Parents of Saints
Saint Francis de Sales was the first child of Madame de Boisy. Saint Paul of the Cross was the first of sixteen children. The saint in the family is not always the oldest. Saint Bernard was the third of seven. Saint Thomas Aquinas was the sixth child in the family. Saint Therese of the Child Jesus was the last of nine children. Saint Ignatius of Loyola the last of thirteen.
What glory would have been lost to the Church if the parents of these children had consulted their selfishness rather than their duty of parenthood and had left buried in the realms of nothingness these little beings destined to become saints! It brings to mind the conversation between two women, the one voluntarily sterile, the other surrounded by fine children. The first woman explained to the second that she just couldn’t be tied down. The second responded with the classic argument: “And suppose that your father and mother had reasoned like that, where would you be?”
The saints come from large families for two reasons:
The first, that there cannot be any sanctity without a habit of renunciation and this habit is much more readily acquired in a large family where each one must forget self to think of others; where the rubbing of character against character whittles down selfishness; where the parents do not have time to overwhelm their offspring with a foolish indulgence that spoils them.
The second, that God gives the grace of a holy call, by preference, where there is an integral practice of virtue, where virtue is held in honor, where the parents do not fear difficulty but trust in Divine Providence.
Saint Vincent de Paul was one of five children and Saint Vincent Ferrer, one of eight. Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, Blessed Perboyre, Saint Bernadette were each one of eight children. In the family of the Cure of Ars there were six children; in that of Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, seven; in that of Saint Benedict Joseph Labre, fifteen. In the family of Saint Catherine of Siena, there were twenty-two children of the same marriage. And how many more examples we could still find!
There is a charming Breton legend that carries an equally charming lesson...
One day Amel, the fisherman, and his wife Penhov, who used to bring fresh fish to the monks, had left with their child to bring in the nets. They were overtaken by the tide. The water rose higher and higher and higher. “Wife, this is our last hour; put your two feet on my shoulders; in this way you will hold out longer. . . and love my memory.” Penhov obeyed. Amel sunk into the sand like a post driven in with a hammer. Penhov seized the child and lifting it above her said, “Put your two feet on my shoulders; in this way you will hold out longer. And love deeply the memory of your father and mother.” The mother too sank beneath the water and soon only the golden hair of the child floated on the water. An angel of God passed by. He seized the child’s hair and pulled, saying “My, how heavy you are!” Another blond head appeared, that of Penhov who had not let go of her boy’s feet. “How heavy you both are!” Then Amel appeared for he had not let go of his wife’s feet. By the child, the father and mother had been saved!
Who knows whether or not some parents will enter Paradise because an angel has seized their child by the hair! What a beautiful letter of introduction for Heaven is a child and above all a canonized child!
Adapted from Raoul Plus, S.J.’s Christ in the Home (Colorado Springs, CO: Gardner Brothers, 1951). This book is a treasure chest of advice for Catholics on the practical and spiritual concerns of raising a family.
SAINT OF THE DAY
Here we discover something akin to the “Secret of Mary,” of which Saint Louis de Montfort speaks.