Celebrating the Season of the Saints



Historically, our family has been pretty good at celebrating the Feast of All Saints on November 1st. We’ve attended – and helped lead – yearly All Saints Day parties, dressing up in epic individual and family costumes (one year we went as St. Patrick and the band of pirates who kidnapped him; another year we dressed as St. Damien of Molokai and a group of Hawaiian lepers). If you ever happened to spot a nun in full habit driving a mini-van full of costumed kids on the first day of November, it was probably me dressed as St. Rose of Lima (with a crown of roses), St. Rita of Cascia (complete with stigmata), or St. Mary MacKillop, the first Australian saint (carrying a stuffed koala bear, of course).


But our celebration of the saints doesn’t have to end on November 1st, and this is good news for families. October is the month of the rosary, so it’s easy to pray a decade or a single Hail Mary as daily as we can. December, of course, means Advent, and there is never a shortage of printables, coloring pages, sticker books, and online and parish activities to keep us busy and focused on our family faith life.


But November isn’t nothing, and it doesn’t have to be the blank space between the Month of the Rosary and the season of Advent. It can be, and is in our family, the Season of the Saints.


There are lots of ways to celebrate November as the Month of the Saints, but here are two ideas that we’ve successfully implemented, and one we plan to try this year. (Although these are ideas we used as a family of young children, each one of them could be easily adapted for adults living without kids in the home as well!)


Story time with a saint.


We went through a phase in our family faith life when we were addicted to reading exciting chapter books about the saints (martyrs who were eventually beheaded, of which there is no shortage in the Catholic Church, were particularly popular). Our evening prayer time consisted of a few paragraphs, a few pages, or a whole chapter (depending on everyone’s patience on that particular night). We concluded our evening by asking the saint that we were reading about to pray for our family. And that’s it.


Sadly, we’ve outgrown the stage when all of our five children had the time and attention to read together as a family at the end of the day (nowadays, the teenagers usually come in late from work or activities), but I’ve still got a couple of kids who would join me for a good beheading saga.


A note passed to me by my seven-year-old during one of our saint read-alongs, as the story was becoming particularly perilous (it reads: “Edmund Campion’s head is coming off. I know that.”)


Story time with lots of saints.


When the children were younger (and not quite ready to sit quietly and listen to a chapter book), we used to read from an illustrated treasury of saints every night in November. We never got through the whole book (though we tried to mark where we left off so that we could pick up at the same spot the following year). We were sure to end each evening asking the saint that we read about to pray for us.


A continual litany of saints.


We’re a busy little family these days. Between dance and music and sports and more, it feels like we’re coming and going more than we’re sitting and praying. But this year, at those times when we are all together – at the supper table, or on the rare evening when everyone is home – we’re going to pray a continual litany of saints. We’ll ask one saint every day to pray for us (and maybe, if I’m feeling especially optimistic that day, we’ll even read a paragraph about the life of that saint).  By the end of November, we will have come together (if briefly) as a family of faith, gained the intercession of dozens of saints, and spent the month remembering, honouring and praying with the holy people whose faith continues to inspire us to go beyond the comfort of our family and our home and, like the saints, take Christ to the world.

Holly Gustafson lives with her husband, James, and their five children, in Regina, where they attend Christ the King Parish. Holly received her Masters in Linguistics at the University of Manitoba, and now pursues her love of language through art, writing, public speaking, and unsolicited grammatical advice. The best advice she ever received was from her spiritual friend, St. Faustina, who told her that when in doubt, "Always ask Love. It advises best."

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