Back to school with the saints
It’s that confusing time of summer where the temperatures are still hitting triple digits some days, but the big box stores are rolling out mega packs of white socks, pencils, and $.25 cent bottles of glue amidst the s’more’s displays and fireworks stands.
While the kids are still mostly swimsuit clad during all daylight hours and sticky with high fructose corn syrup from popsicle lunches, there are visions of packed lunches and completed physician’s forms dancing in mommy’s head.
The end of this summer will mark the end of an era for me as a newish mom: all my kids home, all the time.
Come late-August, I’ll ship one to all-day Kindergarten and a little brother to 3 day a week full-day preschool, so life is going to shift radically. Which is hard to imagine when all 4 are tearing through the backyard in varying states of undress, flinging mud and Legos.
“Treasure this time,” I remind myself, picking a sodden swimsuit out of the dirt, giving it the sniff test, and then draping it to dry in the sun. And I am. But I’m also looking eagerly towards autumn. My babies are growing, and the oldest of the bunch is of an age where he’ll soon be spending more of his waking time in someone else’s care than in mine. It’s fantastic and terrifying all at once.
For one thing, trusting your child to someone else is a huge leap of faith. And it’s one that can be fraught with second-guessing, thanks in part to the roiling milieu of social media. Is it really the best choice for us to homeschool? Will my kids be safe in this public school? Can we afford the tuition or the drive to Catholic school?
I’ve found it helpful to throw it back a little further, and to examine some of the lives of the saints, observing the role education played in each of their lives, along with the wide variance among them. There are 3 I’ve been thinking of specifically as I prepare my heart (and my wallet) for this Fall:
St. Francis Xavier
The feisty sidekick of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Francis was a co-founder of the Society of Jesus and all-around top athlete and academic. The pair met at the University of Paris, an aristocratic party boy with endless ambition and a visionary saint with a calling from God.
After 3 years of patient investment into Francis Xavier’s life, Ignatius at last persuaded his ambitious friend “what profit is it to a man to gain the whole world if he lose his soul?” Francis became convinced, and he became not only an effective missionary and a saintly Jesuit, but is now a universal patron of missionaries. He gained the whole world – and his soul.
Moral of this story? Pray for your kid’s friends. Pray especially that they’ll make saintly friendships like this one that changed the course of history. Not just that they’ll “stay out of trouble,” but that they would encounter among their peers true matches made in heaven. Francis and Ignatius show us it’s possible.
St. John Bosco
This saint is perhaps a more natural fit for those parents who’s little darlings are walking on the wilder side. Or perhaps are less academically inclined and more mischievous. St. John Bosco not only knew what to do with “those kind of kids;” he actually preferred them.
Raised by a widowed single mother, John was gifted a scholarship at the age of 15 by a generous uncle, where he blew through high school in 3 years, graduating with high honors despite his lack of formal primary schooling. As he advanced through university studies and eventually seminary, John never outran his reputation for tutoring and mentoring underprivileged and unchurched street urchins. “His boys” would come to represent the great mission of his life’s work: the founding of the Salesian order.
Pray for your kids’ teachers, that they would be as zealous for souls as John Bosco, and as capable of seeing the good even in the tough cases. St. John Bosco was reported to have uttered, in his last days on earth, these final words: “tell my boys I’ll see them in heaven.”
St. Zelie Martin
St. Therese, aka “the Little Flower,” was her spirited youngest daughter, a child who’s fragile emotional state caused her mother no shortage of worry at the outset of her young life. Zelie was a work at home mom who ran a successful lace-making business with her husband Louis, who was also a canonized saint, (they together marked the first joint canonization of a married couple in 2015).
Despite not being able to breastfeed her daughters and having to outsource much of their babyhoods to wet nurses (talk about potential mom-guilt) and losing 4 children at birth or shortly thereafter, Zelie was a mother on fire with the love of Christ. Despite the many, many ideals of perfection she had to relinquish throughout the course of her motherhood, culminating finally with her life itself, she remained fixed on a single goal: get her family to heaven.
All her work inside and outside the home, and every choice she made for her family aligned with that goal. Everything else was secondary. And while she probably kept a beautiful home and her girl’s school uniforms were probably lovely enhanced with their mother’s needlework, she was ultimately aiming far higher than top-of-the PTA heap – and with one daughter canonized and recognized as a Doctor of the Church and another (Leonie) on her way to recognized sainthood, it’s safe to say that Zelie raised a successful brood. Pray for her intercession as you make eternal choices for your own kids.
So there you have it: three saints with wildly different backgrounds and stories, and three friends into whose ears you can whisper hopes and dreams for your kids this school year.
Not only will your child be spending much less time with you, but more will be demanded of your family time by this outside community to which you will be called to be a member, like it or not! It’s a really funny sort of arrangement that way. Your kids get exposed to a lot of experiences and people you could never give them (good, bad or indifferent, whether you would want to or not). There are agendas that you do not control and sometimes cannot influence, but they will certainly influence your child, like it or not. There will be wonderful things about it and things that might downright infuriate you. You just never know from one day to the next! Best wishes on these new changes for you and your children as they navigate a whole new world. May they make some wonderful friendships and new discoveries and be guarded and guided and protected by their Guardian Angels (don’t forget to make friends with their Guardian Angels, too).
I love this! Thank you! My oldest will be off to kindergarten this year, too, and my middle guy will be at 3-half-days preschool. I’m hoping the toddler takes solid afternoon naps and I will once again experience alone time! But I’m still uneasy about kindergartener, and the end of dictating our own schedule, and all the other things that go along with having kids in school. I needed the reminder to turn to the saints!
LOVE this, Jenny! Some amazing saints right there and a great reminder to pray for our kids more during the school year, even though that is when it tends to get even more busy and crazy!