…but things have been a bit crazy for us in the Miles home, and I have been just terrible about updating our blog!
So this is our life right now…
And as much as I love forts…it just isn’t as fun when you’re ENTIRE LIFE is boxed away. It’s exhausting, and with some setbacks in the selling of our current home (gotta love appraisals), our emotional exhaustion might even out-do the crazy boxing extravaganza. So you can probably appreciate the peace I felt with some much-needed reminders from God this weekend, centering on our beautiful Gospel reading:
“My sheep hear my voice;
I know them, and they follow me.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.
No one can take them out of my hand.
My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all,
and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand.
The Father and I are one.”
For those of you who aren’t aware, I am currently getting trained as a Catechist for the religious education method “Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.” (FYI: I posted a little blurb at the bottom of this post from a write-up I did for our local church on what makes this method different from other religious education methods.) I was at a two-day training this weekend, and one of the topics happened to be “Why the Good Shepherd?” In other words, why does this method focus on the image of Jesus as Good Shepherd?
There is simply too much to say on that point, but one area of this topic that really struck me was our discussion sheep. Do you realize how stupid sheep are? I mean, they are REALLY REALLY STUPID. For example, if sheep roll over on to their backs, they can’t figure out how to roll back over, and they eventually DIE without their shepherd pulling them back (generally with his staff). Does anyone else think it’s just hilarious that THIS is the image of HUMANS that is most used in scripture? Couldn’t God have used a more intelligent creature for analogy, like the wise old owl or sea turtle or something?
But there’s more…
They are the only domesticated animal that can’t survive on their own in the wild. If they are turned out to pasture, they will eat the grass around them, stare confusingly at their sudden lack of food, and (yep, you guessed it) WILL DIE before they realize “hey, there’s another grassy patch on that hill over there!
At the core of the sheep’s lives, their only way to survive and thrive, is their shepherd. Without him, they literally cannot survive. It’s not simply that he’s there to fix their mistakes, but his very presence creates an environment of peace. When the shepherd is not present, alpha sheep try to dominate and pick fights within the group, but the moment the shepherd is present, they stop fighting and simply rest in his presence. Relationship with the shepherd is so important that the shepherd will immediately be present at the birth of a new lamb, even trying to stand between the momma sheep and her little lamb to insist, from birth, that it is only through him this little guy will survive. If the lamb doesn’t form an attachment to the shepherd, he will break his leg and carry the lamb on this shoulders until he heals, forming a close bond that could never be broken (Whaaaaatttt???)
And of course, as this Sunday’s Gospel reiterated, the sheep respond only to the voice of their shepherd. If they are in a pen with other sheep from another flock, and a different shepherd comes by, they won’t go to him. They are never even tempted to stray, their bond with their shepherd is so central to their very being.
Now, all of the sudden, I find myself wanting to be like the sheep, wishing I was in fact more like them. The image of the sheep from scripture isn’t meant to insist on humanity’s stupidity (although that certainly can be detected often enough), but it’s meant to serve as a model. We must learn to survive only with our shepherd. We must only go to his voice, not be tempted to stray to the false shepherds this world has to offer. And we must (must must must) turn to him as our guide, allow him to take the lead in our lives. Our dependence must be entirely on him, even when we think we know a better way, we must trust that the Shepherd ALWAYS has our best intentions in his heart.
What a perfect reminder for me in the midst of the craziness of our lives. When I am struggling in the midst of boxes and emotional ups and downs, I can trust that the Shepherd is here, present, guiding me, begging me to follow him. I know regardless of the outcome of our home buying/selling/insanity, we believe in a God who never abandons us, who goes out of his way to be present with us. Have you put your life in the hands of the Good Shepherd lately?
To close, of course, we must post at least a couple of pictures of our sweet son, who is handling all of the insanity so well. He is just the happiest kid!
“This is what happens when I spend all day with daddy while mommy is at her class…nope, that’s not a soul patch, that’s chocolate for breakfast!”
“This is what happens when I get a hold of mommy’s blue marker for marking all of our moving boxes…I am just so proud of myself!”
Many blessings to you, folks! We’re so excited for the next part of our journey…updates to come!
What is Catechesis of the Good Shepherd?
- Process-driven: As adults, we tend to be goal-oriented. We focus our tasks with the purpose of reaching tangible goals. This is not the case for the young child. Rather, young children (ages 3-6) are work-oriented. The process of the work itself is fascinating to them, and rushing them through the process only hurts their growth. Recognizing this, Sofia and Gianna developed an approach to religious education that uses hands-on materials and slow movement so as to best meet the child’s intellectual, bodily and spiritual needs. Furthermore, central to the child’s development is the freedom to choose which works they would like to use. The catechist is not the “teacher,” but rather God is the teacher, and we assist the young child in his/her encounter with God through the materials presented.
- Multi-age groups: Each “atrium” contains age groups in three-year cycles. This is done for two reasons. One, children tend to need three years to attain or perfect certain skills, so repetition with the materials is essential for a child’s growth. But additionally, Montessori recognized the beauty in older children assisting the younger children in this growth. This is particularly evident in a religious setting, where the mature spiritual growth of the 6 year old child can assist the three year old in coming to fall in love with Jesus, the Good Shepherd.
- Liturgically and Scripturally Based: The materials within the atrium are designed to draw the young child more deeply into the life of the Church and thus more deeply in love with God. To do this, the works center either on various events in the life of Jesus or on important liturgical signs and symbols that the Catholic child would encounter. For example, each atrium contains child-size replicas of important articles of the mass, such as the chalice, paten, and altar cloths. Children work with the materials not simply to identify them, but more importantly to understand their significance in the life of the Church. Even the classroom is given liturgical significance with the name “atrium,” which was the name given in early Christianity to the place where non-Christians would prepare their hearts and minds to be received fully into Christ’s Church.