson!

Today I gave the lesson about the Nativity which most of the children know and enjoy. They like to talk about how the shepherds may have felt when he host of angels suddenly began singing to them. They wonder what Mary and Joseph were thinking when they were visited by these dirty, smelly shepherds and their sheep! The children always have many wise and insightful words about this story that get lost as we age.

I find that the wonder of Christmas stays alive in me because I get to hear about it from your children.


What you can do at home: Get a children's nativity that your child can play with. You will be amazed at the ideas your child will have when relating this story. Read the story from the Bible with your child. Note the names of the people involved, the cities and wonder how the different characters may have felt when these amazing things kept happening!