Our children are faced with many challenges that require them to stand up for their Orthodox faith. We as parents need to discover as many resources as possible to assist our children in making positive choices. One such resource is the book Brave Like a Saint by Iakovina.
The story begins by introducing the reader to a young boy named Peter. Peter is appropriately named, because of what becomes of him in this story. Peter is deeply saddened by the fact that his family must move from their city apartment to a new home in the suburbs. The move is a necessary one to improve conditions for Peter’s elderly and ailing grandparents. Young Peter is troubled by the move and feels as if God has abandoned his prayers to remain where he currently live. He decides to visit his parish priest, Father Ezekiel. The wise priest tells Peter that God has a plan for everyone. He also introduces Peter to the icon of the Archangel Michael. Father Ezekiel instructs Peter to pay close attention to the Archangel’s armor. He draws a parallel between God’s holy army and a soldier who wears the armor of Christ. Peter is confused by the Priests words, but because of their special relationship Peter listens carefully to Father Ezekiel.
Peter eventually moves and as he becomes familiar with his new friends and school, he begins to discover subtle differences between his new life in the suburbs and his old life in the city. For instance, his new school does not have a parish priest that comes into the cafeteria to lead the children in prayer like Father Ezekiel once did. While this begins to trouble Peter, he dismisses his feelings. Eventually, Peters begins to feel uncomfortable with his situation and seeks the advice of his grandfather, who reminds him of the trial and tribulations that the saints faced. Peter quickly dismisses this thinking as old fashioned, and yet something about his grandfather’s words enters his soul and starts Peter thinking.
As the story progresses, Peter finds it more and more difficult to “serve two masters”; his spiritual life and his secular life. It is at this point in the story that the reader begins to realize that this boy Peter is very much like the apostle Peter. There is even a chapter appropriately named “Peter denies Christ.” With the assistance of his new parish priest, Father Paul, Peter comes to understand that God loves us even when we stray away from him and that the “seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit” that we receive at our Baptism helps us have courage in the face of adversity. It is this courage that eventually enables Peter to arm himself with faith and to be a light of Christ to his friends. I was very impressed by how much emphasis the author placed on the parish priest as a counselor. I think it is important for our young people to know that the priest is more than just someone who conducts the services of the church.
I would highly recommend this book to any catechist or parent that is searching for a resource for children in third to sixth grade. The story is easy to read and understand, and the message is one which even touches the adult soul.
Brave Like a Saint is written by Iakovina and published by Light & Life Pub Co.
Reviewed By: Veronica Bilas