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  • Writer's pictureBr. Allen

"The catechist is not a teacher"

Updated: Sep 23, 2020

The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd's ideology reflects a break with the traditional understanding of passing down the faith. Rather, CGS presupposes the premise that the child already has the knowledge within the him or herself, which merely needs to be unleashed. Thus, the catechist is heavily discouraged from teaching, and is thereby reduced to a mere facilitator.

"She works from the theological assumption that Catechesis offers children the opportunity to relate to God whom "they innately know and perceive." It is not a "catechesis of definition but a catechesis of invitation"

The children do not need to be taught; the children learn by discovering the inner truths they already possess. This is the counter-intuitive "teaching" method of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.

Since the catechist is not imparting wisdom but merely guiding the students so that they find inner truth, the Catechist is instructed not to teach.

"the only Teacher is Christ; both children and adults place themselves in a listening stance before his Word" CGS 32 Points of Reflection
"The catechist is not a teacher, remembering that the only Teacher is Christ himself. The catechist renounces every form of control" CGS 32 Points of Reflection
"The material makes it possible for the catechist to assume his/her proper “post” as “the useless servant.”" CGS 32 Points of Reflection
"The attitude of the adult has to be marked by humility before the capacities of the child, establishing a right rapport with the child, that is to say, respecting the personality of the child, and waiting for the child to reveal himself/herself." CGS 32 Points of Reflection

This poses the question of what the children do if they are not being instructed by a teacher. In a CGS classroom - or atrium, as it's called - are found hands-on materials for the students to work with. The catechist presents questions for the students to ponder, rather than directly teaching the truths of the faith. Through working with class materials, the children teach themselves the Faith in a manner similar to the learning style of a Montessori classroom. Also similar to a Montessori classroom, though the catechists present the material, they are not to teach the Faith, but to pose questions.

The CGS system is based entirely on the Montessori method and ideology. Though elements of the Montessori system can be effective, there must be measures to ensure each child learns all the lessons and material. As stated elsewhere, much information mandated by the US bishops has been removed from the CGS classes. There is also no system in a CGS class to ensure the children learn any particular information; rather, the children are expected to repeat questions during their work time to fully grasp the content. The problem is that CGS psychology believes the child learns through special knowledge to which they have access. In this way, the child to grasps deeper truths than what could be taught. This concept stems from Montessori's dabbling in eastern mysticism. In short, CGS embraces Montessori’s vision that children are little messiahs.

"the catechist embraces Maria Montessori’s vision of the human being" CGS 32 Points of Reflection

In Maria Montessori's journal article of theosophism, called The Child: The Eternal Messiah, she writes about the inner ability of the child to come to a special knowledge from within. She believed that children posses truth and of which teachers are ignorant. Indeed, teachers are even expected to learn from the children.

27. The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is also concerned with helping adults open their eyes to the hidden riches of the child, especially to the child’s spiritual wealth, so that adults will be drawn to learn from the child and to serve him/her. CGS 32 Points of Reflection

These concepts are clearly manifest in the CGS ideology.

24. The tasks of the catechist include: to go deeper into the Christian message through the knowledge of the biblical and liturgical sources and of ongoing living tradition of the church, including the theological, social and ecumenical movements which enliven the church today; • preparing an environment and maintaining order in that environment (the atrium) so that it fosters concentration, silence and contemplation in both the child and adult; • preparing the materials oneself as much as possible while collaborating with others in areas that are beyond one’s abilities. CGS 32 Points of Reflection
27. The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is also concerned with helping adults open their eyes to the hidden riches of the child, especially to the child’s spiritual wealth so that adults will be drawn to learn from the child and to serve him/her. CGS 32 Points of Reflection

Since the learning of the child is dependent upon him finding inner truth, excessive doctrines and concepts not only become superfluous but constitute a distraction from pondering truths.

"children's deep and mysterious relationship with God, a relationship that she feels is much more serious than that of adults"

This idea led the founders of CGS to remove material they felt did not lead the child to joyful contemplation. The material which was excluded contained many essential Catholic doctrines. These may be laborious to learn, but they are essential for knowing one's Faith.

"According to Cavalletti, she and Gobbi made many mistakes and had to throw away some of the materials they had created as they searched to find the essential themes and elements that correspond to the needs of the children. Only materials that aroused much interest and deep joy were kept. They were seeking the most essential and the simplest materials that would help the personal work of the children so that the children would be able to grasp the message of the Scripture or the liturgy. Therefore, anything that was not essential was removed from the atrium. Their ongoing quest has been to " 'know, love, and serve the child,'"

CGS has two major problems. First, there is a critical absence of Church doctrine. Second, there is no active teaching, and hence very little learning. Priests have found that the students of CGS know little about the fundamentals of the Catholic Faith. Third, CGS is built on a novel concept of the child's inner knowledge, which has been condemned as an error of Modernist. This ideology does not come from Catholic tradition, but from the pseudo-psychology of eastern religions.

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