When my kids were younger, my husband and I did a lot of faith-at-home practices throughout the year. We wrote on pumpkins to teach our kids to pray for others. There were Valentine hearts with scripture readings to help them recognize acts of kindness shown to them and in turn how they showed that kindness to others. We used the month of November to talk about gratitude and in Advent we put up a Jesse Tree. We have kept some of the practices because they are traditions, but as my kids have gotten older some have fallen by the wayside. I have been earnestly trying to think of new, more age appropriate ideas and practices to engage our faith in my family’s everyday life. You’d think this veteran youth minister would be FULL of ideas, but the well has seemed particularly dry as of late.
As God is wont to do, sometimes the water comes from the most unpredictable crack in the well floor. When I began reading about Saint Jude and Saint Simon, whom we honor and celebrate on October 28th, the water began to leak through the most unsuspected spot. Included in some of the research was the story of the Last Supper. At the Last Supper Jude asks Jesus, “Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us…?” (John 14:22 NRSVUE. The end of Jesus’s response is this:
“I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”
—John 14:25-28 NRSVUE
My son is now an 8th grader and my daughter is in 5th grade. We are fully immersed in tween and teen life to say the least. I found navigating the first two years of middle school with my son, in a pandemic, to be anything but peaceful. Also, girl drama begins so early and it is definitely troubling. In the midst of all of the emotions that come with changing bodies and growing minds, it can be hard to recognize the tremendous gift Jesus offers in response to Jude’s question. Not only does Jesus leave us peace, he GIVES it to us — no strings attached! Jesus also says the Holy Spirit will be our “Advocate” and will teach and remind us, though probably right after a teenage breakdown, “Do not let your hearts be troubled”.
In reality, these gifts are not just things my kids need to know about, they are things I need to be reminded of too. Simon is the patron saint of woodcutters and tanners, not to be outdone by Jude, but Jude is the patron saint of lost things. In all the turmoil that is adolescence, it seems so clear that the peace Jesus gives can be completely lost, on all of us. Parents and young people alike are scrambling and scraping just to make it through these turbulent years. All the while Jude is practically holding up a billboard with a giant arrow pointing to Jesus as he asks that all important question.
Really, aren’t so many lost things right there all along? As is usually the case for me, I am not looking in the right way or in the right place. I am distracted by all the other noise in the background making it hard to look. That question says look, there are people around who can help you. Stop and take a deep breath.
Just thinking about the gifts Jesus shares made the water just start filling the well. How can I be better at teaching and showing my tween and teen the very things that Jesus laid out so clearly? Can we name the places where we experience peace? What does that feel like? How can learning to recognize that kind of peace lead us to lessening our troubled hearts and quelling our fears? Who are the people in our lives that might be our “Advocates”, the Holy Spirit working through them in our lives? How does learning to hold onto this part of our faith ground us when everything else seems out of control?
If you’d have told me that researching and reading for the Feast of Saint Simon and Saint Jude would have led me to start developing a new faith at home practice for my family, I would have likely laughed. As we remember these two apostles today, my prayer will be filled with thanks, for them, their great faith in following Jesus, and in particular for one for asking the most important question.