Pentecost marked the end of our second year of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd in our parish. The atrium year is scheduled to end with the day of Pentecost, and it is considered an important event for the children in the catechesis.
a first year child contemplates a tiny
mustard seed in her hand
Since we wish for the atrium to become a doorway into the spiritual and liturgical life for our children, Pentecost is the culminating celebration within the yearly liturgical cycle of time in the atrium. (250) Over the past year, we have pondered the wonders of God's creation through the power within a mustard seed, the smallest and humblest of seeds, but which becomes a magnificent tree in which the birds of the air nest. (251) With the oldest ones, I have considered the transformative nature of the grain of wheat which is sown and grows, the farmer knows not how; that seed which must first go into the ground and die, but which when it dies then grows into a plant brimming with new seeds, (252) new life. Over and over we have heard proclaimed the message of the angels, "Do not be afraid," as each time they visited and prepared others for the coming of the Light.
the baptism area of the atrium
I watched as the children stood before the Paschal candle, lighting their own candle in remembrance of their day of baptism, reminding them that (253) Christ came to share that light with each of them. We hear about the wonderful gifts of baptism; (254) light, (255) a garment of white, (256) new life by the power of the cross, (257) the oils of gladness and (258) holy chrism, which mark each of us as part of the flock of the Good Shepherd, and ultimately (259) the gift of the Holy Spirit which is given to each of us in the waters of baptism.
a catechist lighting baptismal candles for a group of children
As we moved about the room last Sunday, our rooms were full of both children and joy. We delighted in having everyone together as the Wednesday evening session kids joined the Sunday morning celebration. (260) The hum of busyness was evident, as each quickly found work, doing a surprisingly good job of moving about in rooms that now held a total of (261) 42 children rather than the normal 30 for Sunday morning! About 15 minutes into our morning, a few children wished for the Paschal candle to be lit. They each lit their own candles, and stood around the baptismal font. Before long, a crowd of six or seven children were drawn to the area, and spontaneously they began to softly sing "Christ is Risen" as they raised their candles high in the air. We the catechists quietly observed, as the children held their own little Paschal vigil!
When it came time to gather together for our Pentecost celebration, their Paschal celebration was still ongoing. The children put out their candles and joined us. Our time together at the prayer table was marked by (262) multiple interruptions, of the most beautiful kind. In sharing the events of Pentecost, every time the catechist made the statement Christ died, and He is Risen, it was followed by joyful spontaneous responses of "He is Risen indeed, let us adore his third day resurrection," immediately followed by a singing of "Christ is Risen" - completely child initiated and led. The children heard how the disciples were afraid after Jesus ascended, and that he promised to send a Comforter. Together we listened to the words of the scripture, as the rush of wind and flames of fire descended upon them as they received the Holy Spirit. We heard how (263) when the Holy Spirit comes, people are transformed. The disciples were no longer afraid, they could now boldly proclaim the truth of the Resurrection to all, for they were filled with the Holy Spirit. When the gifts of the Holy Spirit were presented and explained, one child called out "It's just like the gifts of baptism!"
the prayer table set for Pentecost
And while words such as (264-270) Wisdom, Knowledge, Understanding, Counsel, Might, Fear of the Lord, and Delight may seem above the heads of these little ones, when they were allowed to come and choose a gift of the Holy Spirit they would like to receive by lighting a candle, they thoughtfully considered each of those words. Many of the boys were drawn to the gift of Might, Strength. One girl went straight to Delight, because in her words "That means joy!" One five year old stood in front of the word Counsel, and softly uttered the name of the gift as she lit her candle, then remained standing there silently gazing at that light for several minutes.
the gifts of the Holy Spirit, represented with word cards and candles
They wanted to see which gifts their catechists would select. They wanted to compare, who was asking for Knowledge, which of them wanted Wisdom? When we pondered why God would want to give us these gifts, (271) they replied with comments such as "because He loves us," "because he doesn't want us to be afraid of Him," "because he wants us to know him." They wanted to sing joyfully in thanksgiving for the great Gift of the Holy Spirit. Their enthusiasm even carried over into the morning homily. When Father questioned if this day "was to be a day of fear, or a day of joy?" One 3 year old boy in the back called out in response, "a day of joy!"
the children enter the church with their flower offering
Our time in the atrium ends with the procession into church. Each child is given a flower to bring as their gift. It is their offering back, their thanksgiving, both to God and to the parish. (272) They are a part of this body of Christ with each of us, and they are learning how to become more a part of that body.
one of the 8 year olds places her flower at the feet of the icon of Christ