How to Turn Teens Into Saints...

I know that a lot of Catholic teens think All Saints' celebrations are stupid and refuse to participate or dress up. It's easy to see why. When most adults hardly appreciate the excellence of this feast day, it is rather difficult to pass on any enthusiasm to the young people. Most dress-up parties and All Saints' Masses take place in a school environment, relegating them to part of the "school-ish" culture. The dynamic, authentic, awesomeness of this feast becomes a flattened dullish sort of thing and seen as only  for the little kids. Just try to have an All Saints' dress-up day in a Catholic high school and see what happens! And yet those same students will happily make fools of themselves in every kind of ridiculous get-up for Halloween. Obviously, it is not just about not wanting to be childish... but clearly an aversion to the things of faith because they see the faith as restrictive, cheesy, old, uncool. This is primarily the fault of a culture that is dead to true beauty and does not seek the heart of Christ.

Fortunately, this is not true for everyone but it does take some significant familial and parish effort and prayer to compete with the teen culture of boring. My teens participate in the fun of All Saints' Day of their own accord (so far), and happily so. I realize we have a distinct advantage as homeschoolers because the dull-ish, dead-ish secular teenage culture does not have constant access to our home.

Because we do not participate in the secular celebration of Halloween, we have been accused of being anti-evangelism. Tell that to my teens who deliberately wore their All Saints' get-up to one of the most liberal colleges in the country last week for their schola rehearsal! A college where they were sure to stand out and provoke unkind stares and certainly did. It was no suggestion of mine, just a real desire to spread the wings of their faith. Or how about the time my "St. Thomas Aquinas" decided it would be far better to go into Dairy Queen for his milkshake instead of using the drive-through. Because... Evangelism. 

Evangelism often manifests as families integrating smoothly into secular society (for example, watching Fourth of July fireworks within a community or participating in sports), but in our current culture, it is becoming increasingly important to be fully who we are within the context of our faith, even when it causes us to stand out.

As you can see by the photos, my teens not only dressed up, but they went all out. Professor had a very specific plan and taught me quite a bit about birettas as I fumbled my way through creating a couple. I love the way it turned out, and yes, it is only supposed to have three of those bump thingies. Amazing what a little poster board, heat n' bond, yarn, and fabric remnants can do!

Cookie was late to the planning because of a November 1st essay deadline. She wasn't sure she'd be dressing up at all and I didn't push her, but once that paper was submitted, she eagerly dug out some fancy things and began searching for a saint. (I am short on photos of her here because she was still rushing to get ready for most of the photo session. Other photos of her are temporarily imprisoned on someone else's iphone.)

Crash is nearly a teen and he didn't even flinch when that mitre towered over his head in public. I felt like Maria von Trapp making his outfit because I repurposed gold curtains to create it.

I've got lots of thoughts on why my kids are like this and they mostly center around the fact that we home educate. There's a lot of freedom and blessing in this lifestyle choice. Primarily, the kids are free from a secular teen culture that discourages true joy, passion, and respect for the dignity of the human person. I look at these pictures and know that in spite of our weaknesses and failures, we are on a fundamentally good path. It gives me the courage to keep going.

Not a teen but too adorable not to post.

When kids are little, mamas often believe that if we only do all the right things, our kids will be really great and good people. Not to burst your bubble, but it isn't true. It's not primarily about us and whatwe do. It is about how well we place them into the loving arms of Jesus, so that He can do the work. We can lead them along the right path and I guarantee you that they will still stray at times. Some will even leave the faith.

What we need to focus on during these years then, is not micro-managing them into a relationship with our Lord, but allowing them to retain and develop true passion for His Sacred Heart. 

In spite of the common, but false, assertion that homeschooling restricts that kind of growth, I give you my evidence that it clears away some of the debris that can obstruct joy. Will it guarantee that my parenting will turn out canonized saints? No. But I believe it gives them a fighting chance to retain a seedling of their original purity and innocence. They may need it very badly someday.

Middle kids lovin' on little kids.

If you don't homeschool, this is no judgment on you. It is not my vocation to parent your children and I trust you to follow God's will for your own family. I know that many of you are defending the goodness of your teens with great courage and success within the school system. May he bless and keep us all and bring our children safely home with the saints and angels!

Posted on November 3, 2013 and filed under All Saints' Day, Liturgical Year, teenagers.