Having done it myself, I can understand and sympathize with the difficult decision to send older children ~ teenagers ~ away to be educated. But toddlers? It's hard to imagine.
But Mary was no ordinary toddler.
We have to understand that Our Blessed Mother was singularly blessed, not only in her spotless person, but in her parents. They obviously heard God's Will and had the courage and faith to obey it. The place for their extraordinary little girl, the woman who was to be the Mother of God, was away from the world, being raised as close to the Father as it was possible. There were some of the saints who were dedicated in the same way as small children, and it was surely no easy decision for their parents to make, either. But, it's heart-rending, isn't it, to think of it in terms of our own families, our own small children?
Sure, we want our children to be saints. But, to dedicate them to God so completely that we give them up? In this day and age, the practical application doesn't even exist. Maybe that's a good thing. Who on Earth could we trust so completely?
But, we can dedicate our children to God without sending them away. In fact, in our times, one of the best ways to dedicate them to Heaven is to keep them centered in our homes, steeped in our Faith.
We can teach them service to God through our example in practicing the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.
The boys can learn to serve at the altar, the girls can learn to arrange the altar flowers and take care of the linens. (These are things young Mary undoubtedly learned to do!)
When we educate our children, we can be sure to teach them also the universal interrelationship with Divine Providence ~ in all that they learn, in math and the sciences, language, art, and music, even shop class, home ec and PE.
By our example, we teach them habits of goodness and respect for the discipline of faith.
We pray for them and teach them to pray.
It all comes round in a circle, back to God, cause, effect, and purpose. When our children laugh and play they can send their wholesome happiness heavenward, and it will be received as prayers. When they sleep, when they wake, when they celebrate, when they suffer, our children can be gaining merit. Every minute of the day. We dedicate them to God by teaching them to dedicate themselves to Him. Whether they are two or twenty-two, we, as their parents, can and should teach them that their identity is with and through Him. And that, whatever their eventual vocation is, saecular or religious, they will find no greater happiness on this earth than they will knowing, loving and serving God.
Teaching them these things, and living with Christ the King as the center of our family universe ~ this is how we dedicate our children to God.
In this day and age, it's not an easy thing to do. The world, the devil, and our own bad inclinations all conspire against us. It's not easy overcoming the message of the average American saecular humanist ~ who doesn't understand that goodness is happiness and worldliness is not. But, it's well worth the trouble; the rewards are eternal!
Saints Anne and Joachim are ideal patrons for parents whose goal is to raise their children above the world. And the Blessed Mother, herself, is the tenderest guide.
Prayer for Mothers
Father in heaven, grant me the grace to appreciate the dignity which you have conferred on me. Let me realize that not even the Angels have been blessed with such a priviledge - to share in your creative miracle and bring new Saints to heaven.
Make me a good mother to all my children after the example of Mary,the Mother of your Son. Through the intercession of Jesus and Mary I ask your continued blessings on my family. Let us all be dedicated to your service on earth and attain the eternal happiness of your kingdom in heaven. Amen.
Prayer to St. Joachim and St. Anne
Great and glorious patriarch, St Joachim, and good St Anne, what joy is mine when I consider that you were chosen among all God's holy ones to assist in the fulfillment of the mysteries of God, and to enrich our earth with the great Mother of God, Mary most holy. By this singular privilege, you have become most powerful with both the Mother and her Son, so as to be able to obtain for us the graces that are needful to us.
With great confidence I have recourse to your mighty protection, and I commend to you all my needs, both spiritual and temporal, and those of my family. Especially do I entrust to your keeping the particular favour that I desire and look for from your intercession.
And since you were a perfect pattern of the interior life, obtain for me the grace to pray earnestly, and never to set m heart on the passing goods of this life. Give me a lively and enduring love for Jesus and Mary. Obtain for me also a sincere devotion and obedience to Holy church and the sovereign pontiff who rules over her, in order that I may live an die in faith and hope and perfect charity. Let me ever invoke the holy Names of Jesus and Mary. And may I thus be saved. Amen.