Throughout Church history, we have many stories of fathers, the sacrifices they made and examples they set for their children. Some of them went on to become saints. Here are several examples:
St. Manuel Moralez (1898-1926)
Manuel was a faithful husband and loving father with three young children. He had a full life as a worker, layman engaged in the apostolate of his parish and a Catholic with an intense spiritual life nourished by the Eucharist. He joined the seminary as a teen but left to support his family financially. He later became a baker.
He was a member of the Catholic Action of the Mexican Youth and president of the National League for the Defense of Religious Liberty, which was being threatened by the administration of President Plutarco Elías Calles. On Aug. 15, 1926, Manuel and two other leaders of the religious liberty group asked for the freedom of his parish priest. They were taken prisoner, beaten, tortured and then killed for violating anti-Catholic legislation and not renouncing their faith. Before the firing squad, the priest begged the soldiers to forgive Manuel because he had a family. Manuel responded, “Lord Heal, I die, but God does not die. He will take care of my wife and children.” His last words were, “Long live Christ the King and Our Lady of Guadalupe!”
St. Louis Martin (1823-1894)
St. Louis Martin and his wife, St. Marie-Azélie Guérin, practiced Christian service in the family, creating an environment of faith and love which nurtured the vocations of their daughters, among whom was St. Therese of the Child Jesus.
Born into a military family in Bordeaux, Louis trained to become a watchmaker. His desire to join a religious community went unfulfilled because he didn’t know Latin. He moved to Normandy and met the highly skilled lacemaker, Zélie Guérin. They married in 1858, and over the years were blessed with nine children, though two sons and two daughters died in infancy or as young children.
After Zélie died from cancer in 1877, Louis moved the family to Lisieux to be near relatives, who helped with the education of his five surviving girls. He generously gave permission as each one asked to join the convent. He saw this as a sign that God was pleased that he and Zelie had shared their faith and love with their children. His health began to fail after his 15-year-old daughter entered the Monastery of Mount Carmel at Lisieux in 1888. Louis died in 1894. Louis and Zelie were canonized Oct. 18, 2015. Their feast is celebrated on July 12.
St. Louis IX, King of France (1214-1270)
St. Louis made an oath to serve God and as the father of his people. He saw his duties in the light of faith. After the violence of two previous reigns, he sought to bring peace and justice to France. Much of his history includes stories about his deep Catholic faith and his service to the poor. St. Louis told his children to have hearts of tenderness and to comfort and help those who are poor and afflicted.
Born in 1214, Louis IX was crowned at the age of 12, when his father died. His mother ruled the country until he was old enough to reign. At the age of 19, he married Marguerite of Provence — she was only 13. They had 10 children.
Louis was a loving husband and father who passed on the spiritual legacy he received from his parents and particularly his mother, Blanche of Castille, to his own children. Louis’ teachings to his son as he approached death show that he viewed his royal mission as a religious vocation directly accountable to God.
Every day, Louis invited special guests from among the poor to eat with him, and a large number of the poor were served meals near his palace. King Louis IX died on Aug. 25, 1270 and was canonized in 1297. He became the only French king to have been canonized a saint by the Catholic Church.
St. Stephen of Hungary
Born a pagan, he was baptized around the age of 10, together with his father, chief of the Magyars, a group that migrated to the Danube area in the ninth century. At 20, he married Gisela. When he succeeded his father, Stephen adopted a policy of Christianization of the country for both political and religious reasons, forming a strong national group. He asked the pope to provide for the Church’s organization in Hungary and was crowned in 1001.
Stephen established a system of tithes to support churches and to relieve the poor. He abolished pagan customs and was easily accessible to all, especially the poor.
All his children died an early death except one son. Stephen brought up this son, Emeric, and wrote several instructions for him. Foremost was that he should remain faithful to the Catholic faith, protect and disseminate it; that he should show due honor and obedience to the clergy; that he should cherish his subjects; attend to his prayers with fervor; be generous to the poor and suffering; deal out justice; and submit himself in adversity to the will of the Almighty. His son, whose holy life was an example of all Christian virtues, died in 1031. Despite his grief, Stephen was resigned to the will of God. Stephen died in 1038 and was canonized, along with his son, in 1083.
St. Joachim (first century)
St. Joachim was the husband of St. Anne, and they were the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Though older, the couple prayed to be blessed with a child.
Tradition teaches that while Joachim was away from home, an angel appeared to him in a vision. This angel promised that he and Anne would bear a child who would be blessed through the ages. Joachim rushed home to his wife. She told him she was promised the same thing from another of God’s messengers.
St. Joachim is considered the patron of fathers, grandfathers, grandparents, married couples and cabinet makers. Both he and St. Anne share the feast day of July 26, the feast of grandparents. It reminds grandparents of their responsibility for future generations and reminds young people of their elders’ experience and wisdom.
Although little detail is known about St. Joachim, it’s apparent the love he had for his child. It also must have been a challenge to see his girl grow up to be chosen by God to be the mother of our Savior.
St. Joseph (first century)
With the apostolic letter “Patris corde” (“With a Father’s Heart”), Pope Francis recalls the 150th anniversary of the declaration of St. Joseph as patron of the Universal Church. Pope Francis proclaimed a Year of St. Joseph which continues to Dec. 8.
Pope Francis describes the foster father of Jesus as a beloved father, a tender and loving father, an obedient father, an accepting father; a father who is creatively courageous, a working father, a father in the shadows.
St. Joseph, in fact, “concretely expressed his fatherhood” by making an offering of himself in love “a love placed at the service of the Messiah who was growing to maturity in his home,” Pope Francis wrote, quoting his predecessor St Paul VI.
In St. Joseph, “Jesus saw the tender love of God,” the one that helps us accept our weakness. St. Joseph is also a father in obedience to God; he protects Mary and Jesus and teaches his Son to “do the will of the Father,” Pope Francis explained.
At the same time, St. Joseph is “an accepting father,” because he “accepted Mary unconditionally” — an important gesture even today, Pope Francis wrote. Trusting in the Lord, he accepts in his life even the events that he does not understand, “setting aside his own ideas” and reconciling himself with his own history.
St. Joseph was a father “in the shadows,” centered on Mary and Jesus. “Fathers are not born, but made,” Pope Francis wrote. “A man does not become a father simply by bringing a child into the world, but by taking up the responsibility to care for that child.”
A just king rules the earth