The great Bishop Fulton Sheen once remarked on his hit television show that if you “marry the spirit of the age… you become a widow in the next.” This phrase kept coming to the front of my mind last year when my wife and I were looking for children’s books to read to our newborn. As we peruse the shelves at the various bookstores searching for female role models, we found ourselves getting more and more discouraged.
The books we were finding, though aesthetically pleasing and well put together, were simply not teaching our daughter about what it means to live a moral life. In fact, the subjects of many of the tales, though possessing some admirable qualities, no doubt, oftentimes had a very feeble sense of morality. Some were downright immoral and shouldn’t have been held up as role models for young girls. The more we searched, the more we found many of the women to be, well, modern. Suited to this modern age of relativism and sloganeering. Suited to this time of decadence and moral ambiguity. Suited to this moment of tribalism and victimhood and self-satisfaction and anger.
What was absent was the transcendent, the holy, the humble, and the sacrificial. What was missing was the eternal. The eternal truth and the eternal purpose driven by an intense faith in God that raised up so many of our great heroes, was being sidelined to promote “role-models” that more appropriately fit our very broken age.
So my wife and I decided we could either complain about the selection of children’s books available to us, or we could do something about it and create our own. To find the women with the particular feminine genius we were looking for, we turned to the Saints. For who could be more fitting for our young children to emulate than the ones we know are with Christ forever? As we began researching which women saints we wanted to include in our book, we found that there was such an abundance of inspiring women from every corner of the world, from so many different cultures.
What struck us was the natural diversity of the characters. Of course, the Catholic Church being a universal institution, the saints are ethnically diverse, hailing from different countries and continents and having different skin tones, but what we found much more interesting were the myriad of diverse ways in which these women became saints. No two were alike. The brave warrior princess Joan of Arc stands side by side with the meek and humble Carmelite nun, Therese of Lisieux. St. Bakita from Africa now lives eternally with St. Kateri from America. These amazing women had such unique and different experiences on their way to sainthood, yet they were all united in their intense love and devotion to Christ.
The more we researched, the more we felt almost “cheated” in some ways, that we hadn’t learned of these heroic women sooner, that there were no cute rhymes or songs to learn about them when we were younger. Something like the “wheels on the bus” but for saints. So that’s what we created.
In our own little ways, from our examples to our writing, we work to ensure that the next generation learns from a very young age what courage, bravery, holiness, humility, and sacrifice look like. We want our daughter, and all children to grow up looking to true role models for guidance. We want them turning to men and women who they can always look to for inspiration and strength, and whose virtue is unchanging. We want them to have a curiosity when they’re older about just who St. Cecilia really was, outside of the little rhyme they learned in school We want them to look to the saints who are not married to the spirit of a certain age or time, but connected always to the eternal truth of Christ.