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Called to Greatness: Saints from Super-sized Families


Called to Greatness: Saints from Super-sized Families

Carissa Douglas

We recently brought our family to see the Treasures of the Church - an amazing collection of about 150 relics, including one of the largest pieces of the true cross (YES) and also a piece of Mary's veil (as in MARY THE MOTHER OF GOD). Wow. Just wow. 

It was pretty amazing. We traveled through tables displaying the various relics of our favorite saints, and we were even permitted to touch them and pick them up (except a few of the larger items). I showed the kids how to bless themselves with the little reliquaries. I may have caught our three year old using St. Aloysius as a back scrubber, but if I did, I stopped her immediately. Also, if I did, I'm hoping St. Aloysius has a great sense of humor and was laughing it up in Heaven.

At times, I was pretty frazzled trying to do constant head counts, and pleading with the oldest five to help my husband and I keep an eye on the youngest six. But one thing kept jumping out at me as I toured the display and read many of the bios of the saints: a good portion of them came from very large families.

Pope St. Pius X was second of eleven, St. Gianna Mola was number ten of thirteen, St. Faustina was third of ten, St. Louis de Montfort was one of eighteen, St. Catherine of Siena was the twenty-third of twenty-four, St. Joan of Arc was one of five, St. Casimir of Poland was number three of thirteen, and there are so many others who either came from large families or were the parent of numerous offspring (which gives me hope).

This is obviously not the criteria, many saints were "only" children, but it made me look differently at my children as they roamed amongst the remains of all the saints. I kept thinking how amazing it was that these incredible figures who impacted the world in an astounding way, came from ordinary homes (most anyway). They played and prayed with their families, they helped out around the house, probably had to keep their eye on younger siblings, and, more than likely, bumped heads with older siblings, but every one of them was called to greatness. 

We are potentially raising the next St. Joan of Arc, the next Padre Pio, the next St. Bernadette of Lourdes (one of six siblings). And especially in a world so radically deprived of authentic, selfless love, we are called to foster that greatness within our children. It's so easy to lose sight of this when we are wandering through the mundane and desperately seeking comfort, when we convince ourselves that our goal as parents is to see our children rise to successful careers, surrounded by adoring peers and perhaps, at some point, maybe give us some cool grandkids. But our goal is to see our children become a light to the world, to bring hope to all those God places in their paths, to give of themselves with ardent love, as a reflection of Christ's love. We want them to be the full, wondrous version of the person God created them to be. We want to be with them in Heaven for all eternity - in essence, we want to raise saints (and hopefully become saints ourselves in the process)!

So, almost as a fun reminder, I've started a little series of illustrations. They're based on pictures I've been taking of my kiddos, that I've altered into reminders of the great saints who started out in families just like mine and yours. Hope you enjoy my first two attempts above (starring Angelica as St. Joan of Arc and Mary as St. Therese of Lisieux)!