Leading by Example
I have to share a little anecdote from our Ash Wednesday. I attended morning Mass with my littles (something I normally don’t attempt alone, but I was able to go with my mom and brother!). My son, Ezra, is two and a half and very reserved. I had chatted with him ahead of time about Ash Wednesday, what it means, and what was going to happen at Mass. He is remarkably reasonable for a child his age, but as I expected, he said, “I’m going to say ‘no thank you’ to the ashes.” Knowing what a shy guy he is, I fully anticipated the thought of a random person touching his head to be one that he did NOT love.
At Mass, we processed up to receive ashes; I held him on my hip, and my mom held my daughter. He watched me receive the ashes and stared at me the whole way back to our pew. When we sat down, he turned to me, pointed at the cross on my forehead, and said, “I want that.”
I was seriously shocked, people. This kid never waves at strangers, he cries when we have workers at the house, and it took weeks for me to bribe him into getting a haircut. I asked him if he was sure and said, “OK, Ez, we can get back in line!”
He waited patiently and was the last person to receive his ashes. He didn’t cry or bail at the last minute. He got his ashes calmly and was SO proud as he marched back to the pew.
This may have been a random toddler moment that didn’t have a deeper meaning (trust me, half the stuff he does puzzles me), but to be honest, I was moved! He had watched his family receive their ashes and had wanted to follow our example.
As a child, I attended Montessori school, and the Montessori Method largely influences my parenting style. The power of a good example is a huge part of Montessori theory - in fact, it advises that, rather than overwhelm a young child with lots of verbal explanations, the best way to teach a new skill is to simply perform it slowly and carefully for the child to observe.
I have found this idea to be immensely successful, especially in regards to sharing the faith with my children. I definitely don’t have it all figured out, but I have noticed my children following my example with things like crossing themselves when we drive by a church or genuflecting before the altar, even without me explaining those things out loud.
One of the main reasons my husband and I started Pillar & Pearl was to bring Catholicism to the center of our family life and to help others do the same. Many of the products we include in our boxes are outward reminders of the faith that can be integrated into daily life. So, whether by wearing a religious garment or accessory or lighting a saint-inspired candle or decorating your home with holy images, we hope to help you set a good example of putting Christ at a place of importance in your life.
It seemed strangely fitting that this experience happened on Ash Wednesday, since it is perhaps the only day of the year that we are marked as Catholics, and our actions throughout the day are an example of Catholicism. Even just the act of wearing the ashes is an example of what it means to be a Catholic.
Ez had wiped his ashes across his forehead by the end of Mass and proceeded to call them his “asses” for the rest of the day, so please, if you’re reading this, don’t be tricked into thinking that we are a perfectly put-together Catholic family. But, we are so so immensely grateful for the opportunity to grow within this community and learn daily how to better evangelize to others and to our own children.
“We must teach more by example than by word.” - Saint Mary of the Cross