St Ita is known as the Foster Mother of God’s Saints, because so many of the children she raised became holy. I am very grateful for this particular commission, because it very much deepened my relationship with St Ita and it helped me put into words something I had intuitively known for long intuitively concerning the education of children.
One way of another, parents of all sorts – adoptive, natural, spiritual parents – are given the responsibility of other human beings, and they have to somehow help their children reach the holiness of their full potential in Christ. Parents are given their children to love and educate, to guide and direct towards Christ, through the maze and swamp of a world that is filled with temptation and sin.
How does one turn one’s children into holy people? How did St Ita manage to plant the right seeds into the hearts of her children, at the right time, in the right manner so that they grew and brought forth the fruit of Christ’s image into their being? How did she manage to set the spiritual foundation so that these children would grow to become the likes of St Brendan the Navigator?
I knew in my heart, and it now became clear to my mind, as well, that the central thing is to always point them in Christ’s direction. I learnt very clearly from St Ita that parents have to clean their eyes first, so that we let go of our obsession with the sinfulness of the world and focus our whole being on the sparks of holiness that lie hidden in the world. Once our spiritual eyes learn to focus (almost instinctively) on that which is holy in the world, once we learn to turn ourselves towards the manifestations of Christ’s presence in the world (the way flowers always turn to follow the sun, and never turn to reflect the darkness of the sky) – then and only then we can pass that wisdom to our children.
Ita means ‘thirst for holiness’, for the saint spent her life looking for holiness, thirsting to find it in the created world and within herself. We all grow spiritually through what we consume spiritually. If we feed ourselves on fear, bitterness and an obsessive need to look for the evil in the world, that evil will end up shaping who we are. When we invest our time and effort looking for what is wrong and dark around us, we are in fact enslaved to that darkness and we shall ultimately become its reflection. We shall wither away, like a flower that forgot to look at the sun and always turned to face the dark.
Look at world trying to find Christ in it. Look at every situation, look at every human being, in any context and try hard, try very hard to always identify the signs of Christ’s presence. Once you find them, point them out to your children. Teach your children to spend their lives looking for Christ. Teach them to always turn their spiritual eyes to face His light. Teach them to allow Christ’s presence in the world to shape them, rather than to become obsessed with the sinfulness of the world.
Let darkness pass by, let dirt wash away, let temptation fight itself and do not let it touch you – teach your children to look for Christ, teach them to identify Him in any context, and help them always follow Him. Christ has made your children free. Do not enslave them to the fear of sin to the point where they are frightened to open their hearts to the world. Your children are free, they are loved and they are immeasurably valuable in the eyes of their Creator. Help them find that love of Christ, and teach them to hold on to the seeds of that love in their hearts – if later in life they chose to water these seeds through the choices they make as they grow up, you have raised a Saint.
Commission going to Saskatchewan, Canada.
More photos of the icon are posted on the bookstore site: https://www.shop.mullmonastery.com/product/st-ita-mother-of-saints/