By Lindsay Schlegel
If you want your kids to love the saints as much as you do, there’s one thing you need to keep in mind: You can’t love someone until you get to know them.
Now, of course, we are called to love all people, to honor their dignity, and to treat them with respect. But love in this context is something that comes from building a relationship, from spending time learning about the other and from time interacting with the other. Without this time and effort spent, the other isn’t much more than an abstraction. If you want your kids to have a real relationship with the saints, you need to get personal.
Consider the relationship my kids have with one of my best friends, Sarah. Sarah lives in Illinois, while we live in New Jersey. They’ve seen some pictures of her, but my kids have spent only a handful of days with her in their lives. And yet, to them, she is Auntie Sarah, someone whose visits are highly anticipated—and not just because she always has great gifts tucked away in her suitcase.
My kids love Sarah because they know that I love her. They’ve heard stories about the time we’ve spent together, and I’ve told them about the great qualities she possesses. They’ve chatted with her on FaceTime between visits. I’m excited about the time I get to spend with Sarah, and so they hunger for the same. (They are not pleased when I make a visit to Sarah on my own!)
So it can be with the saints. When we, as parents, get to know the saints by reading biographies or the saints’ own works, we gather information that we can share with our kids. We have pictures to show them and stories to share.
When we spend time in prayer, asking the saints to intercede for us, we invite the saints to get to know us and the desires of our hearts as well. And when these practices become natural for us, they are things we will naturally pass on to our children, because they have become second nature to us.
I didn’t grow up knowing much about the saints. For me, they were the aforementioned abstractions. I understood them as holy people who lived lives very different from mine, lives I couldn’t imagine even attempting to imitate. As I grew in my faith, I learned that we are all called to be saints. I come to appreciate that God put me in the time and place that He did so that I, too, could become a saint.
This is the other truth our children need to know: they are also called to be saints. The cloud of witnesses who intercede for us in Heaven, those holy souls who want to help us draw closer to the Lord, are waiting for the day when, God willing, we’ll be right beside them.
We need to talk about this in our homes. We need to ask our children not only what they want to be when they grow up, but what they think God is calling them to be. We need to make space for them to have time in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, to experience a retreat away from home when that’s possible, and to meet people outside of our families who are also striving for sainthood. They need to know that sainthood is the goal, and they need the resources to make progress toward that goal.
I could give you a list of the books we have on our shelves that I hope will help lead my children to lead lives of holiness as adults, but the more important piece of the equation is the status of their hearts. My hope is that they will love the saints because they know them. They will want to be saints because they admire them. They will encourage others to do the same because they can’t imagine anything less.
Ultimately, I pray that my kids will know the voice of the Lord and that they will respond, “Here I am, Lord,” as so many others have done before them.
Lindsay Schlegel is a daughter of God who seeks to encourage, inspire, and lift others up to be all they were created to be through writing, editing, and speaking. She is the author of Don’t Forget to Say Thank You: And Other Parenting Lessons That Brought Me Closer to God and the host of the podcast Quote Me with Lindsay Schlegel. Lindsay lives in New Jersey with her family, and would love to connect on social media or at lindsayschlegel.com.