Raising Saints: A Meditation for the Canonization of Louis and Zelie Martin

The canonization of Louis and Zelie Martin, parents of Saint Therese, is set for October 18th, 2015! 

To celebrate, here is a post about the difficult and beautiful process of growing toward sainthood as a family, written by mother of four Elissa Jasko.

Several months ago I was asked to write a couple blogs about growing in holiness through family life.  I don’t think of myself as an expert in such areas, but when I sat down to write the first one, Motherhood: A path to holiness, I found the Lord was working in my life and the process of writing allowed me to organize and meditate on what He was teaching me.  What a blessing!  I looked forward to working on the second, which was to be a reflection on how we help our kids discern their vocation and obtain sainthood.

I want to let you know that what I am sharing today is different from what I thought I would share when I began writing this blog. Instead of an explanation of how my husband and I are working to grow virtue in our children, I will share where God has taken me in the days since I first opened this document and began typing.

When I started, I wrote out all kinds of great thoughts about being made in the image of God and how God calls all of us, no matter our age, to live the life of love.  I believe parents can help their children live as images of God by recognizing and celebrating the amazing, innocent way children can spread love and joy. One of my personal favorites is how many people are so moved by the miracle of life that they are uncontrollably compelled to touch or even kiss the pregnant belly of a complete stranger.  It is not easy to welcome this gesture, but I chose to see this invasion of personal space as a way I am allowing my unborn child to touch hearts.

I continued my blog with more examples of how I have encouraged and observed my children to receive God’s love and let it flow to those around them, but something wasn’t right.  I couldn’t figure out how to finish. I had complete writer’s block.

And then naptime ended.

Back to the reality of life with four kids ages five and under, and I hadn’t completed the blog. As my children started running around and playing, all the thoughts and convictions about letting the love of God flow into your life and through you to others flew right out the window. The rest of the afternoon went poorly. I was frustrated and irritable. My mood deteriorated so much that by evening I not only doubted my qualifications to write a blog about raising holy children, I doubted my qualifications to parent children at all.

By the grace of God, the day ended with an honest, quiet bedtime conversation with my 4-year-old daughter about
how hard it is for me to be a good mommy. I told her I want to be patient and let God’s love flow through me to her and her brothers. I apologized for failing, and asked her to pray for me. Then she shared that obeying and being kind is hard for her, and I promised to pray for her. That time of sharing was invaluable. I hope we have many more real moments like that together.

“A saint is a sinner who keeps on trying.” I found this saying the first time I attempted to write this blog, but I dismissed it as irrelevant. I wanted readers to be left with my positive message “encourage children to live the life of love God is calling them to now so it comes naturally when they are making permanent vocation decisions.” The idea of “keep on trying, you’ll get ’em one day” seemed like an unnecessary downer.

It turns out that God had His own message in mind. He has shown me that this saying is one of hope. God knows life is hard and our flesh is weak. He knows we will fail. Learning to pick ourselves up and continue on is a critical lesson to learn. The fact that He forgives and strengthens us for our journey says so much about His Love. Thank you Jesus for your mercy and forgiveness. Thank you for continuing to show me perfection is not a prerequisite for parenting. By sharing the ups and downs of my weak efforts to grow in holiness I am modelling to my children how to grow in love with You.

This lesson applies to more than just parents. I think we could all learn more about God’s love by honestly sharing with each other our own struggles to be loving. Yes, we should strive to be patient and always act in love, but the truth is, we all fail at it. None of us is a saint yet, but the Lord who began His good work in us is faithful. In humility, we admit our failings. In love, we receive forgiveness and healing. In grace, we are given strength to try again.

I pray that as my children grow, they will not be discouraged by failure. I pray they will realize that living a life of love is worth dusting off your pants and trying again. I pray that together as a family we will take time to celebrate love’s victories. In doing this, I have faith that we will find where God is calling us to love and grow in union with Him.

Saints Louis and Zelie Martin, pray for us!