Although I began my writing career penning non-fiction for adults, in recent years my emphasis has strongly shifted toward crafting work that will speak into the hearts of children. This happened accidentally. After a flirtation with fiction, an imagined daydream turned into an opportunity to write a series of stories based upon the lives of the saints.
As I began to go out into schools and parishes to share these books, my heart was captivated by the enthusiasm of my young audience. My regular message for the last five years has been an invitation for each of us to answer God’s calling in our lives. With children on my author visits, I began to regularly ask, “How is God calling us to be saints in the making?” I have long studied the lives of the saints, so I knew how I, myself, would answer this question largely from a theological perspective.
What surprised and delighted me were the responses that I received from those young souls. Springing from the font of their own lived experience and love for Jesus, the children’s answers were at once simple and inspired. When asked, “How can a seven-year old love and serve God and others?” their responses came quickly:
I pray every day and tell God I love him.
I’m kind to the child who is bullied.
I try to help my parents.
I play nicely with my little brothers and sisters.
I do extra chores to buy food for people who are hungry.
I care for my pets and our planet.
I visit my grandmother and draw her pictures.
We “grown-ups” often equate the word “saint” with holy images of theologians, martyrs, and miraculously inexplicable intercessions. While I would not dissuade us from learning and sharing the lives and stories of canonized saints, I would also challenge us to remember the stories of the “everyday saints” we’ve known in our own lives whose legacies will never be formally recognized by the Church. The elderly daily communicant who gave her life to her parish as a volunteer, the hope-filled child lost too soon to a cancer diagnosis, or the faithful spouse who simply worked hard to provide shelter for his or her own family while fostering a loving Domestic Church all point to the many and varied paths there are to living a saintly life.
The more time I spend with young Christians, the more I’m convinced that despite my many shortcomings, I’m called to be a “saint in the making”. I want to anticipate receiving the Eucharist with the purity and joy of a First Communicant. I want to read bible stories and share them with others. I want to make small sacrifices so that I can help the world around me. I want to start every day in prayer and ask God to be with me along my path. I want to see Jesus in the faces of my friends and family and serve him by being his hands, feet, and heart to those most in need.
Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked them, but Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:13-14)
I invite you today to ask yourself, “How is God calling me to be a saint in the making?” In your response, put away any hesitations that may limit God’s ability to work in and through you exactly as you are. Pray for the grace to answer God’s call with the simplicity and love of a child. Then be prepared for the remarkable and little ways God will employ your gifts to make a difference. You are a saint in the making!
Lisa M. Hendey is a wife, mother, and author from Los Angeles, California. Visit her at www.LisaHendey.com.