How should I pray with my young child?
When we pray with young children, we take care not to put prayers into their mouths but, at the same time, to give them a "language of prayer." 3-6 year old children spontaneously pray prayers of thanksgiving and praise ("Thank-you, God, for our families!";"God you are so good!" ;"I love you, God!"). Petitionary prayer is foreign to their tongues, therefore we are careful not to introduce petitionary prayer too early. Young children enjoy their relationship with God who provides for all their needs.
We provide them 'rich food, but not too much' to feed their prayer language. By this we mean, we give them a word (eg. "Alleluia!"), a phrase ("Glory to God!"), or a verse from scripture ("The Lord is God and he has given us light!"). We speak this word or phrase with reverence, and then we are silent. We allow the Holy Spirit room to move. Then we might invite the children to speak what is in their hearts, if they wish, but we do not force it.
Try this with your child. Light a candle. Open the Bible with reverence and awe. Turn to a psalm of phrase and read one verse (eg. Psalm 46:10, Psalm 27:1, Psalm 23:1, Psalm 43:4). Sit in silence. Repeat the verse. Wait in silence. Invite your child to pray aloud (eg. "What can we say to God?"; "What do we want to say to Jesus?") Wait again--longer than is comfortable! If your child says nothing, don't worry. Spoken prayer is just the tip of the iceberg. Only God knows what is taking place in the heart. Say, "I love you, Jesus," and then invite your child to snuff the candle.
Read more in
this article found on the US website.
How do I set up a Prayer Table for my child in our home?
In the atrium, the holiest place is the prayer corner. Here the Bible sits in a place of honour. This is where we gather each session to pray together to the One who calls us each by name.
Many parents choose to set up a prayer table in their home. This can be done in a corner of a communal living area or in your child's bedroom. A low table or bench is needed. Your child will want to cover the table with a cloth in the colour of the liturgical season (green for ordinary time, purple for Advent and Lent, white for Christmas and Easter, red for Pentecost). Often it is not necessary to purchase fabric; instead scarves, wraps, or even pillowcases can be employed for this purpose.
You will need a Bible. If you do not already own one, you will want to consider which translation to purchase. The English-speaking Catholic churches in Canada use the New Revised Standard Version. The Bible should sit on your prayer table on a stand or a pillow -- something special for the Word of God.
When we read from the Bible we always light a candle to recall that Jesus, the light of the World, is with us in a particular way when we share the Word of God. Place two or three candles for your child to choose from on a low shelf or in a basket. While there is something special about a real candle flame, you may decide you feel more comfortable with a battery-powered candle.
Your child will want to select a few special items to place on the prayer table alongside the Bible. These could include any of: a prayer card with word or verse, a small statue or figurine, flowers, cross, religious picture. These items can be placed in baskets near the prayer table. It is not necessary to have a large collection for your child to choose from, for this can be overwhelming. It is better to have few items at a time, and periodically change the selection.
My child brought home a prayer folder. What is this?
When a child engages in art in the atrium, they are engaging in a work of prayer. The process, not the end-product, is the focus. It is the fruit of the Inner Teacher, the Holy Spirit. If the child shows the prayer work to a catechist, the adult is careful not to praise the child or the art for fear of seeming to evaluate the work. Instead, the catechist is simply grateful to be shown the child's personal prayer.
Each time a child draws or traces something, he or she stores it in a folder. At the end of the atrium year the folder is taken home. Often the youngest children do not remember what the subject of some of the pieces of art are. The parents are asked simply to treat the folder with the solemnity that prayer deserves.
What is my child doing in the atrium?
Parents sometimes wonder why the catechists do not provide a curriculum or a weekly schedule of presentations that will be shown to the children. This is because the catechists are listening and observing the children carefully and following the promptings of the Holy Spirit. While the catechists arrive each week with a "plan," they realize that this is subject to the will of the Holy Spirit and they may have to change plans mid-session!
In general, though, Ordinary Time in the fall tends to centre around the altar, liturgical colours and calendar for level 1, introductory presentations regarding the Kingdom of God for level 2, and the Plan of God for level 3.
Advent and Christmas is given over to the Mystery of the Incarnation: prophets, prophecies, infancy narratives and the geography of the land of Israel.
Ordinary Time in the New Year focuses on parables of the Kingdom of God, the liturgy of the Mass. Level 3 children may also start to delve into works of typology--Bible studies that look closely at events in the Old Testament to see how these are fulfilled in Jesus, are lived today, and give us hope for the future in the completion of the Kingdom of God.
In Lent we contemplate the Paschal Mystery through the parable of the Good Shepherd, the map of the City of Jerusalem, and the celebration of the Last Supper. We save up all our Alleluia's for Easter when we celebrate the Liturgy of Light, in the manner of the Church at the Easter Vigil Mass.
In Easter we read accounts of the Resurrection and contemplate our sharing in the promise of eternal life through the signs and symbols of our Baptism. This leads into the culmination of both the Easter season and the atrium year--the celebration of the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
More information on some of these subjects can be found in the
Parent Newsletters on the American CGS website.
How can I learn more about Children's Spirituality?
The United States Association has a series of excellent articles on this topic found on their website.