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  • Writer's pictureFaith Hakesley

Some Encouragement for Families in This Time of Pandemic

A review of two new children's books from Sophia Press Institute

+JMJ+ If you're a parent or someone caring for children, you probably already realize that the pandemic has been tough on them. In many cases, their little worlds have been turned upside down and and from time to time my two older children have expressed their annoyance with “the way things are.” I can't say I blame them. Summer is usually a fun time for us, full of day trips and various family adventures. We're finding ways to adapt this year, but they're still missing out on organized sports, vacation bible school, getting together in groups, and going to the usual fun places.

No matter how much we want to fight the way things are, things are just different. That's the reality. From the look of things, things aren't going to be the same for quite awhile, but different doesn't always have to be a bad thing. We can still deepen our faith lives, strengthen our families, talk, share, listen, and learn new ways to live in this new normal. I think that leading by example to our children and encouraging them to develop their imaginations and encourage creativity is an important part of adapting to the current state of things. Parents can, now more than ever, encourage their children to look for God's glimmers of grace, His voice that so often arises from the seemingly ordinary, quiet, simple parts of life. Not only that, but we can encourage our little ones to find new and interesting heroes to emulate during these confusing times. Who better to learn about than the saints!

Our three children tend to be quite creative and so we don't too often hear the dreaded words, “I'm bored.” Not to suggest that they don't get bored (they certainly do) but one of the good things about all this down time at home is that they are using their creative abilities and talents more than ever. Our two older children (ages 7 and 9) are even discovering some budding talents which is really cool to witness. Our 7-year-old daughter especially loves art and her 3-year-old sister is following suit. She has a special knack for drawing, coloring, crafts, etc. I want to share one of Sophia Press's newest releases that our children (our daughters especially) are enjoying. Although, in reality, our entire family has been enjoying this new release for the last couple of weeks. The Day-by-Day Coloring Book of Saints by Anna Maria Mendell, illustrated by Mary MacArthur, is a coloring book containing daily stories of the saints complete with pictures to color. There are two volumes available: one for January-June and one for July-December.

The lives of the saints have always been fascinating to me. I've spoken frequently of my love of the saints and how their lives have helped to strengthen and encourage me over the years, particularly in times of difficulty. Even as a young girl, I admired the saints and loved reading about them and aspired to be like them (St. Therese of the Little Flower was and still is my favorite!). This is something I have tried to bring into my own children's lives. For the past several years as a part of our regular homeschooling day, we read the saint of the day right after we say our morning prayers. The kids love this! They love this routine even more because now they can learn and color.

We've only gotten through a little bit of the July-December volume so far but already I've heard of a few saints I had never heard of before, so we're all learning something. This book is a great way to spend some together as a family. Since we have three children (and only one of each volume), I simply make three copies of the saint picture for that particular day and, after my husband or I reads, the children color while we discuss what we have learned. These coloring books are great for any Catholic family and would be especially wonderful for homeschooling families or for use in a classroom. This would be a great addition to any daily schedule!

The other new release from Sophia Press I want to share about is Maximilian Kolbe: The Saint of Auschwitz by Jean-Francois Vivier, illustrated by Denoel. This is a bit different from most of the children's books in our house simply because the illustrations are different from what we're used to (these are more like a comic book), but, make no mistake, this is a very powerful book. The powerful story of St. Maximilian Kolbe's life, including the remarkable sacrifice that he made in Auschwitz, is beautifully told in these pages. What a remarkable saint to cling to especially during these times of turmoil and uncertainty! His is a story that my family is familiar with, but when you are reminded in a visual way about what he went through (and the illustrations really are powerful), you suddenly realize in a deeper way the meaning of sacrifice, the meaning of love of neighbor, and what living for Christ truly means.

Maximilian Kolbe sacrificed everything out of love for Christ and for his fellow mankind. This book really helps to put everything we're all currently going through in perspective. This saint's life inspires, reassures, and helps us to call to mind how precious and dearly loved each and every one of us is. St. Maximilian Kolbe is surely a saint for our times and I'm so glad that my children (especially our 9-year-old son) now have this book in their collection. Because some of the pictures are a bit intense (we're talking about Auschwitz after all), I would forewarn those of you with very young children that you may want to read it with them so they understand what's going on. Otherwise, some of the illustrations are going to be quite frightening and probably confusing.

In this time of confusion, doubt, and worry, I want to encourage parents and caregivers to be a safe place for their children to express their doubts, worries, fears, hopes, and joys to. Encourage your little ones to use their creativity, to learn and try new things, and to find ways to make the best of the current state of things. The lives of the saints (saints such as Maximilian Kolbe) are great to turn to at any time but especially now when our faith and our everyday lives are being tested in new ways, and our children can learn so much from the lives of the saints. One final note: never forget that our goal as parents should be to raise saints!

Holy Saints and Angels, pray for us now and always!

Disclaimer: this post is in no way sponsored by Sophia Press. I received a copy of the book in exchange for my honest feedback and am simply sharing my thoughts in this blog post.

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