When Children Love Saint Benedict!

A friend of mine sent me this cute wrap-up of a conversation he had with his little daughters this morning. I reprint it here, with his permission, and am changing their names to protect their privacy, and also because I never got to name girl babies:

Car Ride Conversation
A Play in One Act
————————-
Starring:
Annaliese Serra* (7 yrs old) as herself
Evangeline deSales* (5 yrs old) as herself
Dad, as himself

Scene: This frosty morning, driving my girls to their Catholic elementary school

Annaliese: Dad! Did you know St. Benedict helped people live a balanced life?

Dad: Really? Wow, that’s neat!

Annaliese: Yeah! Through study, work, prayer & rest.

Dad: That’s great! Let me tell you about St. John’s University where there’s an Abbey with monks who live a life inspired by St. Benedict. It’s called Benedictine. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah (droning on interminably as girls gaze distracted out their windows)…. And so the monks live, work & pray together & don’t get married. Pretty cool, huh?

Evangeline: So they marry the Church?

Me: Yes! Yes! Exactly! Good job, Evie!

Evangeline: (beaming)

Annaliese: Do you know how many muscles a caterpillar has? Four thousand!

Evangeline: And an elephant has over 60 bones in his trunk!

Me: I love you guys so much.
The End

Because they are so interested in Saint Benedict, I am going to send little Annaliese Serra and Evangeline deSales this beautifully illustrated new children’s book, just released via Ignatius Press, The Life of Saint Benedict, by Brother John McKenzie, OSB, a Benedictine monk of the restored and thriving foundation in Norcia, Italy:

Ben book cover

The story of the great founder of western monasticism is a great intoduction for kids into the whole concept of living “in community” and “marrying the church”, so to speak, and here McKenzie selects the highlights of Benedict’s life and serves them up in a way that will interest children without condescending to them.

ben book two

But of course, this is a children’s book, so it was absolutely necessary to tell about the dragon:

Ben Book Dragon

Didn’t know about the Dragon? You’ll have to read the book!

And of course, no book on Benedict could forget to include the first great Benedictine woman, his twin sister, Saint Scholastica!
Ben Book Scholastica

As my first response to my friend’s little playlet was to say “you should have told your daughters about the great Benedictine women! Scholastica! Hildegard! Gertrude and Thecla!” I was particularly glad to see Scholastica included in the book, and not just once. Throughout history Benedictine women have build up communities of great distinction — think of Stanbrook and Ryde Abbeys, and Abbaye Notre-Dame de l’Annonciation, in France. Here in the US, there are vibrant communities of Benedictine women, including a few who (like the monks at Norcia and Clear Creek Abbey) keep the Rule “old school”, by farming the land, raising their food and keeping the hours, around the clock.

We all talk about hoping the church will see more priests or more religious, but we tend not to think those necessary offices should be filled by our own children. Until of course, one of them surprises us and does just that. Who knows whether The Life of Saint Benedict will inspire a child’s life toward that direction. Possibly some kids, having read the delightful story and poured over these illustrations may end up as a professed lay person — a Benedictine Oblate, like Fr. Dwight Longenecker, and Margaret Rose Realy, and me.

Hey! There are worst things!

My Icon of Benedict and Scholastica from the still brilliant fresco at Subiaco.
My Icon of Benedict and Scholastica from the still brilliant fresco at Subiaco.

*Named Evangeline deSales and Annaliese Serra because I think they’re really cool names, and because I am very happy to read that Blessed Junipero Serra is to be canonized!

All images my own.

Related:
Benedictine Hospitality in Israel


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