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. The deepest things are revealed in the simplest things.

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.





14 responses to “Raising a Saint”

  1. Laura Avatar

    I should think Ivan Petrovich should also be a saint for the living example he gave his son: patience; simple faith; enduring faith; a heart turned always to God…

  2. Cameron Avatar

    Good words for a soon-to-be father. Many thanks!

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  4. mic Avatar

    Please pray for me, a new father. i know only a little about myself, and that by the grace of God, but what i see in myself terrifies me when i think that i may well teach my son to do the same things.


  5. mike Avatar

    ….my dad was an Alcoholic…a binge drinker…when drunk (usually every 3-4 months for at least a couple of weeks at a time ) he would often yell: ‘dont do as i do!!..do as i say!!…i always knew something wasnt right about that saying…unfortunately both my brother and i grew up to be alcoholics(but recovering)..my 4 sisters never developed alcoholism but we all suffer emotional problems from our childhood…Dad would sometimes pray before meals and he made some of us go to sunday school and church but that was the only exposure to formal religion(baptist) that we got..my mother was an unbeliever and liked to say that she was a ‘witch’….its said that in childhood we develop our image of God from our earthly fathers so perhaps that explains my own struggle to rightly percieve Our Loving Heavenly Father….im not telling this to garner sympathy or have you feel sorry for me but to prove that it can make a difference in how you ‘raise’ a child…thats all.

  6. fatherstephen Avatar

    Mike, I am a child of an alcoholic (who is sober now and Orthodox). Grace makes possible many things

  7. NW Nikolai Avatar
    NW Nikolai

    Father bless,

    This resonates with me on several levels tonight. I’m dismayed at my lack of faith and over the top irritation in the midst of the rigors of life. All too often I’ve dealt harshly with those nearest and dearest to me, Lord have mercy! Secondly, our state of underemployment, for my wife and I, is ever present and stressful. Yet, I am pressing into this season of fasting and experiencing a profound sense of peace. I’m comforted by the statements of simple trust expressed by St. Silouan’s father.

  8. Ibn Battenti Avatar
    Ibn Battenti

    This is an iconic photo Father Stephen because there is nothing hidden. Thank you. Such simplicity is sure to please the Almighty!

  9. Alaska Mary Avatar

    Fr. Stephen – Your thoughtful post reminds me of the poem, “Children Learn What They Live,” that I read many times when my own children were young. Now they are grown, and I find so many opportunities to look back with regret at all the ways I failed to set a good example for them, in my own behavior and words. But rather than dwell on my failures — and without excusing them or justifying them or wallowing in regret over them — I am realizing that I can put the past in God’s hands. And I can keep on praying for my children as long as I live. Very few, if any, of us were raised by perfect parents. But God in His mercy is able to redeem even “the years the locusts have eaten.”

  10. Marie Avatar

    Thank you Fr. Stephen for this reflective post and thank you Alaska Mary for your wonderful words of encouragement. I have to look up the poem now.

  11. Durk Avatar

    I’ve definitely come to the conclusion, that there is usually NOTHING we can “teach” others. The ONLY thing we can do, is tend the garden of our own hearts; and listen, listen, listen, in a prayerful open mind.

    This post also reminds me to give until it hurts — monetarily, I mean.

  12. Doug C. Avatar
    Doug C.

    Thank you Father Stephen!

    This post reminds me of the first time my children were taught to light the candles and kiss the Icons at our small parish. We had attended as inquirers for some time, and I had as yet to teach my children this part of Orthodoxy. (I have as yet to do this myself, out of fear I suppose?) The church school teacher brought them out of class, and showed them how. I was surprised at my emotions; I was moved almost to the point of tears to see them do something so simple and basic, and yet so deep. They did not feel any reservation, they did not act nervous, they simply did as they were shown. They have taken to Orthodoxy like a duck to water. They showed the simple faith of children. How I wish I could have such a simple faith. This is a moment of me the parent learning from my children. It is amazing how I have learned to be a better parent and person from them. This post is very timely in reminding me to have a physical side to my faith, not just the mental side. This post has reminded me that I need to model the faith I have through my actions, not just through mental ascent.

  13. Jesse Avatar

    I pray God would give me the grace to be a father like St. Silouan’s.

  14. The Dubliner Avatar

    “You cannot teach what you do not live.” Wise words, Fr. Stephen.

    It is that candle, the childlike faith, that fades in most humanity. It becomes a sad and grotesque sight, but maybe all is not lost if that simple faith can be attained for all generations. There is must a child can learn from their parents and elders, but even the parents and elders can learn much from a child.

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