Monday, January 12, 2009

Theology for Infants

A long time ago I promised to post on this and never did: my apologies for the delay.
Ever since I learned about the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, I have been fascinated by the task of teaching very young children about God. I received training in this method to catechize children aged 3-6 some years ago, and although I haven't taught in an Atrium in years, knowing the method continues to illuminate my thinking in this area. I have also thought a lot about pre-catechesis: what I can I do with my own child to prepare them to learn about God?
The most foundational thing I can do is to teach my children about God and His love. The first message must be: God loves you! I start doing this as soon as possible. Whenever we are in church, I whisper in my baby's ear: we're in God's house! He loves you! During the Eucharist, at the moment of consecration, if I am holding my baby, I whisper, Jesus is here: He loves you!
If a child can know that his parent loves him, can't he begin to know that God loves him as well? I think so, for as I told this over and over again to each of my infant children, over time I would see them start to listen and respond: first with just looking, and then slowly, with smiles, almost as though they saw something of God that I myself could not see...
The most important thing to teach my child remains the most important thing of all in the end: for we never get beyond the love of God. For teaching religion is not merely the passing on of doctrine, but an invitation to a relationship: to prayer, to searching, to receiving, to loving. And it all begins and ends with love.

Photo from Jessica Sheguit

6 comments:

Leila said...

Hi Regina,

I teach Atrium too...

You are so right, and I wish I had known about this way of looking at passing on the faith long ago.

Not that one needs an Atrium,necessarily...but the spirit of calm and often, silence is so essential.

There is so much to pass on, but to do it with patience and love...that's the key!

shana-sfo said...

When my eldest daughter was 3, she wanted Holy Communion so very badly. I whispered to her, "You can't have Him this way yet, but you can ask Jesus to come into your heart, and He will come in."

She, nearing 20, still remembers asking Him to "come in", and tells me she still remembers that He did.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

That's beautiful, Regina. =)

I suspect that starting while the child is still in the womb wouldn't be too early, either. Don't newborns respond better to books read aloud to them when they were still in utero?

Jo Flemings said...

Its so simple- thank you for sharing!

Kristyn said...

My aunt teaches Preschool and Kindergarten at her Catholic Montessori school. She was trained to teach CGS last year and said that in 40 years of teaching religious ed. she has never seen the children respond so well---she said she has at last found something that actually works for the child.

Hummingbirder said...

That's a beautiful post, Regina. I love the ideas of whispering in your child's ear the messages of God's love. Thank you for sharing!