Friday, February 7, 2014

Two Things to Know About the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd

The artwork, the music, and the colorful vestments appeal to our senses and draw us in.
Soon after Maria Montessori opened her first children's house, Pope Pius X suggested that she apply her methods to religious education.  Many teachers and aides in Montessori classrooms aren't aware that Dr. Maria said her method found its fullest expression when it was applied to the teaching of the Catholic faith!

St. Louis Cathedral
If you've ever been to a Catholic Mass you know that all of the senses and much of our bodies are involved in worship:

  • our ears hear the music and the Word of God
  • our eyes see beautiful art all around us, the decorative flowers, the colorful chasuble of the priest 
  • our noses smell the incense
  • we genuflect before the tabernacle and kneel, stand and sit at various times
Lots of music!

Everywhere we look we are inspired.

The bells!
 And on special feast days we may even have a procession or the priest may sprinkle us with holy water (cold!) or we may get to hold a lit candle (making mom nervous!) or a blessed palm (but don't poke your brother with it)--all of these things are terribly exciting to small children!

I've always known in my gut that the Catholic liturgy and the Montessori approach in the classroom had a lot in common, but I never knew that Montessori herself considered religious education the highest example--the pinnacle and summit--of her unique method.  She also said that true respect for the child is only possible when we have respect for God in the baptized child.  So that's the first thing to know about the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.

Texture, the play of light, the smell of pine--a true Montessori smorgasbord!
The second thing:  the teacher must attend to her own soul before she can guide the child.  I need to examine my own conscience regularly and, through works of humility, try to become more and more Christlike.  I wrote about that here, but I also remember Montessori specifically mentioning anger and pride as the primary stumbling blocks we teachers face.

More on our new atrium, Our Lady Queen of Hope Atrium, coming soon!  To see photos from a presentation we did last year during a Montessori Morning, click here.

"Montessori Catechesis" by Margaret Wickware, The Sower, July 2007
The Church and the Child by Maria Montessori and Others, by E. M. Standing


  1. I am torn between being sad that we didn't have this beautiful method when our kids were little and being excited to see my grandson get to experience it when he gets a couple of years older. With the debate raging in other parts of the Catholic blogosphere about religious education, this is a refreshingly positive post. Thanks, Sarah!

  2. Another great thing about it is that, as a teacher, you grow in your knowledge of the faith and in its depth. Great grandma hobby!

  3. I actually became interested in Montessori by first becoming curious about the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. I was taught in both methods as a child and remember many little things about learning catechesis in this manner with fondness. Even today, I am still so attracted to the liturgical, ritual and sensual aspects of our faith! Now the mother of a toddler with another on the way, I'd really like to incorporate more Catechesis of the Good Shepherd in our home and family life, especially since attending an actual training does not seem foreseeable in the near future. How do you recommend one go about this? Are the teaching materials available anywhere?

  4. Cecilia,
    Hi! You can check out (and you might consider a subscription from them) and also some places that sell books related to CGS, like and google "Catechesis of the Good Shepherd + albums" or "+ lessons". You may get lucky and learn that there are other CGS-interested people in your area! Let me know if you have any specific questions, and I will try to post some more on what I've been doing. God bless!

  5. For example, here's something I just found that is an example of a mom with young children trying to figure out how to start:

  6. Thanks! I'll do some digging around and see what I find!

  7. Hi! Do you maybe know where I could find these MM words: "method found its fullest expression when it was applied to the teaching of the Catholic faith!" ? I love your blog from day I found it years ago. I'm also blogger and catechist for CGS (3-6 for 10th year and 6-9 second year). I really enjoyed this post and post Montessori's Epiphany: A Play on Words. Thank you <3