Preparing Our Children Spiritually for the School Year

The feast day of St. Tarcisius is usually forgotten because it coincides with the greater feast of the Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven, but St. Tarcisius himself should not be forgotten, particularly by our children as they head back to school.

We know that in this coming school year, children of all ages will be facing peer pressure to do all sorts of things they shouldn’t, from ridiculing less popular classmates to trying drugs.  St. Tarcisius, who has already been named the patron saint of First Holy Communicants, could also be aptly named the patron saint of resisting peer pressure.  As a youth living during the persecution of Diocletian, he volunteered to bring the Holy Eucharist to the Christians imprisoned for their faith.  Carrying the Sacred Species against his chest, under his tunic, he met some classmates who urged him to stop and play.  When he refused, they demanded to see what he was hiding under his tunic.  When he again refused, they attacked him and stoned him until a Christian soldier arrived and carried him to the pope.  Throughout the attack, St. Tarcisius did not relinquish his hold on the Blessed Sacrament for a moment; only when he was brought to the presence of the pope did he lift his hands and then die.

Surely no other saint resisted peer pressure more valiantly or sacrificed more in his struggle against it, and surely no other saint is better suited to be an example and inspiration to our own children as they face the persuasion and mockery of their classmates.

Yet how can we cultivate in our own children such an unwavering love of God and such a powerful devotion to the Blessed Sacrament?

Now, at the beginning of the school year, we need to schedule in to our routine regular visits to the Blessed Sacrament.  If we can fit in athletic activities or music lessons, which develop the bodies and minds of our children, we certainly can squeeze in, once or twice a week, an activity that develops the souls of our children.  Furthermore, while the typical extracurricular activities may provide experiences of anxiety or exhilaration, we must make a priority of an activity that will bring serenity, peace, reflection and prayer.

True, our children may not relish the prospect of visiting a church during the week.  It doesn’t matter.  We must make clear that this activity is non-negotiable.  Of course, we should time our visits according to the child’s age and attention span, anywhere from ten to thirty minutes.  To make the visits more fruitful, we can provide prayer books with attractive, reverent pictures for children too young to read.  For older children, we can print off the Internet the Divine Praises, a few litanies, or perhaps an act of reparation or an act of consecration to the Sacred Heart.  These prayers will show our children that prayer does not always consist of asking for things; like the Rosary or the Stations of the Cross, litanies and similar prayers combine vocal and mental prayer and teach us to adore, to meditate and to engage in mental prayer, which is essential for a strong spiritual life.

If our church isn’t open during the week, we could make a visit during Saturday afternoons when many parishes offer confessions (and we can receive the sacrament of confession while we’re there, as well).  Another option would be to stop by the rectory and ask the receptionist to open the church for us or we could check out different Catholic churches in our area to see if any of them are open during the week.  A prayer to St. Tarcisius would undoubtedly help us in our efforts to find an adoration chapel or an open church where we and our children could visit Our Lord!

There is something soothing and tranquil about visiting a church when no one else is there.  We may be surprised, after a few weeks, to hear our children asking to go visit Jesus – the peaceful atmosphere and the feeling of intimacy with Christ will satisfy their longings and draw their young hearts.  Moreover, they will understand the doctrine of the Real Presence more deeply because there is no reason to go to church when no Mass is going on unless they are visiting Someone.  They will grasp Our Lord’s infinite love for them more profoundly because they will see for themselves that He is waiting for them, day in and day out, to come to Him.  Eventually, their innocent hearts will respond to that love; they will yearn to return love for Love; and that is the first step to raising a modern day Tarcisius.

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