Our three-week Advent/Christmas vacation is over, and it was back to the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd on Sunday. It was so wonderful to see the children again, and I'm guessing that some of the parents were probably a little bit happy to go to Mass without their little ones on Sunday! Kudos to all of you who took your children to Mass over the Christmas break. I'm very proud of you; I remember how stressful it can be to take active little ones to Mass!
When my son and daughter were toddlers and preschoolers, they were both very active children (no sitting still for them in Mass, at least not until they were in the CGS program for a while!) I remember one time when my 2 year old son thought it would be fun to crawl under the pews toward the front of the church. He made it through four rows of pews before we were able to stop his adventure!
I also remember another church whose cry room was actually a side altar (overlooking the main altar). We decided to take the kids in there, only to discover than many senior citizens also liked to sit there, so we got quite a few dirty looks from the seniors when our children were their usual active selves during Mass! After the stress of that Mass, I was sure that I must have earned at least part of my way into heaven!
Fortunately, this stage won't last forever -- I promise! Enrolling your children in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program will help a lot, especially if your children come consistently. It won't happen overnight--it seems like God likes to work slowly on us humans--but it will happen! One day, you will realize they are actually attentively watching what Father Gabriel, Father Don or Father Ken are doing up at the altar (especially during the consecration) and you will say "hey, when did that happen?"
I'm sorry I don't have any photographs this week. I've been breaking the children up in smaller groups and giving them presentations, so it takes most of the hour and I haven't had a chance to take out my phone and snap pictures. But I will try to catch a few photos next week, or ask one of the junior helpers if they can do it.
Although the church finished the Christmas season last Sunday, we're going to follow an older tradition (still popular in Europe and at the Vatican), and stay in the Christmas season until Candlemas Day (February 2, 2016.) I'm doing this for a couple of reasons:
1) Because we were gone so many weeks for the Christmas break, I need to play "catch up" with the presentations related to Christmas. Last Sunday, I gave the children the Nativity/Adoration of the Shepherds presentation. This Sunday, I'll give them the presentation entitled "The Visit of the Magi." More about last Sunday's presentation in a second.
2) I have a variety of "white" practical works, and Nativity themed works that I just introduced, and want to give the children time to explore them.
For example, during Advent they could decorate our two small evergreen trees with purple ornaments and garland. (They loved that!) We kept reinforcing that purple is the color for the season of preparation in the church, and because we are preparing for Christmas, we're using purple ornaments. Now that we're in the season of the "feast", we use white in the church. Therefore, I've replaced the purple ornaments/garland with white ornaments and garland.
I'll keep out the "white" and nativity works until the Sunday after Ash Wednesday (which falls on February 10 this year). Then we'll bring out purple works again (to reinforce that we're preparing for another feast), along with some works that are specific to Lent.
Children of this age are so fascinated with color; this method really seems to appeal to them, especially if we can keep the color for a number of weeks before we switch.
Back to my discussion on this week's faith presentation. I gave the Nativity/Adoration of the Shepherds presentation using a small diorama with Fontanini figures of Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, an angel, and the shepherds with their sheep. The children were so fascinated with this, wanting to lovingly touch each figure! (Fortunately, Fontanini is unbreakable, so I show them how to carefully touch the figures, then allow them to do so.) I read the passage in the Bible from Luke, which recounts Jesus' birth, and then acted it out using the figures.
Then the children could help me set up the scene. They had some very specific ideas on where the sheep and shepherds should be, both when they were in the "fields" (a far off region of the table, far away from the stable). Then, when the shepherds moved to the stable with their sheep, they had specific ideas on where they should be in the stable! One child said "let's put this little sheep closest to Jesus, because Jesus loves little children and He would love little sheep too!"
How much I love giving this program to the little ones. They are constantly giving me new insights on our beautiful Catholic faith. What a blessing!
Next Sunday, we'll be learning about the Magi who came to visit Jesus, and they will be able to see, smell and touch beautiful boxes filled with gold, frankincense and myrrh. I also have a myrrh candle that I'll light during the presentation to appeal to another one of their senses.
See you all next Sunday!