Travel with the “Chime Travelers”: Adventures from the past, hope for the future
By Lisa M. Hendey
I believe the saints are the original superheroes. My passion for studying their lives was sparked in childhood.
When I was 12, my mother gave my father a pocket-sized edition of an illustrated Lives of the Saints on the occasion of their Jubilee Year pilgrimage to Rome. This anniversary gift would sow the seeds for a lifelong love of hagiography in my heart.
I borrowed the book and pored over the vignettes of these holy men’s and women’s lives. Never returned to its rightful owner, that little book has been a part of my daily devotional prayer for years and still captures my imagination.
While researching the 52 saintly companions profiled in my A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms (Ave Maria Press, 2011), I was struck once more by the dynamic and gripping stories of so many members of our Communion of Saints.
Far from sticky-sweet holy card images, their lives were filled with action, with adventure, with mystery, and—most notably—with courage and zeal.
One afternoon, years ago, I sat on a backyard swing in Mississippi with my nephew Patrick. Born on his mother’s birthday—coincidentally that of his patron saint, as well—he shares his name with my father, his uncle Patrick, and many of his cousins who find “Patrick” or “Patricia” somewhere in their own monikers.
Patrick and I sat in the backyard and began to imagine, as aunts and elementary students do, the beginnings of a story.
“Once upon a time there was a boy named Patrick, and suddenly he was transported back in time to early Ireland, and he met the real St. Patrick …”
I wish now that I had recorded the story we wove that day, telling it back and forth to one another. That particular Patrick is now a high school senior applying to college. But the roots of our story stuck in my heart.
What would it be like to be able to travel back in time and to encounter the saints in the midst of their own faith journeys? What if you could see exactly what made them such heroic models of faith?
A few years later, when the visionary team at Franciscan Media and Servant Books invited me to publish with them, I proposed the idea of transforming that backyard storytelling moment into a series of books designed to instill in children’s hearts not only a love for the saints, but also a love for our Church and an encouragement to be saints in the making.
My Chime Travelers series, recognized on the Catholic Press Association’s list of the year’s best children’s books, features fun-filled time-travel adventures with a Catholic message: stories that transport kids to long-ago times and faraway lands.
Each book features prayers and a short biography to introduce children to a major saint’s life and legend. Discussion questions about saints, sacraments, and Catholic life help children to understand what they have learned through the stories.
In the first five books of the series, we “chime travel” with twins Patrick and Katie when the church bells ring at their parish and school home, St. Anne’s.
In alternating adventures, the twins “meet” and travel with St. Patrick, St. Kateri Tekakwitha, St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Clare of Assisi.
In Book Five, The Strangers at the Manger, Patrick and Katie journey together to Bethlehem and encounter the Holy Family at the moment of the Nativity.
While the stories are fictional, both the writing and the illustrations ground these stories in the historical and theological context of the saints’ true lives and circumstances.
Connecting Directly with Young Readers
There is something very intimate about sharing a story with a child. While my own bedtime story moments with my now-grown sons are fond, but distant, memories, I know personally the joy of not only reading a story but of truly immersing myself in it.
With the Chime Travelers series now a year old and beginning to be discovered around the country, it became clear to me that these books truly have the potential to touch young hearts.
We have taken great care in the writing and illustrations to create an exciting, engaging experience for our readers, but we have also carefully polled children to discover the real-world challenges they face. We have endeavored to help them understand the significant impact that they can and do have on our Church family.
Next, I felt a longing in my heart to connect more personally with other “chime travelers.” I set out to create a way to support and uplift the children as they discovered the books. Through virtual author visits, I have now had the great blessing of interacting with classrooms and homeschool reading groups around the country.
The agenda of these visits is simple.
In 30 minutes, either in person or (more regularly) via a Skype or FaceTime call coordinated by the teacher or an adult leader, I enter the classroom to share my love for the saints and our Church with the children. We discuss the importance and joy of reading. I make a point of inviting every child to discover his or her own inner storyteller, reminding them that stories can be told in writing, in art, in music, in video, or even in play.
My favorite part of these virtual visits is always the final question-and-answer segment, when young readers have the chance to ask me anything. In these moments, the infectious energy and vision of the students simply astounds me.
On almost every occasion, young readers not only beg for more stories, but they also offer their own suggestions for future books. They exhibit a clear love for and knowledge of the lives of the saints we’ve “chime traveled” to meet.
But they also have done homework on their own favorite saints and suggest vividly crafted missions to meet those holy men and women. They share their trials as youngsters, but also fill my heart with hope when they offer ways in which each one of them is a saint in the making.
As I have learned through my virtual visits, connecting with young readers in person will keep an author on her toes! But the feedback I’ve received directly from these children truly feeds my spirit and encourages me to persist in sharing saints’ stories in a fun and innovative way.
My young readers truly do believe—as I do—that they themselves have the potential and responsibility to make our world a better, more loving, saintlier place.
Moms and dads often admit to me that they too have become wrapped up in “chime traveling.” More than one parent has confessed to sneaking ahead in these stories to find out what would happen next.
Erika, the mom of a reluctant reader, recently shared:
“We’ve had some challenges with him and reading, and it took a lot of hemming and hawing to get him to start reading [the first book] with me. But once we got going, he found he was able to read it well and even get into the story enough to read it on his own! We finished the book tonight, and he immediately asked if we could start [the second] book! Your book really helped him get into reading, but it also taught very valuable lessons about the gift of our Faith and of the sacrament of reconciliation, not to mention how it gave me an excuse to bond and get to know my son better.”
Bring an Author to Your Classroom
As I begin to plan for the year ahead, I am happy to share that hosting a virtual author visit is free and simple.
While it is often most effective to host a virtual visit after one of the books has been shared with the students, this is not required, and there is no cost associated with the visit.
During our 30-minute visit, we will discuss reading, writing, and the role of each of us as a saint in the making. Virtual visits can also be adapted for public school classrooms to discuss character, good citizenship, and values. I also love making virtual author visits to homeschooling groups and religious education classrooms.
Lisa M. Hendey is the founder of CatholicMom.com and the author of the Chime Travelers series and The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion.