Stephanie Engelman explains how parents can pass on the Catholic faith through stories: personal, Biblical, and from the Tradition of the Church.
Imagine the scene: Months after her Son’s Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven, the Blessed Mother sits in the home of the beloved disciple, surrounded by a small group of Christ’s followers. Having spent, at best, three years with their Messiah, these new Christians are eager to learn more about Him. Mary quietly and humbly shares the stories of the Annunciation, her visit to Elizabeth, and Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. She tells of Christ’s childhood growing up in Egypt and then Nazareth, the harrowing search for Him on the road from Jerusalem, and that time they both attended a wedding in Cana.
Mary doesn’t provide a list of qualities that made her Son special; she tells the stories that show His humility, love, and power. She doesn’t enumerate rules and procedures; she recounts memories that embody the way we all ought to live. Just as her Son taught through parables like the prodigal son and the ten virgins, Mary teaches through the true stories of her Son’s life, knowing that it is through story that her listeners’ imaginations will best be sparked, their own memories most stirred, and their desire to live as Jesus did most enlivened.
Likewise, we, as parents, can use the tool of storytelling to teach the faith to our children—and our faith is rich with the gift of story! We have the ancient stories of Noah and his ark, Joseph the dreamer, and Jonah and the whale, just to name a few. The Gospel gives us gems like Christ turning water into wine, healing the demoniac, and raising Lazarus—not to mention sacrificing Himself on the Cross to rise again on the third day. Of course, the stories didn’t end with Christ’s Ascension. The book of Acts goes on to recount the birth of the Church, the conversion of Paul, the martyrdom of Stephen, and, even beyond the canon of Scripture, parents have the lives of the saints to help illustrate virtuous living for their children.
Aided by a plethora of books, television programs, and websites to help bring stories to life, children will often recognize themselves in the stories of young saints like Thérèse, Bernadette, and the children of Fatima, and they can be greatly inspired by lives of such greats as Saints Teresa of Calcutta, John Paul II, and Maximillian Kolbe.
Some of the stories that will have the greatest impact on children, however, are the stories of saints-in-the-making—the people they best know and love! Parents, grandparents, godparents, aunts and uncles alike can share their own memories of those times when God has worked remarkably in their own lives, how they’ve responded or failed to respond, the lessons learned, and graces given through each incident. Storytelling direct from the source, an ordinary everyday human being, can indeed touch the hearts and minds of young people in profound and life-changing ways.
The Rosary: Mary’s Ultimate Story-Telling Tool
In giving us her Rosary, Mary harnessed the power of story and linked it together with vocal and meditative prayer to provide one of our greatest spiritual tools. In bringing our intentions, worries, and thanksgivings to the time of prayer, we are able to view our own lives in the light of the Gospel. Meditating upon Mary’s fiat, we are inspired to respond “yes” to life’s most challenging circumstances. Recalling Christ carrying His cross, we are strengthened to pick up our own. Pondering Christ’s Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven, we are reminded that, even in the most dire of circumstances, we are an Easter people, called to peace, joy, and hope.
As we celebrate this month of Mary, spend time sharing her stories with your own children. But don’t stop there! Share the stories of the Old Testament, the stories of the saints and the saints-in-the-making, encouraging your children that they are in the midst of writing their own stories, as well!
Copyright 2023 Stephanie Engelman
Stephanie Engelman is a wife, mother of five, public speaker, and author of A Single Bead, an award-winning young adult novel about the power of the Rosary published by Pauline Books and Media. In her free time, Stephanie loves to hike, camp, and mountain bike with her family. You can find Stephanie at www.StephanieEngelman.com.
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