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Charisse Tierney shares the lessons in humility she has learned from the children in her church's Catechesis of the Good Shepherd atrium.

Children look so much bigger in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd atrium. The atrium is a specially prepared environment where the wonder of the child meets the wonder of God.

Child-sized tables, chairs, dustpans, pitchers, chalices, and cruets are seen all about the atrium. These materials allow children to easily navigate and personalize their encounter with God. These miniature materials have also had a profound effect on my perception of reality.

I spend two hours a week in the atrium with a group of 3- to 6-year-olds. I stoop down to their level. I present teachings of our Catholic faith using materials that are just their size. I watch them work at tables created for them.


Catechesis of the Good Shepherd atrium


In the midst of all that smallness, I’m privileged to catch a glimpse of how big and important these children are in God’s eyes.

And when I see them out in the “real world,” I find it hard to believe they are the same children. They look so small in our big world that struggles to find the humility to cater to children. When they aren’t next to furniture and materials that are made for them, I remember how young they are. I remember how vulnerable they are to being overlooked in a world that so desperately needs their wisdom.

As adults, we tend to hover over children, push our hurried agenda on them, and interfere with their natural development by swooping in to “help” when they really just want to figure out how to do something by themselves.


Catechesis of the Good Shepherd atrium


But when we lower ourselves to their level, move at their pace, and watch them grow rather than trying to rush them along, we give ourselves the gift of noticing. Like the children, we notice the tiny purple flower bravely standing tall among the weeds; we notice the fuzzy caterpillar crawling across the walking path; and we gain inspiration by observing our child’s perseverance as she drags a chair across the room or pours a cup of milk all by herself.

One week while I was in the atrium, a 4-year-old little boy whispered to me that he wanted to go to “the prayer room”. I walked with him into our chapel with its child-sized benches and he walked right up to the rug in front of the tabernacle. And this little child knelt down and lay prostrate before our Lord. He was already so small and yet he made himself still smaller.

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Children aren’t afraid to imitate what they know to be holy. Maybe one day I can learn to be just like them. #catholicmom

That moment will forever loom large in my memory. It was the love of God magnified. Jesus tells us we must be like these little children to enter His Kingdom. In that moment in the atrium chapel, I saw just how great being little can be.

As my own children grow, I feel so blessed to be working in an environment where I can always be around small children. I can observe, learn, and grow as they innocently do what comes naturally to them. Children aren’t afraid to imitate what they know to be holy. Maybe one day I can learn to be just like them.

Fyodor Dostoevsky is credited with saying, “The soul is healed by being with children.”

I would dare to say that the soul is saved by being with children. And there is nothing greater than that.

Copyright 2021 Charisse Tierney
Images copyright 2021 Charisse Tierney, all rights reserved.