Two years ago at The Episcopal Church’s General Convention I bought four copies of Forward Movement’s newly published book, Meet the Saints. One of the book’s authors, Melody Wilson Shobe, was in the Forward Movement exhibit space at the time and she inscribed each of the four copies, one for my children and three for my godchildren.
Melody is one of my closest friends and my son Hill’s godmother, so buying her book seemed like a great way to support her while also teaching the children in my life about the Saints of God. Win! Win! I know Melody well and knew that her book would be a good one, but I had no idea how much it would come to mean to our family.
It’s been two years and my now eight-year-old son and I are still snuggling into his twin bed reading from Meet the Saints several nights a month. He reads the collect for each person, I read the biographical information and then we alternate asking and answering the questions at the bottom of each page.
Some of the saints are familiar to him, many are not, but all capture his interest. There is something about saints that keeps us both yearning for more of their stories. He can’t put it into words but I think it’s a combination of their faithfulness amid animosity and persecution, their courage and conviction, and that their love of God is both inspiring and contagious.
I knew this book was making an impact a few months after I bought it. The day after we read about Samuel Seabury, I found my son in his room sitting inside a cardboard boat sailing across the Atlantic Ocean in search of bishops who might ordain him.
More recently we found Martin Luther’s entry, a name new to Hill. He wondered first if Melody made a mistake and left off the “King.” When I assured him that is not what happened, he asked if this Martin Luther was related to the Martin Luther King, Jr. we talk about so often in our home. So, we read about Martin Luther and his decision to challenge the Roman Catholic Church’s poor leadership at the time. We talked about favorite Bible stories and the true mission of the Church. Then we flipped pages in the book and read about Martin Luther King, Jr.’s decision to challenge the unjust leadership of our country.
Lying in his bed, Hill read a portion of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech that is included in his entry and I made a mental note to never forget this moment. We then answered questions that parents often shy away from asking such as, “Do you have friends with a different skin color than you? Have you ever talked about it? Why is it good to know people from different backgrounds?”
As a parent, I’m grateful Meet the Saints offers the opportunity to have important conversations that don’t often come up organically on their own. The entry for Perpetua states, “There is an old belief that children cannot bear hard stories. Yet you may have experienced times when life was hard or unfair. Sometimes people we love go away, or even die. Sometimes the actions of friends, parents or teachers hurt us. Sometimes the world itself seems scary. That’s why it’s a good thing to learn the stories of saints” (Meet the Saints, p. 17).
For two years Meet the Saints has served as a springboard for my son and me to talk about God, our faith and our relationships with other people in new ways.
Each time we read about one of these saints we are reminded that we are not living our faith alone. Every time we read from this bright orange book we gain the awareness we are connected to a great company of God’s people of every age and every generation.
We are reminded of saints who risked their lives living out their faith, saints who left their own unique mark on the world, saints who used their gifts from God to compose music, write stories and teach children. In reading their stories I can see my son dreaming of his own identity and the mark he will leave on the world, and that indeed is a very good reason to learn the stories of saints.
How does your family pass on stories of saints, stories that matter?