My husband and I both work in faith formation at churches, and we have lighter work schedules as Sunday school, book groups, and other gatherings pause for the season. My daughter’s pre-school — like most schools, for that matter — takes a summer break fJune through August, and I feel no pressure to continue with activities like library story time and Monday play group (though often we do, because why not?). We schedule fewer playdates and spend more time just hanging out at the pool and park, where we inevitably find friends.
I am relishing the slower pace, and I hear that this feeling of spaciousness becomes even greater for families with older kids, as sports practices, music lessons, and other after school activities lighten up for a few months. One mom friend told me that the simple break from enforcing homework completion and packing lunches made her feel like a whole new woman. I hear that! (I also hear that figuring out childcare and camp schedules for the summer months can be it’s own full-time job, but that’s a whole different topic.)
While I am a big fan of calendars with uncrowded boxes, and I hesitate to rush to fill open schedules, one practice that I like to integrate into the summer — when I simply have more bandwidth to plan and prepare, and I think my kids appreciate more as they have fewer other activities and events filling their weeks — is celebrating Catholic saints at home.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: the Communion of Saints is one of my favorite aspects of Catholicism on both pedagogical and devotional levels, and I love introducing my children to the saints. Sometimes I’ll tie a celebration of a saint to their feast day, but other times, I’ll pick a saint based on his or her relevance to our family’s current life and circumstances.
Here are four examples of Catholic Saints to celebrate at home this summer:
Mary, the mother of Jesus and the spiritual mother of us all, is considered by many to be the holiest and greatest saint. There are several days scattered throughout the summer specifically devoted to Mary, including the Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary on June 17th, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on August 15th, and the Memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary on August 22. We also tangentially celebrate Mary on days like July 26th, the Memorial of Saints Joachim and Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Because celebration of Mary is woven into the fabric of the summer season, I focus less on celebrating Mary on one specific day (though we certainly attend Mass on the Assumption, a Holy Day of Obligation, and I try to remember to mention the other specific days) and tend to put my energy more into overall integration of Mary into our young family’s life. For instance, I’m always rotating our art and decor, and I emphasize Marian art this season, and we pray the rosary as a family, as well as praying to Mary in other ways, like with these prayer cards.
Some of you may be familiar with the story of St. Augustine walking along the beach, contemplating the mystery of the Trinity. As he walked, he came across a boy who was attempting to fill a hole he had created in the sand with water from the ocean, which he carried over to the hole one seashell full at a time. Augustine questioned the boy’s efforts to move the ocean to his personal canyon, and the boy responded that his project had greater likelihood of success than for Augustine to reach comprehension of the infinite God with his tiny human intellect. My family almost always ends up at one beach or another over the summer (sometimes it’s the ocean, though not always), and it’s a great time to tell this story.
St. BarbaraSt. Barbara is the patron saint of fireworks, lightening and thunderstorms. While she came by this patronage in an unfortunate way (after converting to Christianity and refusing to marry, her father and a town official tortured and ultimately killed her… and then while walking home were struck by lightening), it still tickles me that we have a patron of fireworks within our spiritual communion. My children are a bit young to be told stories of beating and beheading, so we simply pray to St. Barbara on the 4th of July and ask her to keep all the people administering and enjoying fireworks safe and happy amidst the celebration.
If I associate St. Augustine with beaches, I associate St. Peter with bodies of water in general, in part because he was a fisherman and in part because several Bible stories involving him include water. For instance, in the story of Jesus walking on water, recounted in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and John, St. Peter attempts to join Jesus, and, indeed, successfully walks towards him, until his faith wavers and he begins to sink. Likewise, Peter is presumably included in the group of unnamed disciples who woke Jesus in fear as a storm overcame their boat one evening while on the lake. Once again, the story illustrates the tribulations caused by a lack of faith, while also highlighting the miraculous work of Jesus.
Because my family spends a lot of time in the water over the summer — in lakes and the ocean when we can swing it, and otherwise in our town’s pool, the splash pad, or even just our back deck’s water table — I find that the season is a great time to retell the stories of the Bible having to do with water. In doing so, St. Peter becomes a big part of our summer faith-related conversations.
I could go on and on with my list of Catholic saints to celebrate at home in the summer. There are so many relevant ones! But in a spirit of keeping the summer spacious, I’m going to leave it at just just these four. Happy summertime and saint celebrating to all of you!