Dear Little Flower of Lisieux, how wonderful was the short life you led. Though cloistered, you went far and wide through fervent prayers and great sufferings. You obtained from God untold helps and graces for his evangelists. Help all missionaries in their work and teach all of us to spread Christianity in our own neighborhoods and family circles. Amen. (2HeartsNetwork)
October 1st is the feast day of St. Thérése of Lisieux, also known as the Little Flower. She may not be the first saint who comes to mind when patrons for our little home schools are considered. There are so many others who at first glance appear to be more appropriate: the Holy Family, Our Blessed Mother, St. Joseph, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine, St. Paul, or maybe St. John Bosco, St. Teresa of Avila or St. Catherine of Siena.
Somehow, Thérése might find herself further, maybe much further, down the list of potential candidates, and yet she has so much to say to homeschooling families.
Who is St. Thérése?
Francoise-Marie Thérése Martin, the last of nine children (of whom only 5 survived), was born January 2, 1873, to Louis Martin and his wife, Azelie-Marie Guerin. She lived a very quiet, hidden life that by all accounts was ordinary excepting her early entrance into the Carmelite convent at age 15, and her piety. She went nowhere, once she entered the convent, and did nothing spectacular, but she wrote the story of her life in obedience to her Superior at age 23. This became the spiritual classic The Story of a Soul.
Thérése had an intense desire to be a missionary, but was unable to fulfill that dream. Despite this, she was named as co-patron of missionaries, along with St. Francis Xavier, by Pope Pius XI in 1927. She is also co-patron of France. Her Little Way of Spirituality allowed her to become one of only three women Doctors of the Church.
All well and good, one might say, but why is she a good choice for a patron for homeschooling families? That depends on what area of homeschooling is being addressed.
One of the first things I hear from parents is the concern that they are not organized enough, that they will not be able to continue homeschooling down the line, or even to finish out the year. They tell me that they aren’t patient enough and feel overwhelmed by all that has to be covered. They express concern that they might not be able to do a good job.
I remember feeling that way. It’s natural. Homeschooling is new. It might seem scary, but with the help of God’s grace, we can do it. St. Thérése gives some good advice about dealing with our jitters and doubts.
“If I did not simply live from one moment to another, it would be impossible for me to be patient, but I only look at the present, I forget the past, and I take good care not to forestall the future.”
The emphasized part of the quote is the most instructive, although all of it can be helpful. It reminds us not to look too far ahead, and later on, not to dwell too much in the past. It can be somewhat daunting if we look at all that needs to be done in one great chunk, but much less so if we take the time to break the year into bite-sized pieces. Focus on one day at a time. Learn from mistakes and move on.
The lesson plans are very helpful with the day-to-day business of teaching our children at home. They ensure that nothing important is missed and free us, as parents, to focus on the actual teaching without concern for what comes next. If help becomes necessary, it is a phone call or email away, either to Seton itself, or perhaps through a fellow homeschooler or homeschool group. We are not alone.
2225. “By the grace of the sacrament of marriage, parents receive the responsibility and the privilege of evangelizing their children. Parents should initiate their children at an early age into the mysteries of the faith of which they are the “first heralds” for their children. They should associate them from their tenderest years with the life of the Church.” ~Catechism of the Catholic Church
That being the case, it follows that we as parents will be given the graces through the sacrament of marriage to carry out our responsibility. God will not let us flounder or fail in our attempts to teach our children.
Another concern that often comes up is how to balance housework and other responsibilities with homeschooling. This is part of the beauty of homeschooling. Academics are taught side by side with family responsibilities and Christian charity. Older children can help the younger when the primary teacher is busy. All but the smallest can help with chores, matched to their skills and abilities. These may not be done quite as well as Mom or Dad would do, at least at first, but if they do it to the best of their abilities, it will be good enough, and they will improve over time. This is a wonderful opportunity to teach the children that no task, even the most trivial, is so small that it should not be done well out of love for the family and for God.
So what does St. Thérése have to say to Homeschoolers?
- Trust in God in all things. No matter how difficult a lesson, class, sibling or teacher, God is there with you.
- Be faithful to the duties of your state in life. Do every task, even the smallest, with love and good will. No task is too small or insignificant to do well, for love of God and of others.
- Be obedient.
- Be patient with yourself and with others. Use petty annoyances to bring you closer to God and to help others. St. Thérése used to tell a story about a nun who would always click her rosary beads during quiet prayer. Instead of allowing the continual noise to upset her, Thérése made a conscious effort to think of the sound as music. Instead of offering a prayer of silence to God, she offered her prayer as one of music. We can follow her example when we are annoyed with others or ourselves.
- Pray, pray, pray: not just with formal prayers, but using your own words.
- Do not be afraid.
Concluding Prayer Prayed Each Day:
O Lord, You have said: Unless you become as little children you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven; grant us, we beg You, so to follow, in humility and simplicity of heart, the footsteps of the Virgin blessed Thérèse, that we may attain to an everlasting reward. Amen. (2HeartsNetwork)
More information on St. Thérése can be found on the following sites:
God bless and happy homeschooling!