Play as Lectio Divina

Play as Lectio Divina

I’ve been thinking more about Bella playing with the modelling clay and her retelling of the Easter story. It really gets to the heart of what the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is about. I tend to get so caught up in the details and the externals that I often forget the heart of the educational method. Montessori is designed always for an institutional, classroom setting and it can be so hard to sort out what only makes sense in a classroom verses what makes sense in a home environment, to find the principle at the heart of the method and to apply it with a very different sort of method.

So the heart of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is the idea that play is a child’s way of meditating on the Gospel. When a child has had the Gospel proclaimed to her, and then she proceeds to retell it in her own words to act it out with any sort of materials, she engaged in active meditation on the Word that she has received. It really is a sort of lectio divina. When she acts out the story, her imagination is fully engaged. She is truly entering into the story and becoming a participant in it rather than a passive listener. In her play she is, in fact, entering into conversation with God. It is a form of prayer.

And in fact for Bella it even became a form of evangelization as she retold the story to her younger sister. Bella herself was a herald of the Gospel, exercising her prophetic calling.

From what I understand the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd as it is formally taught puts a great deal of emphasis on the materials being of a certain type, of a certain quality. And in a classroom setting that most certainly makes sense. But the more I ponder the more I question how much that can and should translate in a home setting. We have very limited financial resources, I have very limited time I can dedicate to the production of catechetical materials, and we have very limited storage space. But as I saw yesterday, Bella is quite capable of improvising on her own when given a very little nudge.

I think it may well be time for me to revisit the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, to re-read Sofia Cavaletti’s book and to ponder how exactly we are going to proceed with Bella’s (and Sophie’s and Ben’s) religious instruction.

I am already seeing that my once a week daily Mass is not only an opportunity for me to receive nourishment for myself; but also for me to have a chance for me to give each of my children one-on-one attention and one-on-one instruction. What an amazing gift!

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  • yes yes YES!  you have perfectly said what I’ve felt about this book since I first read it about two years ago (when my first baby was still a baby and not a crazy two year old). 

    there’s always something to be said for “routine” but the way Pierlot’s book is laid out it becomes a “schedule” and I really don’t think it’s possible with babies.  I remember looking at it shortly before my second was born, hoping to find something about how to handle a newborn who needs to eat at various times and there was NOTHING.

    Perhaps a book needs to be written for new moms.  Chapter 1. You can’t do everything.  Love your baby and take care of them.  Hire a maid if the mess drives you too crazy.  The End.

  • Very nicely written. I liked Abigail’s post as well (esp. since I wanted to go to that conference and couldn’t lol) but didn’t get to comment on it yesterday.

    While I freely admit I dream of the day my life has some order, it would only upset and depress me to try to set up a rigid schedule dictating my every move only to have little ones mandate constant changes.

    I do have have daily goals, like school time with Cecilia, straightening up, etc. but there is no mandate on when exactly or for how long those things have to happen. I think little ones require that you have the flexibility that a rigid schedule would deny. I’ve had Cecilia ask to “do school” before I’ve even had breakfast. To the extent my brain is functioning, I try to run with it. Likewise though, if I don’t get to the laundry, it will still be there waiting for me.

    I also think relinquishing control coincides with mastering patience. I’m still working on that one, but for me it has made for a calmer, more peaceful, more patient mommy. More so now than a few years ago anyway.

  • I think it’s so true that we crave schedules and charts when we are feeling our lives are chaotic.  I have experienced that so many times.

    I have a book around the house written by a priest called Counsels of Perfection for Christian Mothers.  It discusses a “rule” too but it is much simpler than A Mother’s Rule of Life.  Even so, simple does not mean easy.  The things he mentions like making regular time for prayer and trying to rise at a certain hour of the day were incredibly difficult for me during my baby years. 

    I think what I liked about his book, though, was that it was the type of advice I could keep in my head.  I’ve used chores charts and schedules for older kids but the bottom line is that if the schedule is so confusing that I need a written outline to follow it, it’s probably too confusing to be effective.

    I do think advice is a double-edged sword.  I probably get the most good out of simple tips and out of a positive, encouraging attitude. 

    I used to crave a complete system but found that it added up to craving a different life than the one God put me in—I always ended up feeling frustrated and dissatisfied, and I don’t think that feeling comes from God. 

  • Thank you.  I would venture that it’s not just when you have small children, but when there are major changes in your life that things are chaotic.  I find that we establish a routine and then when I “think” I’ve gained some semblance of control a new baby will come along or someone will get sick or… Control is an illusion; trust in God is hard, but that’s the lesson.  This book just made me feel incompetent with every change in our lives.

  • Hi Melanie!  Great post.  I, too, read this book with great expectation, but I just couldn’t do it.  I have three small ones (7 and under), and merely dealing with my kids and meals and laundry takes up 90% of my time.  If I can get one big thing done a day, such as cleaning a bathroom or scrubbing a floor, that’s quite an accomplishment for me.

    But, still, I really want order.  I am praying to God to show me the way.  This may be overstating it, but when my house is messy and dirty and chaotic, I feel that the devil reigns here.  When I bring order to a draw or a closet, I feel that I’ve brought God to it.

    Does anyone else feel that way?  I think there is a reason that we crave order and simplicity and beauty.  It’s the way of God. 

  • Dee,
    I do feel the same way. Disorder and clutter and dirt drive me crazy and it feels wrong. It does feel of the devil. And if my house is a mess because I’m being neglectful and frittering away my time, if the disorder is a reflection of my sloth then it is indeed of the devil. 

    But I think you are treading dangerous ground here. While I do think it is right to crave order and I do think that bringing order out of chaos can be one means of bringing God into our households, into our lives… Still the risk I have found in my own life is that I am tempted to make order into a god at the expense of my family’s well-being and even my own well-being.

    Yes, we crave simplicity and order and they are good things but… but…. I find that sometimes in chasing cleanliness and neatness I begin to neglect prayer and spending time with my children, which are even more important things. Sometimes for me a day that ends with clean floors and a tidy house is a day that was spent telling the kids “not right now” and “just a minute”. It’s a day when the baby cried for a few minutes with what turned out to be a dirty diaper because I just wanted to finish this one thing. It’s a day when I skipped my morning prayers because I told myself I’d do them after I started some laundry and cleaned that mess and …. you get the idea. My house may have been clean but my soul was in an even bigger disarray.

    I’m not saying that there is a necessary dichotomy. I do think we should strive for order in all aspects of our life. BUT I do think we need to go easy on ourselves if we find that we can’t always do it all. And I think we need to prioritize.

    The thing is in my particular situation right now I don’t know how to do it all. I don’t know how to have a clean house and happy kids and caught up laundry and a weeded garden and good healthy food and a rich prayer life and all the goals I want for my family. All of them are good goals but for me right now not all of them are attainable at the same time. My real life is a messy balancing act. And no Rule of Life is going to magically clear away all of the obstacles to making it neat and orderly because those obstacles are my own human limitations.

    Nursing babies take a long time to tend. At least mine do. Anthony needs me to hold him and cuddle him. Diapers need to be changed. Ben and Bella and Sophie need me to read to them and cuddle them too. And all that takes time. Shopping needs to happen and laundry and dishes and… and… and. And there are only so many hours in the day! Something has to give. It can be the kids going without a story and lingering in a dirty diaper or it can be the floors being vacuumed and the pantry being decluttered. I can’t have it all and trying to tell me I can doesn’t do me any favors.

    Sure, having a clean bathroom brings me peace of mind. But there is a deeper truth that sometimes inner peace has to come despite the mess and not because I’ve conquered it. It’s not that cleaning the mess is wrong—indeed it is very good!—but that today it is lower on the priority list than something else.

    One great thing that Holly’s book does is list out the various priorities that claim our attention and ranks them. She calls them the five Ps. She rightly puts prayer first becasue the root of all order is God. The reason we crave order in our homes is because it reflects God’s divine order. But what Holly’s book failed to do for me was to remind me that sometimes I couldn’t do it all and that in those times I need to let God be my peace and not a tidy house.

    I can perhaps commit to trying to do one thing a day to make my home more orderly; but I may not be able to bring enough order to bring me peace of mind. Especially not in those most difficult seasons of pregnancy and the postpartum period when there are extra drains on my energy and time. In those times what does me the most good is to remember that people are more important than things and that order in my relationships is a higher good than order in my possessions. Growing and tending babies is hard work, draining work. It is beautiful work too. And it is also a participation in God’s divine order. More, it is a higher participation in God’s divine order than sweeping the floors. So I thank God for my craving of order and beauty and I thank God for allowing me to participate with him in the creation of new life and ask him to let my messy house be a sacrifice so that my desire for order and my frustration with the chaos can remind me of my longing for him.

    Yes, that is what I should do (though I often fail at it.) I should bring it to prayer. Tell God how frustrated I am with the mess and with my inability to bring order out of the chaos of my home. And if I really listen then sometimes he shows me that the real disorder is not in my home but in my restless heart. I suspect that the real root of this dilemma is what Augustine says: Our hearts are restless until they rest in God. The chaos and our inability to conquer it don’t have to be of the devil. Instead, they can attest to that deeper truth of our longing for God if only we open our eyes to see it.

  • Thank you, Melanie.  Your points are very well made, and I think you are right.  I can’t manage it all either and perhaps God is trying to get me to turn towards Him much more deeply.  I often feel like Martha: scattered, complaining, and too busy for Jesus.

    One thing I do remember about Holly’s book is that she couldn’t even begin to create her schedule until she accomplished two things:  getting rid of all the clutter and having a place for everything (order).  That’s where I am. 

    Not knowing where things are and trying to rummage through clutter certainly take away my peace, but they also set a bad example for my kids—whom I’m trying to teach to have good habits. 

    The other downside is that I am less inclined towards Christian hospitality.  I don’t like having people over because I’m embarrassed, and this also extends to my children in the form of not wanting to have playdates as well. 

    And the third big problem with the disorder is that it takes away my husband’s peace and just makes things more unpleasant for everyone.  Certainly when I’m pregnant or nursing,  my husband doesn’t expect very much.  But right now I am neither, and I just feel that I need to really get with it a little more.

    What’s been coming up in prayer for me is to ask my parents to take the kids for a week or so this summer so that I can think and plan and declutter.  That would be the imperfect help that I need to ask for.  It’s so hard to ask, especially if they say no and can’t do it for as long as I want.  But I need to try. 

    My goal isn’t a perfect house, but a pleasant family life and a true domestic church.  So, please pray for me!  This vocation is beautiful, but very tough.  But I am in a place right now where I need to kick it up several notches!





  • Dee,
    It is beautiful but tough. And we need to encourage each other in it. You definitely have my prayers.

    I do think that decluttering is a great goal. I was just starting to make a bit of progress on doing some decluttering in my own house right before Anthony was born and now every day I look at the half-finished projects and throw up my hands and wail.  So I guess where I’m writing from now is that place where it’s something I’d love to do but it’s not a realistic goal for me just now. Which doesn’t at all mean it isn’t a realistic goal for you. If you aren’t pregnant or nursing then you don’t have a major obstacle. I love the idea of sending the kids to your parents. That seems like it could be a win-win-win for everyone.

    I totally agree with all your points that decluttering is a good and necessary first step and that it will make it easier to keep things clean and ordered help you find things and make things generally pleasant for everyone. I hope it works out for you and your parents are able to watch the kids.

    I’m so hoping that I’ll find an opportunity to get back to my own decluttering projects soon. I am such a packrat that it doesn’t come easy; but it does bring me a certain peace of mind. I don’t like living in the crisis times of pregnancy and newborns; but I do recognize that there might be ways in which those times help me to draw closer to God.

  • Melanie, you are so right when you said that it’s really about the people, not the things.  That’s really what it’s all about.  Jesus will judge us on how much we loved, not by how much we accomplished. 

    And yes, my goodness, you absolutely cannot take on any home-improvement projects right now!  My youngest is two, so I have a bit of a break to reorganize—and this whole notion of bringing order and beauty to my home has been on my mind and in my prayers for quite a while. 

    I am going to pray for you, too!  Babies are so labor intensive that you can’t help but naturally readjust and slow way, way down.  It’s a good thing!

    I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to do what Holly has done, but I do admire her resolve and understand the complete exasperation.  I trust that the Holy Spirit will show us each the right way to manage our homes and family life.  And it will be wonderfully individual—not one size fits all.