“What a great favor God does to those He places in the company of good people!” -Saint Teresa of Avila
One thing I love about being Catholic is the emphasis we place on relationship with our heavenly friends, the saints. Their lives can inspire us and our children to heroic virtue, their writings and words encourage us in our own growth in holiness, and their closeness to God gives us allies we can approach in prayer, knowing they can place our needs at the feet of Christ.
Over the years, I’ve come to find saints who truly feel like close friends on my own spiritual journey, and I want my children to find their own companion saints as they grow and seek God’s will in their lives, too.
Here are some super simple ways I help my children befriend the saints:
- Ask their intercession. This can be super quick and simple, like asking for St. Anthony’s help when something is lost (my almost 5 year old especially appreciates St. Anthony when a toy has gone missing), or reciting a saint’s name followed by “pray for us!” at the end of a family prayer. You can also invoke many saints together in your intercessory prayer by doing a “litany of saints” together as a family (our kids hold up their wooden saint dolls and we ask each saint to pray for us, before they return the little figurine to their small cathedral). Getting to know what each saint is the patron saint of can also help you, as a parent or grandparent, ask particular saints for their intercession throughout the day or in unique circumstances. For example, St. Rita is the patroness of impossible causes and hopeless situations – she might be a young child’s best friend in the middle of a tantrum! Or St. Joseph can be invoked by dad before he starts a project with the kids. We ask for Mother Mary, Queen of All Saints, to pray for us many times a day at our house.
- Read saint-themed books. Our current favorite is Cloud of Witnesses: A Child’s First Book of Saints, our first board book in the FirstFaithTreasury.com series. It’s filled with simple but profound lessons from well-known saints; each page gives the child a short, memorable quote accompanied by a beautiful illustration of the saint who spoke or wrote it. We read one page together in the morning each day, repeating it a few times. It gives older kids and parents some beautiful wisdom to reflect on throughout the day, and for the little ones, those words can start to sink into their hearts as they gaze at the adorable pictures! There are so many excellent saint books out there from Catholic publishers these days. Reading is a great way to foster your child’s friendship with the saints. I share more of my favorite saint books here.
- Celebrate their feast days. Celebrating the feast days of the saints really makes them come to life for children. It’s kind of like going to a friend’s birthday party – a special treat or activity can make the day so much sweeter for kids, and associating it with someone they know in heaven will make them enjoy a relationship with them that much more. Tons of Catholic blogs have ideas for celebrating their days – coloring pages, recipes from their native land, craft projects, and more.
- Display pictures of them in your home. Frame pictures of your children’s favorite saints or display a small statue of them from your local Catholic bookstore in your child’s room. Just like you put pictures of your family around your home, make sure you have some pictures of close members of your heavenly family around, too!
- Talk about their lives. Audiobooks like Once Upon a Time Saints, the Holy Heroes CDs, the Saints and Heroes DVD collection from CCC of America, and some of the great audio and video of the lives of the saints on FORMED.org are great catalysts for conversation with children about the saints. But you can even just weave in little bits of discussion throughout the day – asking questions like “What would this saint have done in this situation?” or “How can we practice this virtue, which saint so-and-so practiced so well?” Sometimes I will just say aloud to my young children, “I hope I can be as brave as St. Joan of Arc,” or make other comments about the lives and character of the saints, so they know that the saints are on my mind and that it’s good for them to be always thinking about them, too.