Yes, really, spooning beans from one bowl to another can bring your child closer to God. No joking.
So can caring for the Atrium environment by watering plants and polishing their leaves; cleaning; pouring beans and water; arranging flowers; washing hands; using tongs to move small objects; polishing brass; and other works in the practical life area of the Atrium.
As the name implies, there are some practical reasons, based on the young child’s needs, that we do these kinds of works in the Atrium. Pouring and tonging help children develop fine motor skills and learn more control of their motions. Taking care of their room and the things in it fosters a sense of independence and service.
And, of course, all this helps our Atria to be beautiful with living plants full of shiny leaves, vases of thoughtfully arranged flowers and clean tables.
But there is more to practical life than that. Practical life works are part of the Atrium culture of slowing down, paying attention and noticing the presence of God in the small and seemingly ordinary that we might otherwise just pass by on a busy weekday. When we spoon or pour beans from one container to another, we don’t do it quickly and efficiently like we do when we were making lentil soup for dinner. We do it slowly and deliberately. We listen to each lovely “plink” that each bean makes when it falls. The child looks at each flower carefully before choosing the one or two from the wondrous bunch to carefully arrange in a vase. You can’t help but take notice of how intricate and simply lovely a leaf is when you take the time to polish it.
God gives us all this and more every day. What we try to do with the children – and ourselves — on Sunday morning is slow down and focus enough to genuinely appreciate it.
Finally, many of these works lay the foundation for some of the later lessons children will receive about the liturgy. Pouring beans and water helps build the capacity for the lesson on how to prepare the cruets and the chalice. Washing hands is a precursor to the lesson on Lavabo, the priestly ritual of making hands clean in a way that has nothing to do with germs but everything to do with being in a proper state to prepare communion, and to the cleansing and life-giving aspects of the water of Baptism
So I’ve told you about our Catechesis ways of slowing down and being more mindful of the beauty. My fellow catechists and I would love to hear what your family does to slow down and be present. Leave a comment!