When you were in college did you ever have to read something called The Confessions of Saint Augustine? It has a very famous story about Saint Augustine stealing pears when he was a child. I really wanted to share this story with my son Bruce(6.5) as part of my SLE Inspired Reading List part 2. As you might imagine, finding a kiddie version of The Confessions of Saint Augustine wasn’t easy. Luckily I came across In God’s Garden by Amy Steedman. This book was written over 100 years ago and is part of the Yesterday’s Classics collection. If you click on the link you can view the first 38 pages of the book for free.
The section about Saint Augustine was everything I had hoped for, but the rest of the book presented a big problem for me, relating to my own ignorance. I’m a member of the United Methodist church which means that I’m Protestant. I know virtually nothing about Catholic saints.
When I was reading this book to Bruce I didn’t even know how to present it. If we were reading Greek myths I would have said “These were stories people use to believe were true a long time ago in Ancient Greece.” But I was very unsure about how closely modern Catholics believe in the veritably of these stories. So I said to Bruce “These are important stories in the Catholic church,” and left it at that.
Take Saint George and the Dragon for example. It reminded by Bruce and me very strongly of the Greek myth of Perseus rescuing the princess Andromeda from the sea monster. We both commented on the similarities, but didn’t take our discussion any further because I did not know how to direct the conversation.
A few weeks ago I took my questions about all of this to my cousin and aunt who are Catholic. They told me that in their experience there are varying degrees of absolute beliefs about the stories of the Saints. My aunt said she viewed them as a product of oral tradition. It doesn’t mean that the stories didn’t happen or aren’t true, it’s just that it could be very possible that details were exaggerated or embellished over the years. But then my cousin pointed out that our Catholic relatives in Eastern Europe would indeed believe every word of the stories to be true. So my American Catholic cousin say there probably wasn’t really a dragon, but our Czech cousin would say yes, the dragon was real.
For me, this whole reading experience with Bruce was an example of why Afterschooling is so important. I whole heartedly believe in public schools but it is unfair to expect teachers to wade into something like the history of Saints. I want my son to learn about other religions in a respectful, discerning way. I also want to be the person who leads that instruction.
If you are Catholic, please give me an education about all of this!