As a child I always thought of the saints as Catholic superheroes. While they may have started out as normal people like you and me, I imagined that they received their super powers of holiness after being bitten by a radioactive, grace-infused spider or by falling into a chemical pit of sacred ooze. The fact is, however, that we have all received super powers of holiness through our Baptism! Baptism transforms us from ordinary people into extraordinary disciples who have the power to become saints. Baptism gives us a super power called grace which allows us to live in accord with God’s design for our lives and build God’s kingdom on earth. Children need to do more than learn about saints; they should desire to become like them.
Here are some ideas to help children see the saints as real people and to challenge children to become saints themselves.
1. Choose patron saints.
We often talk about saints in little snippets. Children may know the names of saints and a fact or two about them. Unfortunately, this approach teaches children nothing substantial about the saints. Instead, focus on a few saints that the children can get to know intimately. Choose a patron saint for your class for the year, for each unit in the textbook, or for each liturgical season. Find as many books, stories, pictures, and prayers as you can, and use them throughout the year or season. Learn about that saint and pray for that saint’s intercession every week.
2. Dare your class.
In 2011 Pope Emeritus Benedict dared young people to be saints. Read stories of saints who dared to be holy against all odds. Dare your class to be saints by giving them challenges each week, having them brainstorm ways they can grow in holiness. Ask the children to keep a journal about their challenges in becoming a saint.
3. Make it personal.
We can easily read a story of a saint and think, “Wow! She was impressive!” Then we close the book and move on. Take an extra five minutes to let the children see themselves in that saint’s story. How are they similar to that saint? How might they want to be like that saint? What can they do to be more like that saint? What obstacles might they face in trying to be like that saint today? Have the children discuss their responses to these questions or record their responses in a journal.
4. Inspire their imaginations.
Use a set of saint cards which give a picture, a short biography, and fun facts about saints. After the children look through several cards, have them create one for themselves. Include their birthday, place of birth, and what they would be the patron of. Have them include a brief story about how they show their love for God and neighbor as well as a short prayer.
How do you celebrate the saints in your class?
Help your class learn more about the saints with the free Which American Saint Are You? quiz and lesson plan.