The Saints Help My Children Understand the Children in Iraq and Syria

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The Johnson kids

Every week, I introduce my children to a new saint, whom I usually choose based on the liturgical season of the year and set feast days. Recently, I’ve felt discouraged in this practice and started wondering why I spend so much time preparing themed crafts and snacks, when so many other lessons and chores need my attention.

“It’s just like St. Cecilia.”

Then ISIS happened, and its persecution of Christians and other minorities in Iraq and Syria. Sitting around our cramped kitchen table, my husband and I briefed our five children, in an age-appropriate manner, about the fate of our Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East.  Trying to make the events as understandable to small children as possible, I grabbed the map to locate Iraq and Syria, and my husband unfolded The Wall Street Journal to point out an article, when a small voice broke through our scuffling. My four-year-old, Matthew, explained, “It’s just like St. Cecilia.”

Having listened to a biography of the young martyr, Cecilia, whilst driving to and from the pool this summer, Matthew needed no further explanation. The events across the world weren’t happening to a group of faceless, nameless children, but to children just like my son’s dear friend, Cecilia.

Within the collective lives of the saints, one glimpses the history of the Church, the living, breathing Body of Christ. Thus, with the acquaintance of one particular saint, our family was able to connect the past with the present, the foreign with the proximate, and what fruit this knowledge added to Matthew’s prayer as we gathered together and prayed for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ, as well as the other minority groups being so cruelly martyred in Iraq and Syria.

Melissa Johnson is a homeschooling mother of six.