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Graduations might be one of the worst “bests” of watching our kids grow up. As time passes, those sweet little chubby hands that you couldn’t seem to keep clean but also couldn’t resist holding and kissing will soon be holding high school or college diplomas — moving on to the next exciting and uncertain chapter. As our “babies” get ready to graduate, we as parents experience many mixed emotions. As a mom, I sometimes feel heartbreaking nostalgia and sadness as I say goodbye to the sweet, uncomplicated innocence of my daughters’ childhoods. This tendency to fixate on the past can threaten to overshadow the future blessings that await our children. 

As we approach and accept the move to something new, we as parents can be hopeful and prayerful that our kids will continue to grow in virtue their next chapters. What are some important virtues or good moral and spiritual habits that we hope to see developed in our kids? For me, I ask God to bless my daughters with faith, humility, joy and courage, just to name a few. The Communion of Saints offers lots of wonderful models of these virtues. 

Here are a few notable spiritual “rock stars” we might consider turning to in intercessory prayer and maybe even introducing to our kids as we excitedly embrace or perhaps begrudgingly approach graduation season.

Blessed Carlo Acutis displayed so simply but so beautifully the virtue of faith. Many may not know of this modern-day, soon-to-be saint. Carlo was a Catholic Italian teenager who died in 2006 from leukemia and was recently beatified in 2020 in Assisi. Though a pretty typical teenager who loved computers and soccer, Carlo was quietly but consistently holy even from a very young age. After he made his first Communion, he went to Mass as often as he could, made Holy Hours before or after Mass, and even went to confession weekly. In addition, Carlo asked his parents to take him on pilgrimages to the places of the saints, and the sites of Eucharistic miracles. 

Carlo knew the Catholic faith wasn’t limited to worshiping and loving God, but also meant treating others with love and compassion. He was known for defending kids at school who got picked on, especially disabled kids. And when a friend was struggling as a result of his parent’s divorce, Carlo made a special effort to include his friend in the Acutis’ family life. The powerful witness of faith by this young boy impacted those around him, particularly his parents, who though not especially devout in the beginning, grew in their love and practice of their Catholic faith. Finally, Carlo used his interest and love for all things computer related to build a website cataloging and promoting Eucharistic miracles. On the site, he told people that “the more often we receive the Eucharist, the more we will become like Jesus so that on this earth we will have a foretaste of heaven.” What a gift to all of us Carlo is — as a “normal” but steadfastly faithful young person of faith. 

Blessed Carlo, please pray for our children that they may use their gifts, talents and the ordinary moments in life to bring God into the world, and for them to grow in their love for the Eucharist.

St. Mother Teresa’s message of humility is probably captured best by her reminder, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can all do small things with great love.” Too often graduation season is filled with commencement speeches that center around the theme of pursuing greatness or working hard for success. Of course, we want our children to be productive, fulfilled and successful people, but perhaps we could be reminded more often that success should always include service, which requires humility. 

Placing the needs of the poorest of the poor, the dying and the sick ahead of her own, Mother Teresa found “success,” peace and ultimately fulfillment by seeking to know and follow God’s will. Her mission and purpose involved serving. She served God first, by waking up early to pray alone with God and attend Mass. She dedicated her life’s work to tending to the needs of the lost, broken, diseased, homeless and those near death — Christian, Hindu, Muslim, alike. By greeting each person with a smile, a touch and a loving word during her ministry in the slums of India and around the world, this humble woman tirelessly and joyfully shared God’s love right up until the very end of her life. Mother Teresa’s humble service counterintuitively makes her one of our spiritual greats. 

St. Mother Teresa, please pray for our children that they may seek to hear and follow God’s voice and will, and that they may desire to use their education, their careers, their voices and resources to humbly serve their friends, family and those most in need.  

St. Teresa of Avila, one of the beloved doctors of the Church, has much to teach us about joy — both a virtue and also a fruit that results from a holy, well-lived life. Teresa famously is quoted as saying: “God save us from sorrowful saints!” and is a great saint for anyone seeking more joy in life. Though ultimately recognized for her spiritually profound writings, Teresa’s early life was marked by a love for luxurious things, personal vanity and even an attraction to romance novels! As loss and illness entered her life, Teresa gradually came to accept that the good things of this world would not bring her lasting happiness — that is, joy. But even as a nun, Teresa continued to struggle with her two loves — the joy of socializing and God. How did God want her to integrate love of neighbor with her desire for total dedication to God? This dilemma plagued her most of her early adult life, but she eventually found peace when she seriously sought God’s will. 

Around the age of 40, Teresa responded to God’s challenge to reform her religious order and even built more monasteries, all while maintaining her sense of humor and joy. She realized God didn’t want to change her personality and temperament, but rather use these for his purposes. For example, she could use her love for talking and being with people by teaching others, including her own father, how to pray from the heart. In these ways, Teresa serves as a great model of prayer and action. This fun, witty, intelligent and holy woman lived her life growing in trust and acceptance that God would lead and she only had to unite her whole person to the mission of following his Will. Even amidst all her spiritual challenges, physical suffering and everyday trials that women with strong personalities at this time in history experienced, Teresa exuded joy. 

St. Teresa of Avila, please pray for our children that they may find true joy and, even humor, as they enter the uncertain and challenging season of adulthood, and that they may see their own personalities and temperaments as blessings that God seeks to use for His glory.   

St. Edmund Campion, one of the most famous English martyrs, used his life to courageously defend the faith and seek God’s approval, not the world’s. His early adult life brought Edmund much success and honor. As a young graduate from Oxford, Edmund was praised for both his intelligence and his gifted public speaking and even attracted “groupies” — Oxford students, called “Campionites” who never wanted to miss one of his speeches. Even the Queen herself was so impressed that after one of his speaking engagements, she attempted to recruit him to work for the Crown. However, Edmund’s intellectual pursuit of truth led him to become convinced that Catholicism, not the Church of England, was the one true faith. 

Newly converted, Edmund spent time traveling throughout Europe serving as a teacher but finally landed in Rome where he discerned and was ordained to the priesthood. As a Jesuit priest, Edmund burned with a deep love for his faith and also a strong conviction to spread the gospel no matter what. Returning to England, he dedicated his life to writing and speaking in defense of his faith — a dangerous path in the deeply anti-Catholic Great Britain. Professional priest-hunters were everywhere and Edmund was arrested, tortured and pressured to renounce his faith, even by the Queen who offered him a prestigious position in exchange. He refused and was continually tortured, humiliated and ultimately hanged, drawn and quartered. His last hours on earth were spent defending and comforting fellow priests also sentenced to death, singing God’s praises and forgiving his executioners. Throughout his life, Edmund was repeatedly offered a life of fame and prestige, yet he showed unshakeable fortitude opting instead for the path as a missionary priest — a path that brought unthinkable torture and a horrific death, all for the sake of spreading the truth of the gospel. 

St. Edmund, please pray for our children that they may have the courage to be strong, intelligent, passionate defenders of truth and work to share the gospel message of God’s love and mercy with the world.