Teaching your children about the saints can enliven their faith and help lead them to heaven
by Devin Rose
A statue of St. Francis of Assisi, patron of animals and the environment, rests outside St. Felix Church in Clifton Springs, N.Y. (CNS photo by Mike Crupi, Catholic Courier)
As Catholic fathers, we may wonder how to form our children in the faith when secular culture seems so set against us. If we don’t give our children role models, the culture will, and those models will often lead them away from God. One way I’ve found to make the faith lively and personal is through the lives of the saints. In the saints, our children can see what is true, good and beautiful in humanity, and be inspired to heroic virtue.
|Too often, we think of saints as gloomy, humorless figures who endured a life of pain for the distant reward of heaven. This is an unfortunate misunderstanding.|
We should teach our children and grandchildren about the saints from a young age because, quite simply, God wants all of us to become saints. Too often, we think of saints as gloomy, humorless figures who endured a life of pain for the distant reward of heaven. This unfortunate misunderstanding was highlighted by Pope Benedict XVI in an address to young people during his recent trip to Germany: “The very notion of saints has been caricatured and distorted, as if to be holy meant to be remote from the world, naive and joyless.”
Indeed, no one is more full of joy than a saint! After all, to love God and follow his will fulfills us in a way that nothing else can. We should want our children to find this fulfillment, and they can discover it in the Christ-centered lives of the saints.
The first step in teaching your children is informing yourself. Get a book on the saints or search for information on a reliable Catholic website. Try to find saints who have a connection to your child’s life. Good figures to start with are St. Dominic Savio and St. Maria Goretti, who both exhibited great virtues at a young age. Popular with young adults is Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, a fun-loving “Man of the Eight Beatitudes,” who died when he was 24.
Of course, Knights and their families can also learn more about Venerable Michael McGivney, a humble, hard-working priest known as the “Apostle to the Young and Protector of Christian Family Life.”
Once you have informed yourself, you are ready to teach your children. Take a multi-pronged approach and make it fun.
If your child is named after a saint, do something special related to that saint. For David, get some slingshots and shoot imaginary giants with your son. For Michael, make swords from sticks and stage a battle in heaven. Mary and Joseph, of course, have their own special saints in the Holy Family. Margaret, Bridget or Elizabeth can dress as queens, and Joan may don armor as the “Maid of Orleans” and lead soldiers into battle.
When you pass a Catholic church while driving with young children, make the sign of the cross and wave hello to Jesus, invoking the parish’s patron saint. Some friends of ours with older children play a game in the car, taking turns naming a saint for each letter of the alphabet.
You can also encourage older children to emulate a saint’s life of service by volunteering at a food bank or pregnancy center, or through other community or parish projects.
Finally, look for some beautiful artwork featuring a saint and get a print of it framed. There are a number of websites offering this service. Likewise, a book featuring pictures and short biographies of the saints can be a great resource for children of any age.
Pope Benedict explained the challenging formula for becoming a saint in his address to German youth: “Christ is not so much interested in how often in our lives we stumble and fall, as in how often with his help we pick ourselves up again.” A saint is someone who picked him- or herself up, by God’s grace, one more time than he or she stumbled and fell.
Devin Rose is a software engineer who blogs about St. Joseph and other saints. He and his wife have four children.