Help us, O God, to enter into the secret of childhood, so that we may know, love and serve the child in accordance with the laws of Thy justice and following Thy Holy Will.
– Prayer of Dr Maria Montessori
I finally attended my CGS L1P1 retreat at Nativity church from September 20-29, 2021 (8 week days)!
I was pleasantly surprised to encounter some familiar faces – Adeline and Cassandra from CSS, Debbie from Verbum Dei and Dian from Living Stones.
I learnt that most of us have kids around the same age. Dionne, who was seated to my right, has two girls of the same age who would attend the same primary school as my daughters!
There were stay-at-home mums and I could relate to their struggles from past experiences. There were working mums whom I could presently relate to. In addition to people I already knew; I also bonded with Mary who asked the tough questions, Joy’s gracefulness in living out her faith, Ruth’s insights and Edward’s generosity in allowing me to carpool.
The formation leaders were incredible gifts to us. They carried out the presentations with so much finesse and asked thought-provoking “I wonder” questions. I was moved to tears many a times during the presentations. These were accompanied by lecture-style adult reflections which rehashed the key tenets of the faith in an insightful manner. I also learnt a lot from the reflections of fellow retreatants.
For those of you who are wondering what is this CGS I am raving about, I will introduce CGS in a question and answer format for easy reading :).
What is CGS?
The purpose of CGS is not to teach the child about God, but to facilitate the child to build a relationship with God and encounter God in the atrium.
So what is the atrium?
The atrium is a place of prayer and meditation, where God is encountered in word and action.
The atrium is a place of preparation for life in the Church. It is a place to reflect on the Scripture and Liturgy of the Church, together with the prepared works.
How does the child experience God in the atrium?
The catechist prepares materials in the atrium so that God can instruct the child and adult through the prepared works and His Word.
What are the principles of CGS?
- CGS is experiential: children are given tangible materials to work with
- CGS is essential: the richest meanings, greatest truths, visible gestures that embody the faith, deepest realities, and most profound moments of Christian message and Liturgy are given to the youngest
- CGS leads to joy and response: it is about enjoying God’s Presence and gifts, through reflection and meditation
- CGS is Christocentric and Trinitarian: its theological focus concerns God in search of the Human person. It is about a covenant relationship.
- CGS is incarnational: God sent Jesus to us because we needed to see and touch him, to experience His presence among us, so his message is embodied in the materials.
How was the CGS L1P1 training conducted?
We were called to make this a semi-silent retreat.
The formation leaders would conduct a presentation in the atria, followed by adult reflections on the same topic in the classroom. After each presentation in the atria, we are asked for our responses before we start fielding questions about the presentation. Back in the classroom, we are formed in the tenets of the faith, through lectures which summarizes the core readings, or through interactive exercises to bring home the main points of the theme.
What is an album page?
To facilitate our learning as catechists, we were given album pages to fill out which we discussed and prepared in groups.
An album page is what we prepare as catechists prior to entering the atrium and the format is as follows:
Title: name of the presentation
Subject/ category: theme of the presentation
Age: earliest age of a child you would present this work to
Liturgical time: church season
Sources: scripture or liturgical text, CCC, CGS texts or whatever you learned at formation retreat
Doctrinal points: the most essential 1-2 point(s) for the child/ren to takeaway from the presentation
Direct aim: rewording of the most essential point of the Christian message
Indirect aim: To link to other presentation works
Description of materials: everything you need to prepare for this work
Main points of the presentation: a script where you list out the steps of the presentation, including the “I wonder” questions that you will ask the children
Restoration of material: how you would instruct the child to continue working on the material and replace the materials for the next person
Work of the child: what else the child may do relative to this presentation
Child’s response: how the child is invited to respond the work, through drawings, painting, singing, playing instruments, praying etc.
What were the core texts?
Other than sacred scripture, we referenced 3 main texts.
1) The Good Shepherd and the child: the joyful journey by Sofia Cavalletti and Gianna Gobbi.
2) The religious potential of the child by Sofia Cavalletti
3) Listening to God with children by Gianna Gobbi
I will share what I learnt and my responses in follow-up blog posts 🙂