Raising Kids Who Love Saints: We're Doing It Right

Monday, March 17, 2014

It's not often that I reflect on a particular aspect of my parenting and think, "Man, I'm doing that RIGHT!"  I'll be honest, there's just so much uncertainty, so many variables, just so MUCH that sometimes I feel like I'm flying blind here.

But this morning I left Cecilia and John Paul with art supplies - markers, paper, scissors, the like - and I went downstairs to get dressed while the babies napped.  I'm always really excited to see what they make when things are totally open-ended, and I wasn't disappointed today:

"I'm Saint Wucy because I'm holdin' my eyes!"

Yes, she spent that entire time very carefully drawing two purple circles and very carefully cutting them out so that she could be St. Lucy with her eyes on a platter.

Parenting.  Nailed it.

(John Paul drew himself some coins and cut them out, in case you were curious.  One of them was a $200 coin.)

And on a typical day I'm treated to quotes like this:

Is his homeschool showing?

John Paul, immediately upon waking in the morning and coming to the table:  Ah...  I just need to write my name in this box...

I look over to see that he has written "St. Justin"

Me: So you're St. Justin this morning?
John Paul:  Yeah.  I'm a martyr.
Me:  And how were you martyred?
John Paul, humming:  I was just...  Humming...

Not outside the realm of possibilities...

Or this:

Cecilia, waking up from her nap:  Mom, I'm St. Agnes!  And you're Mawwy!  And Dad is Jesus!  And John Paul is Padwe Pio.


Cecilia:  And Aunt Sister is the soldier dat killed me!

Or even this, from the youngest in our family:

Mary Claire, pointing out every religious statue or book she can find:  Pope!  Mawwy!  Jee-US!  Toby (Maximilian Kolbe)!  Woocy (St. Lucy)!  Pio!!!

Don't worry, Elizabeth is just as obsessed - she likes to carry around an adult book on St. John Vianney chanting "Honey! Honey!"

I may have spent the entire day today either reading saint biographies to the kids or helping them act out different martyrdom stories.  Mary Claire and Elizabeth know that when they pick up a toy sword they need to make a "whoosh" sound and pretend to chop off their own heads, so often have they been companions of the martyred saints.

It makes it seem like we have them in saint book camp all day long, doesn't it?  But I promise we don't!  There's still a healthy dose of Angelina Ballerina and Magic School Bus and Daniel Tiger (although Cecilia asked me today, "Why doesn't Daniel Tiger pway before he eats or goes to bed?" I told her maybe he does it in private...), and characters from movies, books, and TV shows find their way into daily play easily enough.  But I'd say they're FAR more interested in the lives of the saints and biblical characters than anyone else.

And for good reason!  You know who's WAY more fascinating than Cinderella?  St. Elizabeth of Hungary - a saint who was a PRINCESS!  And sure, those superheroes might get injured, but St. Sebastian got shot full of arrows AND LIVED.

I think that simply immersing children in a culture devoted to those who have gone before us is HUGE in establishing an interest in those saints, and encouraging the desire to eventually become a saint.  Mary Claire and Elizabeth are 16 months old and are ALWAYS talking about the icons on our walls and the statues on the mantle.  And all the kids bring me saint books aaaaall day long to read to them - Cecilia in particular is on a virgin martyr kick right now.  Just having those books is enough - some days they don't get read at all, but it's amazing how quickly they learn to recognize particular saints just by seeing pictures of them often enough.

So what's worth owning?

I started a Pinterest board here with some of our favorite books so far - sometimes it's surprising to me what the kids love, because I think they won't be drawn to the old-fashioned pictures, but they LOVE those!

If your kids are old enough for read alouds, check out the Encounter the Saints Series.

There are plenty of DVDs out there too, like The Day the Sun Danced, which tells the story of Fatima (I need more of these, if only because it's HILARIOUS watching the kids act out the overly-dramatic lines from the movie).

We also just got a free Holy Heroes CD with the stories of Blessed Imelda Lambertini and St. Juan Diego, and the kids adore it.  Cecilia tells me that Blessed Imelda, St. Cecilia, St. Agnes, St. Lucy, and St. Kateri are her favorite saints.  Because they're girls.  And they're pretty.

What do your kids love when it comes to saints?  Who are their particular favorites?  I'm always so amazed by how much these little ones love the saints, when I feel like I didn't know anything about them when I was their age!

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