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The awe-inspiring way little children show me how to pray

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Theresa Civantos Barber - published on 10/27/22

Little children approach God in a direct and intimate way. As a new catechist, I learn so much from them.

Recently I’ve begun volunteering as an assistant in a Catechesis of the Good Shepherd atrium, and the experience has been incredible. Little children have a capacity to approach God in a direct and intimate way, and I am learning so much from them. 

You might be wondering, what is Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS)? My own young children have been participating in it for the past year, and you can read about what that’s been like for our family here. From the article:

CGS is specifically set aside as a space and time for children to pray. Using a Montessori approach of physical, hands-on materials, CGS guides a child to know and love God in a developmentally appropriate way in a prepared environment called “the Atrium.” 

I want to share with you one moment in the atrium that really revealed to me how God is working there. 

A few weeks ago, during our CGS session, a little 3-year-old girl approached me and asked me to light a candle at the prayer table for her. 

Lighting a candle at the prayer table is a signal that a child wants to spend time praying. My role as the adult is to sit beside the children and join with them in prayer. 

Sometimes the children pray aloud with us, sometimes they sing a spiritual song, and sometimes they pray in silence. I sit beside them quietly and witness to these beautiful moments of encounter and connection between their souls and God.

A little child shall lead them

At that time, Hurricane Ian was raging its worst. The little one told me, “I need to pray for the people in Florida. There’s a really bad hurricane.” 

Then she knelt down for several minutes and prayed quietly, her lips moving without a sound.

I felt a little awed. Although I had followed news reports about the hurricane, and even have family and friends who live in Florida, it had not occurred to me up until that moment to pray for the people affected by the hurricane.

But truly, “A little child shall lead them” (Isaiah 11:6). As this little child prayed, I prayed too, following her example. 

I can’t express what a feeling of wonder comes with witnessing a little child deep in prayer. They seem to have a simple, innate sense of connection to God that many adults have lost. I could feel God’s presence there with us.

Not every moment in the atrium is so magical. We have some rambunctious little ones in our atrium, and plenty of time is spent helping them find meaningful work to quiet their minds and bodies. 

But these energetic little ones, too, have moments when they lead the way in prayer and devotion. And every time, it’s incredibly moving to see. 

In the atrium, the little children are teaching me how to pray more simply and sincerely. And I am grateful I get to be a part of it.

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Catholic LifestyleChildrenEducation
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