SummaryLittle did Suzanne Tombs know the ripple effect that a field trip for a saint’s celebration would have on her homeschooled daughter. St. Gerard pray for us!
Have you ever wondered what impact homeschooling would have on your children’s future?
Have you tried to imagine how some experience might make a lasting impression on your family?
I did not understand where it would go, on the day it started when the pebble was tossed into the pond.
1. Our Introduction to St. Gerard
The ripples in the pond started several years ago, like so many of our other homeschooling adventures: with small talk, of course, which is my gift from the Holy Spirit. The kids were all playing, and I was chatting with two of our fellow homeschooling moms.
“Ladies, time for a field trip!” Sharon was full of enthusiasm. “Let’s go to the Feast of St. Gerard.”
Jen was equally excited, “That sounds great! We’d love to go.”
“I’m always up for a feast, ladies, but first you have to tell me who St. Gerard is,” was my reply. Had I missed a chapter somewhere? This was a saint my children and I had not met yet.
They quickly filled me in on St. Gerard Majella, a professed lay brother of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer who lived in Italy in the 1700s. A humble and holy man, his intercession was credited with several miracles during his brief lifetime and many more after his death in 1755.
One of the most notable miracles involved a married woman who was pregnant but having complications and on the verge of losing her baby. She had been a friend of Gerard’s before his death and prayed fervently for his intercession. Her prayers were answered almost immediately, and she miraculously delivered a healthy child.
So it’s easy to see why St. Gerard is the patron saint of expectant mothers, as well as a favorite saint to call on for prayers for children, unborn children, and motherhood, but the story got even better.
Jen explained, “St. Gerard’s feast day is October 16, which is my birthday. I always knew I wanted a big family, and he’s certainly come through for us!” Looking at Jen’s eight beautiful children bounding around the yard, I had to agree.
Sharon’s story was even more compelling. After enduring the grief of several miscarriages, she and her husband asked for St. Gerard’s intercession. In less than two years they had an adopted son from China and a natural-born son, whose birthday was on, yes, you guessed it, October 16!
“So we absolutely have to go to the festival – it’s one of our favorite things to do every October,” Sharon continued. After all that miraculousness, I didn’t need any convincing.
2. Enjoying the Feast of St. Gerard
The festival takes place annually at St. Lucy’s Church in Newark, NJ, which is the site of the St. Gerard National Shrine. It lasts for several days with Masses, a procession, music and dancing, and wonderful feasting in the plaza in front of the breath-taking church. We were able to attend on the day that the Archbishop celebrated Mass and our homeschool clan certainly enjoyed the feasting that followed!
Perhaps the thing my children and I were most struck by was the giant posterboard off to the side of the main altar, where families were taping up photos of their “St. Gerard miracles:” so many beautiful babies and children, thanks to St. Gerard’s prayers. Sharon joyfully added her sons’ photos to the poster.
It became a special tradition within our homeschool group to head up to the feast in October to celebrate this saint, and my children certainly have wonderful memories of the years we were able to make the trek.
3. The Impact of Our Field Trip
I didn’t fully realize the impact of our field trips on my kids until last spring, however, when my daughter called from college.
“Guess what, Mom?” she asked excitedly. “I’m going to be heading up the university’s pro-life group next year!”
“Wow! That’s wonderful, honey!” I will admit that I’ve had days of doubt, frustration, disorganization, and wondering if I had done a half-decent job of homeschooling. Was I doing it right? Were the kids learning enough? Would their homeschool education stand up to the challenges of the outside world? My worries evaporated completely at that moment as I listened to my daughter charging ahead with all sorts of plans.
“I’ve already started lining up speakers for the monthly meetings,” she continued, unmistakably bursting with purpose. “We are going to have a counselor speak on suicide prevention, and some adoptive parents are going to share their stories, and one of my friends is setting up all of our social media. And then you know what else we’ve planned?”
“What else?” I was wondering what more she could fit in, my eager-beaver daughter.
“We are going to have a nine-day prayer novena for the unborn over fall break, and end it with a spiritual adoption baby shower the day everyone comes back to school.”
“Oh, that’s a beautiful idea. I love it!” Her enthusiasm swept me along.
“And you’ll never believe what day we come back from fall break – October 16! The Feast of St. Gerard! Isn’t that perfect?” she was positively gleeful.
And so, the ripples in the pond continue.
I can’t help but wonder how many of the students at her university’s pro-life group will be meeting St. Gerard for the first time, and how far the ripples of his prayers may extend. It is clear to me, however, that the grace of our homeschooling experience has already extended beyond our home.