With the wonderful feast of All Saints Day coming up, I’ve been thinking about our children and what they think of becoming saints. Many of us adults know that we are called to be saints. But how many of us actually believe that we will reach that lofty goal? How many of us, when we consider our human weaknesses, feel discouraged? Sanctity is for Fr. So and So, but not for me. I often think if ever I go straight to Heaven, it will be on the coattails of the holy people around me or through a trap door.
Maybe it’s their child-like faith or simplicity, but I have noticed that many children do not seem to suffer from the same hang-ups that adults do. Children still believe in their capacity for greatness, not out of pride or naivety, but out of a deep sense of who they are: children of God. As Christian parents, one of the most important things we can do is to keep alive and well our children’s sense of Divine Filiation. St. John wrote:
See what love the Father has for us, that He has called us sons of God, and so we are!…We are truly children of God. (1 Jn 3:1-2).
All Saints Day is the perfect day to remind our children that they are created and born for greatness, the greatness of a faithful child of God: a saint.
Here are seven facts about saints I’ll be sharing with my kids come All Saints Day:
1. Saints are not superheroes. They’re better than superheroes. Why? For one thing, saints are real. If you called on Spider Man for help right now, what would happen? Nothing. But if you prayed to your favorite saint for help with your school work, he or she really would help you. You might not feel or see it, but the intercession of the saints are as real and life-giving as the air you breathe.
Another great thing about saints is that most of them come from ordinary families and from all walks of life. Sure there were saints like St. Francis of Assisi and St. Joseph of Cupertino who could levitate, but most saints were, on the outside, very ordinary people doing ordinary jobs. St. Zita was a maid. St. Isidore was a farmer. St. Louis Martin was a father and clock-maker. St. Gianna Molla was a mother and doctor. One of the greatest saints ever was a poor carpenter, St. Joseph. So what makes saints so different from everyone else? Only this: Their extraordinary love for God and others.
2. Saints are not perfect, and they know it. Can you think of one saint who made a lot of mistakes? St. Peter, our first Pope. He lost his faith while walking across the water to Jesus (Mt 14:28-31). Impetuously, he cut off a servant’s ear during Jesus’ arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane (John 18:10-11). Out of cowardice he denied knowing Jesus three times (Mk 14:66-72). And even St. Paul had to admonish St. Peter for hypocrisy when he refused to eat with the Gentile Christians for fear of what the Jewish Christians would think (Galatians 2:11-13). Poor St. Peter! Many of his blunders are recorded in scripture and go down in history for all the world to know.
But St. Peter repented for each of his mistakes and those mistakes made him very humble. Our Lord knew how humble and loving St. Peter was, and that’s why He made him the first Pope. When Jesus said, “Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect,” He didn’t mean, “Don’t make any mistakes.” Our Lord meant be perfect in love. He wants us to love the way God loves – to love even when it hurts, even until the point of death. That’s exactly what St. Peter did. We need to do the same. Do you treat your siblings with love even when it’s hard, for example, when they are annoying?
We all make a lot of mistakes. But as long as we repent and try to be humble and loving like St. Peter, our mistakes won’t stop us from being saints. They might even help us to become saints because they make us realize how little we are and how much we need God’s mercy.
3. Saints are cheerful. Because they trust that everything that happens to them comes from the loving hands of God, saints accept both joys and trials without complaining. St. Dominic Savio was a young boy who really wanted to become a saint. He wanted to do some hard penances in reparation for his sins, but St. Don Bosco forbade him. St. Don Bosco relates this story:
[One] day I came across [Dominic] looking somewhat sad, and I asked him what was the matter. He replied: “You’ve got me in a real bind. Our Blessed Lord says that if I don’t do penance I will not get to heaven. I am forbidden to do any penance; what chance then have I of heaven?”
I explained to him that the penance Jesus wanted from him was complete obedience; obey and that’s enough.
“Can’t I do some other penance?”
“Yes, you can allow yourself the penance of being patient with others and the unpleasant things of life; to accept equally the heat and the cold and the rain; to be cheerful when tired and not feeling so well and so on.”
“But,” said Dominic, “these things come to you whether you like it or not.”
“Precisely,” I replied, “offer them willingly to God; there is nothing that will please him more, and you will be doing real penance.” Thus reassured, Dominic was very happy and completely at peace.
So you see, complete obedience, being patient with others, and cheerfully accepting difficulties are, for God, the most pleasing sacrifices a child can make. And they’re the most beautiful ways for a child to become a saint.
4. Saints are devoted to Our Blessed Mother and to Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist. I can’t think of one saint who doesn’t love and honor the Mother of God. When Jesus said to St. John, “Behold your mother,” He wasn’t only speaking to St. John. He was speaking to each and every one of us. Mary is our Mother. Our Lord gave her to us because He knows there is no one else on Heaven or Earth who can teach us how to love God as well as Our Blessed Mother. Let’s imitate the saints by staying very close to Our Lady. Let’s try to pray our rosaries with more love and attention and turn to her for help every day, throughout the day.
All saints go to Holy Mass as often as they can. They know that Christ is truly present in the Holy Eucharist and they want to be united to Him by receiving Holy Communion. If Mass sometimes seems long and dull, ask Our Lord to give you the eyes and ears of faith every time you go to Mass. Then you will see how every Mass is beautiful and amazing. You will hear God speaking to you in your heart. You will feel His grace and strength flooding your soul. Do you remember the inspiring story of the young Chinese girl who loved the Eucharist? Ask Our Lord to give you her faith and courage.
5. Saints persevere in prayer. Sometimes we can feel as if God doesn’t listen to our prayers. Sometimes we just don’t feel like praying. Even saints feel that way at times. They keep on listening and talking to God, anyway. St. Teresa of Avila, a great doctor of the church, felt that her prayers were dry, boring, and full of distractions. She felt this way for eighteen long years. But she persevered. And that’s one big reason why she’s a saint.
6. Saints are apostolic. This means they love to share the good news about God’s love and mercy. They don’t keep it to themselves. Saints long to bring all souls close to God, and they often pray for the conversion of sinners. Some saints, like St. Francis Xavier, are missionaries who spread the word of God to far away countries. Others, like St. Zelie Martin, spend most of their missionary zeal raising their children to be devout Christians. St. Therese never left her convent, yet she is called the patron of missionaries. This is because she cared and prayed so fervently for priests and missionaries. You can be apostolic, too, by praying for the the conversion of sinners, by your own good example, and by teaching your siblings and friends about Jesus.
7. God wants you to be a saint, too! He doesn’t want you simply to dress up as a saint and pretend to be one for a day or two. He wants you to be a real saint, starting now. There are many children who became saints and martyrs: St. Tarcisius, St. Agnes, Blessed Imelda, St. Maria Goretti, the Three Children of Fatima: St. Jacinta, St. Francisco, and Lucia (who is now almost 90), St. Dominic Savio, and Blessed Louis Sanchez. In fact there are over 130 children who were proclaimed Blesseds and Saints. God wants all of his children to become saints. Don’t wait until you are grown up to try to be holy. Begin now, while you are still innocent and trusting and while it is still easy for you to grow in virtue.
So be humble, obedient, and cheerful. Stay close to Our Lady and receive Holy Communion as often as you can. Pray every day. By your words and actions, teach others about our faith. If that seems like a lot to do all at once, begin with just one resolution, just one. Remember, Our Blessed Mother will obtain for you all the graces you need to grow in holiness, if only you ask. Above all, love God and others with all your heart. And you will be well on your way to becoming a saint!