Meeting the Good Shepherd with children

By Heather Lampman

Good Shepherd

Throughout Lent and Eastertide, we are all invited to deepen our relationship with Jesus, who laid down His life for His sheep, and took it up again, not keeping that risen life for Himself, but spreading it to all of us. In the Montessori-based Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (St Luke’s Winnipeg, St Peter’s Winnipeg, St Mary’s Portage, St Michael’s Victoria Beach), adults and children together spend focused time with the Good Shepherd.

Why is it called the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd? Because the children who have lived this catechesis in Italy, in the United States, in Africa, in Latin America, in Australia, over the last 60 years, all have responded to the image of the Good Shepherd with joy and found in him a centre-point for the whole Christian experience.

We begin with the youngest children enjoying the parable of the Good Shepherd, who calls each sheep by name, whose voice the sheep recognize and follow. How much He cares for them! Even children who have never known this kind of loving care from a parent respond to the Good Shepherd parable, recognize in it Someone they know.

the Shepherd calls, and the sheep hear His voice and follow Him. Love is poured out… and the recipient responds with joy and peace.

And embedded in even this first encounter with the Good Shepherd is the essence of covenant: the Shepherd calls, and the sheep hear His voice and follow Him. Love is poured out… and the recipient responds with joy and peace.

And when He finds the sheep, does He scold, question, punish? – No, He picks up the sheep and carries Him on His shoulders, bringing him back to the fold, where there is rejoicing for all.

After some time, the child is ready for the second parable, that of the Found Sheep. What happens when one of the sheep is lost? What does the Shepherd do? And when He finds the sheep, does He scold, question, punish? – No, He picks up the sheep and carries Him on His shoulders, bringing him back to the fold, where there is rejoicing for all. I wonder how the sheep felt when it heard the Shepherd’s voice again… I wonder who was more full of joy, the sheep or the Shepherd?

the Good Shepherd holds nothing back, giving Himself completely, and remaining with us forever in the bread and the wine.

The children will also hear the narrative of the Last Supper, watching it enacted with figures. This is when the Good Shepherd lays down His life for His sheep – first in the bread and wine, before realizing it fully in His death on the cross: “This is my body …This is my blood.” He holds nothing back, giving Himself completely, and remaining with us forever in the bread and the wine.

Finally, when they have had time with the Good Shepherd, to ponder His love, to think about who the sheep are, the children discover that the Good Shepherd calls them to a special place to feed them with the very best food. Beside the green circle of the sheepfold, there is placed an identical circle with a small altar in the centre. This time the Shepherd stands directly on the altar, calling His sheep. The words He says over the bread and wine tell us that the statue is not necessary; it can be taken away, and He is still there on the altar, in the bread and in the wine, His body and blood.

“Lord Jesus, come. Good Shepherd, come. The bread is on the table. Lead us to You. Lord Jesus, come. Good Shepherd, come. The wine is on the table. Lead us to You.”