My earliest memory of Church is of being in awe of the beautiful stained-glass windows. The jewel tones of the glass and their assembly into holy images were always very engaging for me as a child, and I was particularly drawn to the saints. Who were these people who had lived lives of such holiness that they were now worthy of beautiful depiction in our churches? When I look back, I am not surprised at my interest. Each saint has a unique and fascinating story, and their holiness is a source of great inspiration for Catholics.

What is also interesting about the saints is how some of them become popular in secular culture. While it’s great to have attention on these amazing ambassadors for the faith, the culture tends to relegate the saints primarily to being themes for special celebrations, and their importance as human beings who have a special friendship with God fades into the background. As Catholics, we can “reclaim the saints” by learning about and celebrating them in our homes.  Here are some resources and examples for doing just that:

¾St. Nicholas: This might be the most popular saint in the secular culture!  “Keep Christ in Christmas” is a phrase we often reflect on and hear in December, and it might be a good idea to also put the saint back into Santa! An excellent resource for learning more about St. Nicholas is The Saint Nicholas Center at stnicholascenter.org. This is an incredible resource offering traditions, crafts, activities, recipes, and more to help your family learn more about this saint.

¾St. Patrick: This saint is probably second only to St. Nicholas in popularity! Catholic Icing has some great Catholic ideas for celebrating this day with children. Adults and children alike might enjoy some of the beautiful religious music of Ireland – Frank Patterson, whose tenor voice sounds like Ireland itself, has a beautiful CD called “Faith of Our Fathers: Classic Religious Anthems of Ireland,” among other recordings. You can also visit the Lady of Knock Shrine online, and even have a candle – an actual candle, not virtual! – lit for a loved one in their outdoor candelabra.

¾St. Francis of Assisi: The patron saint of animals, St. Francis is a great saint to celebrate at home, especially in homes with furry family members! Many parishes offer a blessing for pets around St. Francis’ feast day in October, and there are so many resources online for celebrating at home; Sweet Little Ones blog is just one of many sites with great ideas: sweetlittleonesblog.com.

These are just a few examples, but the creative ways in which we can celebrate the saints are as various as their stories. A good way to engage children with the saints is to make connections between their own interests and the interests of the saints. For example, a child who loves nature and the outdoors might like celebrating St. Kateri Tekakwitha, patroness of ecology and the environment (the St. Kateri Conservation Center has a great article here on how to plant a Mary garden, bringing together this special saint and the Blessed Mother in one fun activity): kateri.org/mary-gardens-for-a-spiritual-experience/

One of the best parts of learning about the saints is that we can learn about people from all different times and places who were each a part of our Catholic family. This beautiful culture and heritage that we share as Catholics all over the world is expressed so profoundly and richly in the tapestry of the lives of all the saints. How blessed are we to be able to teach our children that they are a part of the same amazing family of faith!

Jessica Donohue is vice president and Burlington County representative of Diocese of Trenton Religious Education Directors, and director of religious education in St. Joan of Arc Parish, Marlton.