The hope of heaven is the only thing you can give your children that the world can’t take away. Dr. John Wood argues for why raising saints ought to be every parent’s primary mission…and six tips for getting started.
Editor’s Note: Dr. John R. Wood is a father, mobile eye doctor and author of three books. He wrote “The Light Entrusted to You.” To learn more about Wood and his Extraordinary Mission, see the author bio below.
by Dr. John R. Wood
What can you give your children that the world can’t steal from them? Their ability to shoot a basketball could be gone in an instant. Their savings account and personal possessions, their scholarship, their home, their career, their freedom, and even you, could all be gone in the blink of an eye. There is only one thing that you can give them that the world can’t take away, and that is the hope of heaven. Heaven is the goal and the mission of this life, and quite frankly becoming a saint is the only thing that really matters. (Everyone in heaven is a saint!)
Rediscover the Mission
As parents, I think it is vitally important that we rediscover this mission and dream for our children. Too often, we look at life as a vacation, with the goal of finding comfort and pleasure. We want to give our children all the things we didn’t have. We want to capture every moment on camera and desperately try to keep time from slipping through our fingers like water. We want to see all the sights, visit all the amazing places, and experience all the pleasures of the world.
There is nothing wrong with the things of this world. In fact they are good and beautiful and we should want these things for our children. But they are not the point and mission of life, and they only make sense in relation to the ultimate goal. We are not on a carnival cruise ship, we are on a Mayflower, and we are going to a promised land. Our children need to understand that life is a journey, not a destination.
The Carnival cruise ship and the Mayflower both see the beauty and the terror of creation. The difference is, tourists wander through life hoping to see beautiful sights and avoid the storms. The storms ruin their vacation. Pilgrims notice the beautiful sights around them but know they are just passing pleasures on a journey to something greater, and they expect storms to come. Tourists avoid suffering at all costs and constantly seek the cure to the pain and trials of life. Pilgrims realize that often the pain and trials are the cure, and they are willing to proceed through the greatest of storms to reach their destination. They understand the suffering of life is nothing compared to the glory that awaits on the other side.
Every life is a story, and everyone wants a happy ending to their story and to their children’s story. But we know how life ends … in death. How often is death a happy ending? “Happily ever after” is the traditional fairy tale ending, but by definition, “happily ever after” can’t be an ending because “ever” implies “forever,” which never ends. In fact there is only one place where “happily ever after” is even possible. We should not live our lives in such a way to seek a happy ending. We should live our lives in a such a way that our death is a happy beginning that never ends.
My dream for my children is nothing less than heaven, because I know it is the only thing that will satisfy their deepest desires. I desire to spend eternity with them in heaven, and every night, as a family, we pray some version of this prayer:
“Make us holy oh Lord, and do not spare us in the making, for we want to be saints, no matter what the cost.”
Keep the Flame of Faith Alive
My children belong to God and they were made to be saints in heaven. God entrusted them to my wife and me. Through their baptism, they have been given the hope of heaven and the light of Christ, and it is our job as Christian parents to keep the flame of faith alive in their hearts. We are called to raise our children in the faith, not because we have to, but because the Catholic faith is the best way to live and best gift to give, and it gives us everything we need to make the pilgrimage to heaven.
Make this goal of raising saints your single purpose as parents. Remember, if your children make it into Harvard, but not heaven, that’s a tragedy. If they make it into professional hockey but not heaven, that’s a tragedy. If they make 100 million dollars, but don’t go to heaven, that’s a tragedy! As Leon Bloy noted, “Life holds only one tragedy … not to have been a saint.”
If what you give your children or do for them is not helping them become saints, at the very best it is a waste of time. Everything in life should revolve around this mission of sainthood. I am blessed to have been born on the feast day of St. Teresa of Avila, and she has a great piece of advice for each of us. It is a piece of advice we should pass on to our children: “Remember you have only one soul; that you have only one death to die; that you have only one life, which is short and must be lived by you alone; and there is only one glory, which is eternal. If you do this, there will be a great many things about which you care nothing.”
Think about it, and it might just change your perspective on being a parent, and what really matters in life.
Quick-Start Guide for Parents to Raise Saints
Put the Mission Everywhere!
Put the words “become a saint” on your alarm clock, bathroom mirror, fridge, snack cupboard, television, computer, screensaver, cell phone, car dashboard, and everywhere you and your kids need to be reminded to choose the saint inside of you. It will help you learn to make good choices! To get some awesome Become a Saint wristbands, click here.
Pray Together at Home Every Day!
A family that prays together, stays together. Speak with God together every day in the morning, at meals, and before bed. Tell him your worries, thank him for your blessings, and ask him to bless all the family and friends you know. Relationships thrive on spending time together. Spend time with God each day.
Go to Mass Every Week and Receive the Sacraments Often!
The Church is also a family that needs to pray together. Your parish family is there to help you as parents and the sacraments give you the grace you need. The Eucharist gives you power to do things you can’t do on your own. Reconciliation is essential in keeping your relationship with God and each other strong.
Display your Baptism Candles
If you can’t find your baptism candle, ask the parish for a new one. (That includes mom and dad!) Displaying those candles in your prayer space will remind you each day that your children are a gift from God and have been given the light of Christ. That light was entrusted to you, and it is your job to keep the flame of faith alive!
Also, light the candle on the baptism anniversary to celebrate the most important day of their life! Want custom baptism candle holders with the child’s baptism date and initial? You can get them here.
Read Stories Together
Stories are powerful. Studies show that reading good stories out loud together every day for 15 minutes has an amazing impact on children and helps them learn virtue. If you want your kids to know the truth, tell them the truth. … If you want them to love the truth, tell them stories!
Here are our family favorites: “The Wingfeather Saga,” “The Hobbit,” “The Lord of the Rings,” “The Chronicles of Narnia”
Praise Your Children!
Set aside a day of the week for each member of your family. On that day, everyone lifts that person up in prayer throughout the day. At family prayer time, everyone says what they love about that person. Mom and dad especially need to take time to praise their children (out loud so they can hear you!). Let them know they are loved by you and by God, and celebrate their talents and the joy they bring to your life. Trust me, it’s powerful.
Dr. John R. Wood is the husband of an amazing wife and the father to four amazing children. His other vocations include helping give sight and vision to others. As a mobile eye doctor, he travels to over 40 nursing homes and developmental disability facilities through his business, Mobile Eyes, LLC, to help people see the world more clearly. John also started the ministry, Extraordinary Mission, and as a Catholic speaker and the author of three books, including “The Light Entrusted to You,” he hopes to help people see the truth more clearly that there is genius in Catholicism, and it is simply the best way to live and the greatest gift to give.