Raising A Saint

Most of us would be satisfied to raise children who remain faithful believers. It is not always an easy thing and every parent who has such a child should rejoice constantly. There is no method to raise a child to be a saint, for God alone gives the grace that results in the mystery of such wonderful lives. However that may be, I am often struck in reading the writings of St. Silouan by his stories about his father. It would seem that the most fundamental spiritual lessons are not ones he gained from an Elder, but from the simple peasant that was his father – but a simple peasant with the faith of a saint. A small example:

Let us not be distressed over the loss of worldly goods, such losses are a small matter. My own father taught me this early in life. When some misfortune happened at home, he would remain serene. When our house caught fire and the neighbors said, ‘Ivan Petrovich, your house is burnt down!’ he replied, ‘With God’s help I’ll build it up again.’ Once we were walking along the side of our field, and I said, ‘Look, they’re stealing our sheaves!’ ‘Aye, son,’ he answered me, ‘the Lord has given us corn and to spare, so if anyone steals it, it means he’s in want.’ Another day I said to him, ‘You give a lot away to charity, while some who are better off than we are give far less.’ To which he replied, ‘Aye, son, the Lord will provide.’ And the Lord did not confound his hope.

From St. Silouan of Mount Athos

There is no better way to teach a child Christianity than to actually live it – truly and from the heart. You cannot teach what you do not live.

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a retired Archpriest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe, and Face to Face: Knowing God Beyond Our Shame, as well as the Glory to God podcast series on Ancient Faith Radio.



13 responses to “Raising A Saint”

  1. Robert Avatar

    “There is no better way to teach a child Christianity than to actually live it – truly and from the heart. You cannot teach what you do not live.”

    Therein lies my great fear. I miss the mark by a mile. Oh Lord do not hold my sinfulness against my children, may I not hinder them.

  2. Margaret Avatar

    Thank you, Fr. Stephen, for this post. I join Robert in prayer that I will not hinder my children.

    As I continue to realize that I miss the mark of “living the truth from my heart,” I become distraught, but through the encouragement of confession and my priest (and, of course, God) I continue to pray and I thank God for hearing my prayers, that my children will love and serve God with their entire being and spend eternity in His Presence. This is a process and there are many prayers said besides for myself and my husband and all family and friends and then there are the duties put before me that I can only accomplish by the grace of God.

    We are in good hands! As this lovely story of St. Silouan’s father demonstrates, God is good all the time, truly the Lover of mankind.

  3. fatherstephen Avatar

    We do well to be aware of how we fail – particularly with our children. Sometimes I think the best lessons I may have ever taught were in begging a child’s forgiveness. I have had many opportunities to practice this. If you can humble yourself before a child – it’s not quite so hard to humble yourself elsewhere as well. Every year at Forgiveness Vespers, when any of my children approach and we make prostrations, asking each other’s forgiveness – I always lose it and start to cry. Their humility is unbearably sweet and I can only weep for the hardness of my heart.

    (Reading over my shoulder, my wife whispered to me, “You have some very sweet readers.” True.

  4. shevaberakhot Avatar

    I would say you’ve both done an awesome job raising children. As a son, I can say that tone is sometimes more important than content. Not always, sometimes!

  5. david p Avatar

    When my oldest son turned 21 couple of years back, it gave me goose-bumps when when said that he was grateful and happy that he had a home that was safe, content and peaceful. I said many times to him just look around you at the people and families around you.

  6. shevaberakhot Avatar

    The vision of Christ always has this eternal footprint, and so, the lives of the Saints who came before us shine like stars because they are raised to eternal glory in the visible Church.

    Smith Wigglesworth, when speaking Isaiah may well have been speaking of Saint Silouan the Athonite, when he wrote this:

    “In the sixth of Isaiah we read of the prophet being in the presence of God and he found that even his lips were unclean and everything was unclean. But praise God, there is the same live coal for us today, the baptism of fire, the perfecting of the heart, the purifying of the mind, the regeneration of the spirit. How important it is that the fire of God shall touch our tongues”.

  7. Mary Avatar

    Father Stephen,
    I just read the poem by Bishop Nikolai on children and saints (XCV). It should bring us all to tears!

  8. Lucias Avatar

    I pray that God will give me the wisdom and strength to be such an example for my children. I am not able to be that on my own.

  9. […] A father’s influence on a modern Saint. […]

  10. blackincense Avatar

    Dear Fr. Stephen,
    Fr. bless!
    I happened upon this blog, and happened upon this entry. I too have a child who humbles me daily.
    In turn, I had a mother like who was like Silouan’s father. I am humbled by that knowledge as well.
    Thank you for this reminder …

  11. Ben Avatar

    What exactly does Fr. Bless mean? I hear it written here all the time and heard it said in liturgy yesterday (which was beautiful by the way).

    Just wondering what it actually means.

  12. Ezekiel Avatar

    “Father, Bless” is the way to address a priest …

    You are asking him to bless you.

    Now, that doesn’t mean that you can never say, “Hi, Father,” but “Father, Bless” seems to me to get things “centered,” if you will.

  13. Benjamin Avatar

    Cool. Good to know. Thank you. . .

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