Notes from the Atrium
Finding Rest in the Atrium
Posted By Micki Hill on June 21, 2013
St Augustine wrote, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.”
Walking into the atrium for 3-5 year olds on Sunday morning you can sense the truth of these words. The atrium, where children meet for the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, is a retreat house, a quiet, focused place where children are drawn into worship and where Christ is encountered through Word and action.
In preparing the atrium, everything is chosen to meet the young child’s needs. Furnishings are child-sized and materials are designed with simplicity, beauty, and dignity. The environment and the presentations are carefully chosen to lead the child to contemplate and
experience an aspect of God.
In the atrium, children hold tiny mustard seeds in their hands to ponder Jesus’ words, “The Kingdom of God is like a Mustard Seed.” They enjoy the complete love offered by the Good Shepherd as they move sheep from the sheepfold, intent on following the Shepherd’s voice. They contemplate the Mystery of our Faith in the presentation of the Last Supper, as they learn that Jesus died and is Risen. They set the small model altar for the Eucharist, and learn the special name for items used at the feast that Jesus calls us to share.
To help the child receive these important proclamations, they must first adjust to the rhythm of the space. When they first enter the atrium they are shown that this is a place that has been set aside for worship. There is a certain way we act in the atrium, we walk slowly and talk softly and we treat the people and materials respectfully.
Another help in adjusting to the atrium is through Practical Life materials. The children work with purpose-pouring water, cutting paper, polishing brass candlesticks or watering plants. At first glance, these materials may seem totally unrelated to religious formation. However, it is joyful work for the three- to five-year -old child, calming their bodies, focusing their minds and preparing them directly and indirectly for future work in the atrium.
As adults, we honor the child’s need for Holy Time and Holy Ground when we choose not to overwhelm the space by our size and quick movements. Enter the space slowly and quietly and absorb the rhythm that has been created by the children. You may notice that in those brief moments your heart also finds time and place to rest in God.