Monday, March 24, 2014

Help Me to Come Closer to God by Myself: RPOTC Chapters 1 & 2

Catechesis is about forming a relationship. A relationship begins the very day, the very moment, that God creates that child in his mother’s womb, before the mother is even aware of that child’s existence.  Catechesis is not only about reciting the Ten Commandments and the Hail Mary, although we absolutely should teach our children these things. However, what we usually think of as “religious education” is merely the body, which serves the purposes of the soul.  The soul of religious education is that relationship of love with God that makes us desire to know more and more of Him.

None of us women in the group on Wednesday had heard that idea before, although all of us immediately saw it is true.  We’ve done things like have our toddlers blow kisses to Jesus in the tabernacle, sang our babies “Jesus Loves Me,” and such, long before we ever thought of “Catechesis” in the formal sense.  It’s just right.  But it’s beautiful to read it in such language as Cavalletti’s, confirming what we’ve already intuitively grasped and expanding upon it, giving us the privilege to see just how deep the love of God and a child can go.

Some of the anecdotes were surprising to us, especially about children from atheistic homes wanting to go to church and be baptized.  I think the most surprising part was that the parents went along with it!  The book doesn’t say, but we wondered how long those parents stayed atheists.  Also the part about how well behaved the children always were during and after Mass.  As hard as we try, that is not usually our experience!

We spent time discussing just how total children are.  They throw themselves wholeheartedly into each and every little thing they do.  And so trusting.  What adult would allow someone to throw them up in the air four times their height?  Not only allow it, but to think it great fun?  A big concept of these chapters is the essentiality of the child, meaning they go straight to the heart of things with no pretense, no self-consciousness, not holding anything back.  We think this quality of little children is what Jesus meant when he said, “Unless you become like little children…”  Little children want what Cavalletti calls the “vital nucleus,” the most essential, complete truth.  This is like planting a seed.  All of the plant is there, complete and present in the tiny seed, but of course it must grow and develop.  Another analogy I found helpful was that of St. Paul’s comparison of spiritual milk vs. meat (1 Corinthians 3:2).  When a baby is breastfed, the mother’s milk is the only food he gets.  However, it is perfect and complete in every way, easy to digest, meeting his every nutritional need.  So too should our presentation of the Gospel be to small children.

I also shared a picture that my son Anthony drew in the Atrium.  It illustrates the concepts in these chapters of children having a mysterious knowledge of God.  Here is his explanation:  "It’s a picture of God. He is very very happy in Heaven.  It is always light there.  It's a city in Heaven but I just drew God and the sun."  I asked him about the three people, and he said, "That's just God.  That one is Jesus. (The green figure in the middle.)"  

We all felt a sense of peace from reading these two chapters about our vocations as parents.  By helping our children to come closer to God by themselves, we are merely facilitating a perfectly natural and joyful process.  “Raising our children up for heaven” is big responsibility that certainly will involve a great deal of sacrifice and struggle, but it is the very nature of children and of God to establish a relationship of love between them.  We do not have to force it to happen, and really, we should never try because love cannot be forced anyway.  Obedience, perhaps, but never love.  Really our responsibility is to bring them to Jesus by bringing them to the Mass, reading the Scriptures with them, and then getting out of God’s way.

As mothers often do, we veered away from the book proper a little bit into practical applications of these ideas.  We talked about sitting up front at Mass so the children could see and participate in what was happening.  About encouraging spontaneous prayer by asking our children, “Would you like to pray for anyone tonight?” or, “What would you like to say to Jesus?”  Sometimes when we’ve done this we’ve been surprised by their responses, like four-year-old Thomas saying he was thankful for “Jesus and Mary.”   

We all thought it was a good idea to write down these little moments of grace, so we could remember them ourselves and also to share with them when they are older.   On the other hand, we don’t want to make a fuss over these things, lest we damage the beautiful natural spontaneity and un-self-consciousness of childhood.  The last thing we want is them trying to please us, to be clever or show off how "good" they are.  We should just appear to take no notice, because in truth these things are perfectly natural and not the result of any extraordinary goodness of our child.  And then exult over them with our husbands after the children are safely asleep!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

I Think I Need a Retreat

Has it been a whole week, internet? Let's try that again. Has it only been a week, internet? It has been Survival Mode at Castle Keane. I don't really remember the weekend, except I got to go to Mass alone because Ryan and I traded off. Anthony was ill, then of course Katie Rose, Ryan's been super busy at work running this workshop which ended today. He was supposed to take the day off tomorrow to take care of the children because I am leaving on retreat in the morning. But he can't because he has to participate in Monday-morning-quarterbacking the workshop that they just finished. Found a babysitter in the nick of time so I can still go but that was a scramble. It was also necessary to scrub the dining room floor and the dining room rug, climb Mount Wash More, and make a batch of freezer-to-crockpot meals in anticipation of my family otherwise living on PB&J and Cheerios all weekend. I should tell you horror stories about Ryan's bachelor kitchen sometime. Also the meals are anticipating the advent of babysitting Baby Nicholas starting Monday. We had a trial run with Nicholas this week. He cried almost the entire three hours. Katie Rose still isn't quite better, figured out today that it was an ear infection. Got her on antibiotic, so I'm hoping that I'll come home to my happy girl again. I haven't been away alone for a retreat or any other reason since being married five years ago. I think it's time.

We cancelled Religious Potential of the Child on Wednesday due to Katie Rose's indisposition and two other mothers being sick. The good news is two more women are joining next week and now they won't be behind, because you definitely don't want to miss the first two chapters! I'll be back from my retreat refreshed and ready to reflect in not run-on sentences. I wish you all a peaceful weekend! Pray for me for a good retreat that I can draw the strength from the Lord I am so needing to do the work He wills me to do!

“Cast yourself into the arms of God and be very sure that if he wants anything of you, He will fit you for the work and give you strength.” ~St. Philip Neri

Of course, the quote I have written on my chalkboard right now is Philippians 2:14 "Do all things without grumbling or questioning." Fortunately I will have plenty of opportunity for Confession this weekend!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real: Zig-Zag Quilt Reveal!

Pretty and Happy:

It's finished!!!  This is definitely the largest quilt I've finished, at about 4 feet by 5 feet.  The colors are just so happy and the zig-zag is just full of energy.  Perfect for a little boy!  The fabrics are very little-boyish as well, with bicycles, rockets, and little boys chasing paper planes.  Most of it is the Children at Play fabric that I got for Christmas, with solids and dots and such from my stash.

Aren't these just the cutest?

And it washed up with that awesome crinkly texture that always makes me glad I went simple with the quilting and stippled it.

Funny and Real:

Anthony's outfit.  Yes, they're both Thomas pajama components, but no, they really don't match.  But you're home sick so that's just fine.

The backing fabric he's so adorably showing off is... a sheet from the thrift store!  The colors and the boat print coordinate perfectly with the other fabrics.  Anybody else find that God gives them perfect little gifts like that?  I mean, what are the chances of finding that absolutely perfect backing?

His faces are pretty funny, too.  He was a little sad that he doesn't get to keep this quilt, but it's going to support his school so he's resigned himself with a good grace.

Have you captured some contentment this week?  Link up with Like Mother Like Daughter!
round button chicken
Make It and Love It

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

RPOTC Chapter One: God and the Child

Happy Ash Wednesday!  For those of you reading The Religious Potential of the Child along with me this Lent, here are some discussion questions for Chapter One.  If you are not yet, read about why you should be and join us!  It's only day one of Lent!  I will share some responses from the real-life group after we meet next Wednesday, or at least my own.  We would love to hear your questions and insights, which I will bring to the group.  My grand vision is to have the online discussion and the real life one mutually enriching each other.  So let's start talking!

Chapter One:  God and the Child

“…because you have revealed these things to mere children.”  -Matthew 11:25

Normalize- In Montessori jargon, normalization is when the children freely choose their work, concentrate, and are working as members of a respectful, peaceful community.  They are developing as they ought.
Exigence-urgent need intrinsic to the child

Do you find any of the anecdotes in this chapter surprising or incredible?  Why?

Have you yourself had a joyful encounter with God in childhood, or witnessed anything like this in your children?

Have you ever been surprised by some heavenly knowledge your children had, knowing you had not taught it to them?

Do you sometimes fall into the trap of trying to force a “proper” religious response out of your children while they are still very young, probably for the sake of our own egos?

How have we thought about our duty to raise our children up for Heaven in the past?  Has this chapter changed any of those thoughts? 

Do you think early childhood could be the “sensitive period” for faith? If the religious nature of the child were repressed or ignored now, would it be harder to come to faith later in life?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Big Boy Room

My quilt is all finished except for the binding, and I have the first round Religious Potential of the Child questions almost ready to post.  But today I want to show you Anthony's room.  I promised my mom pictures of Anthony's room now that he's sleeping in a regular bed and we've changed things around, and I like reading these kinds of posts on other blogs, so in the spirit of reciprocity here goes:


We deep cleaned this room, pulling everything away from the walls and cleaning the perimeter, then putting everything back and cleaning the middle.  Nap wasn't happening, so may as well start a big project, right?

When all of the things are in the middle of the room, what does that create around the outside?  Anybody who knows Anthony knows it's a choo-choo track, of course!  He was running around (and around and around) with the feather duster as his smoke stack, Katie Rose trailing behind wearing the engineer's hat.  And no, I did not get a picture.  You'll just have to imagine that. :)

The whole reason we rearranged was for the seedlings to be on top of the shelves in front of the south-facing window.   The shelves were on the opposite wall before. I think I like it this way much better! It looks bigger now. Things on the walls are in odd spots now, but I'll get to that.

I think my favorite part of the room is actually inside Anthony's closet.  We have this neat reading nook hidden away in there.  Library books go in the basket.  We put a sleeping bag and extra pillows on top of his old crib mattress.  If I can't find either of the children chances are they're curled up in the closet reading!

He can reach and put away all his own clothes, since the top bar is all out-of-season things.  I also found a second striped sheet to exactly match the one for the closet curtain! One of these days I want to make a valance for the windows, or else a bed skirt. I can't decide which would be better use of the striped sheet, since there's only enough fabric for one of those. I'm leaning toward bed skirt, and finding something else for the window.

Back to your regularly scheduled postings tomorrow!