From The Blog

The Joys of Chapel Children, by Stephania Jackson

There are so many spiritual gifts I receive from our Children every Wednesday and Sunday. I’ve become addicted to these spiritual highs and miss them when I am not there. I want to share some of these precious moments.

My heart soared after we did the favorite Good Shepherd work and one of the children asked, “Jesus knows my name? He knows my name?” The sheer awe was reflected in his beautiful, radiant, three-year-old cherub cheeks. That happened weeks ago and it still fills my heart with joy. He comprehended it with his three-year-old heart and mind. He shared his epiphany with his Mom, who was delighted and said she would reinforce this at home. I’ve always thought of the brain as the paperweight of the soul. By that I mean if we try to process everything in a cerebral manner, faith falls second or unfortunately sometimes is completely discarded. Parents not witnessing the work of the Atrium won’t get a “do-over.” I encourage both parents and grandparents to take advantage of being part of the children’s experience during Catechesis of the Good Shepherd in the Atria.

The Catechists do not rob the child of self discovery when presenting the works, for doing so would take away that joy of self discovery. We read the exact biblical text of the particular work, then we do our best not to add any superfluous words because children quickly learn to hear and process the Word of God. The Catechist’s job is to prepare the environment then fade into the wallpaper to observe and learn from the child. We aren’t the teachers in the room, the children are the teachers as we watch and listen to their joy of self discovery. These children are amazing every time as they choose to set up or do the work in their own creative manner. They do not play in the Atrium, rather the children work during Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. They do so in ways I am still surprised by even after years of being a Catechist. They say things about the lesson that stay with me for weeks and sometimes years. Merely recalling these words still brings tears to my eyes.

They have taught me life lessons to remember on challenging days, such as the child who stated, “Let’s pretend I can read the Bible” and directed me to sit and listen. It was a “wow” moment as she summarized what she heard either at home or in church. This was the child’s “reading:” ”Sit quietly and listen to the Word of God for you do not know what tomorrow will bring. Listen and Wait.” Yes, they can listen while they color. It’s uncanny how these words are the exact encouraging words I need to hear somedays. I’ve said it before and believe it bears repeating, the veil between Children and God is very thin, and that’s not just my theory. It is that of many priests and Catechists.

I had a first hand experience of this thin veil when I sustained a miscarriage. It was a loss made more difficult as I walked up to the check out desk and listened to the receptionist chatter with the obviously pregnant mothers and ask, “how’s the baby doing?” I sat in my car and cried for a very long time. I had to return to work and dry my eyes.

I grew weary of hearing people refer to my baby as “it,” so I gave the child a name, Sarah, which I shared with no one. I was taken aback when Colette, my toddler asked me who was Sarah. We had no friends with that name. I told her in a whisper and said Sarah was your sister but she went back to heaven with the angels. She spontaneously asked if Sarah had a face so when she got to heaven, she’d know her sister. I sat down on the floor and put my head down to hide the tears. Colette aligned her body with mine and we just sat there for a long time. Colette put her tiny arms around me and laid her head on my chest. I didn’t know how to process this so I called my priest at the time, Shannon Manning. She replied to my question of how could this be possible and answered that the veil was very thin between God and the Child. She went on to explain that’s why it is so important to capture this fleeting time and teach the very young children about God. They can see and experience things that adults can’t. The skeptic will ask, “What proof do you have?” and I always answer, “It’s called faith.” This faith foundation is where adult faith will reside in later years.

Colette was visibly cold one winter day with pale purple skin and chattering teeth when I picked her up from Kindergarten. I asked where her new coat was and she said, “A little girl was cold so I gave her my coat.” My immediate thought was OMG I just bought you that coat! Then I remembered my morning devotional reading and I realized this child had just modeled the behavior of Saint Martin I read about that very morning. You may recall unlike me; who had to ask Will to find that story, the one of Martin being approached by a poor man who asked in the name of Christ for alms. “Martin, drawing his sword, cut off part of his military cloak and gave it to the beggar. On the following night, Jesus appeared to Martin, clothed in half a cloak, and said to him, “Martin, a simple catechumen, covered me with his simple garment.”

Sometimes I easily hear God’s Word, and sometimes He has to hit me over the head with a 2×4 before I get it. This moment with Colette was one of the latter because the first thing I thought of was the money I had just spent on her new coat. Yet her unencumbered response when she passed a child who was cold was to give away her own coat. She didn’t have to think about it, she just did what came naturally minus practicality or the adult filter. She merely took her hand off what was God’s and gave it away. When’s the last time you dismissed a nudge or a plea to share your blessings?