What is an Atrium?
Created to meet the spiritual and educational needs of children as young as three years old, the atrium is like a retreat house, a place set apart for the children, who receive a series of presentations (or lessons) there. The environment and the presentations are carefully designed to lead the child to contemplate and experience an aspect of God interiorly. Built on the belief that God is indeed already in conversation with the soul of the child, the atrium and its materials are provided to further the child's relationship with God in a way that respects the uniqueness of each one and his or her growing awareness of that relationship. "You may be wondering how these materials help the religious life of children? If an adult hears a beautiful passage from the Bible, the adult might take a Bible, find the passage, and read it slowly again and again. He or she may think deeply about the words and perhaps speak to God in a thankful or hopeful prayer. But a little child, too young to read, needs another way. In an atrium the child can ponder a biblical passage or a prayer from the liturgy by taking the material for that text and working with it." (Source: http://www.cgsusa.org)
The atrium space is structured with child-sized shelves and tables on which rest beautiful, generally hand-crafted materials used first by the catechist in demonstration, then by the children as they freely choose which aspect of God they wish to pursue and experience further. Everything placed in the atrium is for the child's use, according to his or her developmental needs. This enables the children to develop their physical, intellectual, and spiritual capacities in a safe environment under the direction of trained catechists and their assistants. Those who instruct also listen and observe as the children come into contact with God at their own paces and rhythms, guided by the liturgical cycle of the year.
Copyright 2009, Seraphima Sierra Butler