Now, many parents think that children cannot be silent or reflect. This is simply not true. When I was working in Montessori schools in the 1970s and early 1980s, and I do not mean day care centers, but proper schools. silence was the norm.
Silence is crucial for the nurturing of the spiritual life in a child.
And, children respond to silence. In taking children to church, for example, parents should not bring toys or food. The child begins to understand by watching, and then, slowly comprehending the depth of what is happening at Mass.
As Montessori writes, the child of four knows the difference between the water in the holy water stoup and that of the sink where he washes his hands.
Here are her words, "...intellectual labour which the little creature initiates when he begins to realize that he is a child of God, lovingly received into the house of the great Heavenly Father..." follows the senses of absorbing what is around him in the church.
|I made my First Communion in 1957, and my dress and veil were very like the second girl in line, just after the break in the line.|
She quoted an aunt who stated that her nephew wanted to go to Mass daily because he was allowed to put out the candles, which captured his imagination. Just as the great cathedrals and abbeys captured the imagination of adults in days past, so too, the child responds to beauty and symbolic gestures.
The Sacraments are understood because the child pays attention to the things, the physical objects which are the matter of the Sacraments: water, oil, and so on. Little by little, as Montessori points out, the child begins to understand the realities behind the actions and matter.
In fact, Montessori noted that some of the little ones were explaining the Sacraments or Mass to their parents in profound terms in which the parents had not thought....in much the same way that St. Joseph Cupertino, who was severely mentally challenged, could explain the Trinity to a bishop.
Maria Montessori way back in the early part of the 20th century warned against the watering down, the broadness of religious teaching to children.
Specifics teach. The little school she started on Barcelona, after the ones, she set up in Italy, England and other places, planted wheat and grapes in a small garden so that children could understand "I am the Vine, you are the branches", plus the matter of the bread and wine which becomes the Body and Blood of Christ. The children did all the work, with help, but what an excellent way to teach, through one's hands and senses, which is the basis for the Montessori Method.
I did this in my little home school and I made most of the materials myself, out of egg cartons, baby wipe boxes, which I saved, and odds and ends. My son did gardening with me from the age of two, watering my plants and his little part of the garden with his little toddler watering can. We watched the changes in plants and animals so that my son would see the Grandeur of God and come to know the Creator through nature. This is part of Sacramental prep, as nature provides the matter for the Sacraments. But, the child is also, through watching caterpillars, or flowers, or rabbits, learning about God the Creator and His love for His Creatures, including the child himself. A child naturally takes joy in these things, and learns both mutability and beauty through nature.
So, the child learns about God through his eyes, nose, hands, mouth.
Montessori had the children pick the wheat and harvest it. They has machines for making hosts, all without electricity, and all of these things wheat and hosts were part of the Bishop's procession on Corpus Christi.
The grapes were crushed and the juice put in an amphora as these had been made into wine with help.
Can one imagine this being part of First Holy Communion training? We need to cultivate this type of daily awareness of the sacred. These children were younger than seven, as the next year was their First Holy Communion at that age, and this was shortly before 1924!
By the way, Montessori invented the idea of having the children's names on cards on the walls of the school so all could pray for the ones coming up for that Sacrament.
Also, preparation was always in the Church with the priest, candles, prayers. And the children had
to learn the Creed, the Ten Commandments and basic of the Faith, which they had to recite to the priest before receiving.
Here was the curriuculum in 1923 for First Communion prep: Faith, the dogmas, The Creed; Love, charity, the Commandments; Prayer, in Latin, of course, the Ave, Gloria, Pater; The Sacraments, including Confession first; the Mass, the Eucharist.
Then before the day of Holy Communion, the children went on a retreat, and let me descibe this--The were apart from their families and companions (remember, they were seven\) and dined in the school alone in recollection.
During the retreat, they spent a lot of time in the garden looking after plants and little animals.
They also made their own silver rosaries for their Communion day and they made their own little five page books for the day.
They learned on the retreat and in the sessions in the church to kneel, stand, sit quietly.
They were trained not to turn their head at distractions or noises, but to concentrate on loving and praising God
They were given lantern slides, which could be power-points today, on the lives of the saints, and learned little hymns, as well as washing their own dishes after meals and cleaning up. The humility of Christ's Birth and His Hidden Life of Nazareth would have been part of this.
Pasrt of your home schooling prep should be a little altar as in the photo earlier, with candles, missal, little paten, chalice as a start. See the Catecheis of the Good Shepherd for this presentation.
Also, the reference to the Last Supper with little characters of Jesus and the Twelve can be part of this.
If little peasant children in 1923 could learn, why not our children, unless they have been raised like weeds by careless parents.
The retreat, by the way, lasted five days. Here is Montessori's comment. on the results.
Not only do the principles of human justice interest them (at this age), but a simple love of Jesus is born in theirs hearts and with it a great desire of purifications.
Parents, do not underestimate the holiness which your little ones can achieve at a very young age. Do not spoil what aspirations God has put in these little ones.
To be continued....