When I was pregnant with my son, my first child, I stumbled upon a quote by C.S. Lewis:
Since it is so likely that children will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage.
These words resonated with me so deeply that I had them written in calligraphy and framed for the nursery. It has hung in my son’s room ever since, a gentle reminder to me every time I pull a book from his shelf or snuggle up to tell him a story.
One of my deepest desires as a mother is to protect my children. Right now, it is usually easy enough to protect my four-year-old and one-year-old from harm or any person who might cause them pain. But I know that will not always be the case. I may not always be able to physically protect them the way that I can now. I can, however, begin laying the groundwork so that my children will grow up to be courageous, faithful, and good.
Teaching Children About Courage Through the Lives of the Saints
As a Catholic, finding the stories to inspire my children in this way is easy. Right at our fingertips, we have a wealth of powerful, inspiring, true tales of bravery in the lives of the Saints. Here are a few of the Saints we turn to whenever we want to live out the encouragement of C.S. Lewis in our home.
Saint George, the Saint who Slayed the Dragon
As soon as he was old enough to voice his opinion, my son Charlie proclaimed Saint George his favorite Saint. It’s easy to see why: the legends surrounding this fourth-century martyr’s life rival any fairy tale. Despite how little we know for sure about Saint George, he is beloved around the world as a patron of soldiers, Boy Scouts, Palestine, England, and many other countries.
We know that Saint George was born to a military family. His father was a Roman officer and his mother was Greek. When he came of age, he followed in his father’s footsteps by joining the army, where he became a successful, highly-ranked officer. In the year 303, the emperor, Diocletian, ordered a mass persecution of Christians, requiring them to make sacrifices to the Roman gods. Saint George refused, and is said to have been tortured and beheaded.
God’s Presence in the Face of Fear
When sharing stories of Saint George with little ones, however, the legends about him become especially handy. Fantastical as they may be, they highlight his faith and bravery in a way that is easier for children to grasp. The most popular legend of Saint George, spread through The Golden Legend, a book from the year 1256, goes like this:
In Libya, there was a lake guarded by a ferocious dragon. To keep their village safe, people sent sheep to the dragon to appease it and keep it fed. Eventually, the sheep proved insufficient; the villagers soon realized they would need to send people to the dragon instead. One day, the king’s daughter’s name was drawn. Just as she was approaching the dragon, Saint George rode by on horseback and saw her crying and trembling in fear. He made the Sign of the Cross and slayed the dragon with one strike of his lance.
We love using this story to illustrate God’s protection over us, and that, with faith, we can bravely face anything we’re afraid of.
Saint Joseph, Protector of Jesus
To give life to someone is the greatest of all gifts. To save a life is the next. Who gave life to Jesus? It was Mary. Who saved his life? It was Joseph. Ask St. Paul who persecuted him. Ask St. Peter who denied him. Ask all the saints who put him to death. But if we ask, ‘Who saved his life?’ Be silent, patriarchs, be silent, prophets, be silent, apostles, confessors, and martyrs. Let St. Joseph speak, for this honor is his alone; he alone is the savior of his Savior. // Blessed William Joseph Chaminade
In most children’s books I have come across that reference Saint Joseph, he is usually pictured with the child Jesus. In the sweet scene, they are often surrounded by wood and tools, perhaps working on a carpentry project together. Yes, Saint Joseph surely taught Jesus his trade and watched over Him from his workshop. But that is not all Saint Joseph did. He is, after all, the one who packed up his young family and protected them during their journey to Egypt. As they walked a minimum of 40 miles (the distance from Bethlehem to the nearest Egyptian-controlled territory), starting in the dead of night, who knows what they might have come across?
Beyond that harrowing journey, Saint Joseph remained the protector of the two most precious people who have ever walked the earth. We know so little about Jesus’ childhood and young adulthood, but we do know that the world in the first century was not always a safe or comfortable place. How many other times might Saint Joseph have saved the lives of our Savior and His Mother? All Catholic children learn about Saint Joseph at some point; I love the idea of emphasizing this aspect of who he was as part of that education.
WEEKLY BLOG UPDATES (+ more!)We'll send you the blog updates weekly in your inbox (with some special tips + tricks to living liturgically from our Blog Editor, Olivia Spears).
Saint Joan of Arc, the Unlikely Battle Commander
Saint Joan of Arc is frequently quoted as having said, “I am not afraid; I was born to do this.” To be honest, this has always rubbed me in the wrong way. I am afraid of a lot, especially many of the difficult things that I believe are part of my vocation—things I was “born” to do. Besides, how could a 14-year-old girl possibly be unafraid as she rode into battle? For a long time, I put Saint Joan of Arc firmly in the “too unrelatable” category of Saints in my mind.
That was, until I learned that the words above are not exactly what she said. Here is the real quote:
I do not fear the soldiers, for my road is made open to me; and if the soldiers come, I have God, my Lord, who will know how to clear the route that leads to messire the Dauphin. It was for this that I was born!
Key phrase? “I have God, my Lord.” That I can work with.
In my short four-and-a-half years as a parent so far, I have quickly been reminded of the many things children can find scary. With the help of Saint Joan of Arc, my husband and I try to remind Charlie that it’s okay to feel scared, but if he remembers that God is with him, bravery will come so much more easily.
Seeing the Fruits
A few weeks ago, Charlie padded downstairs in his pajamas just before 7, his beloved stuffed lion flopping under his arm.
“How did you sleep?” I asked him as I kissed the top of his head.
“Well, I had a bad dream that there were scary monsters. But then Saint Michael the Archangel came and he had a sharp sword so he stabbed them. And then I said a prayer: thank you, God, for sending Saint Michael the Archangel to protect me. Amen.”
My husband and I glanced at each other, our eyes both wide.
“God will always send angels and Saints to protect you, bud. He loves you so much,” I finally said.
“I know,” he answered nonchalantly, turning toward the pantry. “Can I have some oatmeal?”
In the life of any Saint who has ever lived, we can find beautiful examples of their courage. Whether they faced persecution, temptation, simple daily frustrations, or even death, they bravely carried on, clinging to their Faith and hope in Christ. May we always do the same, and may we teach our children to do the same too.
All brave and holy men and women, pray for us!
Looking for a few more courageous Saints to turn to? Check out these posts from the blog archives about Saints Perpetua and Felicity, Saint Josephine Bakhita and other Black Saints, and princess Saints.