They were fathers and became saints

Fatherhood is undoubtedly a sure path to holiness. Being a faithful husband, educating one’s children in the faith and having Jesus at the center are all concrete ways of living according to the vocation of married life. Being a father is also a mission of educating one’s children and being a light in the world that illuminates the earthly realities and takes God to the ends of the earth though example and testimony.

To celebrate Father’s Day, we have highlighted the lives of some men who, in their vocation as fathers, reached holiness.

St. Louis Martin (1823-1894)

Martin is the father of St. Thérèse of Lisieux and was canonized with his wife by Pope Francis in 2015. He was born in Bordeaux, France and was known for being a pious man and having a good heart. His father was a soldier. He loved literature, drawing and painting. As a young man, he thought he was called to the religious life and tried to join St. Bernard Abbey, but he was turned down for not knowing Latin. He devoted himself to learning the language but fell ill during that time and thus realized that God was calling him to holiness through marriage. At age 35, he married Zélie Guerin, with whom he had nine children, four of whom died at birth. The five daughters that lived embraced the religious life. In his family, virtue was nurtured through daily Mass, personal and communal prayer, frequent confession and participation in parish life. They were a middle-class family but lived a simple life. Louis loved to go on pilgrimage and visit the sick with his daughters. His wife died of cancer in 1877. His oldest daughter, Marie-Louise, undertook her mother’s responsibilities at age 17. St. Thérèse was only four years old. His daughters joined the convent: Pauline in 1882, Marie-Louise in 1886, Thérèse in 1888 at age 15 – for which she had to obtain a dispensation from Pope Leo XIII – and Leonine in 1899. “It is a great honor that the Lord wants to take all of my daughters,” Louis once said. He had a stroke in 1887 and lost his memory, the ability to talk, began to suffer from hallucinations and desired to embrace the monastic life. He died in September 1894, after which Celine, who had been taking care of him, also entered the Carmelite convent.

St. Thomas Moore (1478 – 1535)

Thomas Moore was born in Cheapside, England. At age 13, he moved to the house of the Archbishop of Canterbury to work as a messenger, and when the prelate became aware of the intellectual potential of the young Moore, he sent him to Oxford University. He obtained his doctorate in law at age 22. Moore thought he was called to be a Carthusian and moved to a monastery. Four years later, he realized this was not his vocation. He married Jane Colt in 1505 and had four children: Margaret, Elizabeth, Cecily and John. His obligations often required him to be away from his family, yet he articulated his love to his children and his constant concern for them. His wife died six years after their wedding. Moore married a widowed woman Alice Middleton. In 1529, he was named High Chancellor of England. Two years later, King Henry VIII divorced his wife and asked the Holy See to accept a second marriage to Ana Bolena. But since the pope denied his request, the king declared himself Supreme Head of the Church of England, giving rise to Anglicanism. The King then began to persecute those who did not accept the new order. Among those who opposed was Moore, who was apprehended for rejection the law. “I must obey my conscience and think of my soul’s salvation. That is much more important than anything the world can offer,” he said while imprisoned. He was sentenced to death and was beheaded in July 1535.

St. Manuel Morales (1898-1926)

Morales is one of the martyr saints of the 20th century Mexican Cristero War. Born in Sombrerete, Zacatecas, he moved to Chalchihuites, Zacatecas at a young age. He entered the Seminary of Durango but had to leave to help provide for his family. As the owner of a bakery, he married Consuelo Loera in 1921 and had three children. He was known for being a working man, a layman committed to the apostolates in his parish and for having an intense spiritual life nurtured by the Eucharist.

He also stands out for being nurturing toward his wife and children. He was a member of the Circle of Catholic Workers and of the Catholic Action for Mexican Youth movements. He was also the leader of the National League for the Defense of Religious Liberty. In an address, Morales radically defended religious liberty and was denounced for it, along with his parish priest Father Luis Batis. The soldiers offered to release him if he accepted the antireligious law of President Plutarco Elías Calles, which he denied. At the point of death, he, like many of his countrymen, said, “¡Viva Cristo Rey! ¡Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe!” (“Long live Christ the King! Long live the Virgin of Guadalupe!”) Morales was canonized by St. John Paul II in 2000.

St. Louis IX, King of France (1214-1270)

He was son of King Louis VIII of France and Blanche of Castile. His mother instilled in him the love of the faith and horror of sin. After his father’s death, he was crowned king in 1226 and married Margaret of Provence in 1234, having 11 children, nine of whom reached adulthood. He nurtured his wife and cultivated a life of prayer of her, which included Mass, prayer of the Divine Office and frequent confession. He was especially attentive to his children’s education and wrote to them, saying that it was better to undergo martyrdom than to commit a mortal sin. He also urged them to accept any tribulation with gratitude and instilled in them the value of comforting the poor. During his reign, St. Louis condemned usury and sanctioned those who had charged high interest to return the money to those in need. He also sent an army to the Holy Land in 1247 to defend it from the Muslim invasion. He founded hospitals and would invite beggars for meals at his home. He died Aug. 25, 1270. On his death bed, he said, “Lord, I am happy because I will go to your heavenly home to adore you and love you forever.”

COMING UP: Banned books: Pushing back against the new ideology

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How would you know if you were being brainwashed? When something plainly false — contrary to common sense and right reason — is so constantly forced on you and you are not allowed to question it, it’s a good indication. This is the nature of ideology: imposing a position without truly establishing it or allowing it to be criticized. We have seen that something clearly opposed to the basics of scientific fact, such as the nature of sex as male and female, can be forced quickly upon American society through the influence of media and public education. And, perhaps not too surprisingly, even something as clear as 2+2=4 has been called into question by progressive educators, such as Dr. Rochelle Gutierrez, turning it into a sign of alleged oppression.  

In our time, dystopian novels have become reality. George Orwell best described the use of ideology in modern political regimes through doublethink, newspeak, and thoughtcrime. In Nineteen Eighty-Four, the main character, Winston Smith, is coerced to accept that 2+2=5, showing his allegiance to ideology over reality. Orwell speaks of the way ideology gains power over the mind: “The Party is not interested in the overt act: the thought is all we care about. We do not merely destroy our enemies, we change them.” This domination does not broker any opposition: “It is intolerable . . .  that an erroneous thought should exist anywhere in the world, however secret and powerless it may be.” If the truth can circulate freely, then ideology will fail.  

You might ask how the acceptance of ideology differs from accepting the mystery of faith, which requires our obedience to God. A key difference is that God’s revelation makes sense even while beyond reason. God does not shut down our thinking but wants us to ask questions and continue to come to know him and his creation throughout our lives. Faith cannot contradict reason because they both come from God, from his gifts of revelation and creation. You know you are facing ideology, however, when it refuses any discussion of contrary views. Catholics have been accused of hate for refusing to go along with the new ideology of human sexuality. This ideology claims to speak truly of the reality of human life, although it doesn’t add up, contradicting itself and the clear facts of science. The fight for the future focuses on speaking the truth. Without the ability to think, discuss, and read freely, it will be hard to respond to the ideological wave overwhelming us. 

Throughout the country, however, great books and humanities programs are being shut down for their emphasis on the Western tradition. Cornell West, an African American philosopher at Harvard, writing with Jeremy Tate, speaks of the spiritual tragedy of one American university closing down its classics department: “Yet today, one of America’s greatest Black institutions, Howard University, is diminishing the light of wisdom and truth that inspired [Frederick] Douglass, [Martin Luther] King and countless other freedom fighters. . . . Academia’s continual campaign to disregard or neglect the classics is a sign of spiritual decay, moral decline and a deep intellectual narrowness running amok in American culture.” For West and Tate, cancelling the Western canon shuts down the central conversation of the pursuit of wisdom that touches every culture.  

Canceling the pursuit of wisdom hits at the integrity of our culture itself, as Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, another dystopian novel, focused on saving books from the fire set on wiping them out, explains: “If you don’t want a man unhappy politically, don’t give him two sides to a question to worry him; give him one. Better yet, give him none.” Books proved hostile in this all-too-real futuristic American society portrayed by Bradbury, undermining the state of contended distraction provided by an omnipresent virtual reality. The fight for truth necessarily entails the books we read and teach.  

In our current cancel culture, Catholics too are being silenced for speaking about reality. Amazon recently cancelled Ryan T. Anderson, who studied at Princeton and Notre Dame and now directs the Ethics and Public Policy Center, blocking the sale of its book on its platform for questioning transgender ideology. The book, When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Movement (Encounter Books, 2018), provides a well-researched and thought-out response to the movement overturning common sense and millennia of acquired wisdom. Even more than that, Anderson shows how we are experimenting on our children, subjecting them to practices of hormone therapy and surgery that have not been proven safe or effective. Anderson provides evidence of ideology at work, through its coercive attempt to force us to accept what contradicts clear scientific evidence: “At the heart of the transgender moment are radical ideas about the human person — in particular, that people are what they claim to be regardless of contrary evidence” (29).  

Anderson does not deny the need to help those who suffer from gender dysphoria, although the heart of the books focuses on whether or not we are willing to accept reality and to help others to do so. As Anderson explains, “determining reality is the heart of the matter, and here too we find contradictions … Is our gender biologically determined and immutable or self-created and changeable? … At the core of the ideology is the radical claim that feelings determine reality. From this idea come extreme demands for society to play along with subjective reality claims. Trans ideologues ignore contrary evidence and competing interests; they disparage alternative practices; and they aim to muffle skeptical voices and shut down disagreement. The movement has to keep patching and shoring up its beliefs, policing the faithful, coercing the heretics and punishing apostates, because as soon as its furious efforts flag for a moment or someone successfully stands up to it, the whole charade is exposed. That’s what happens when your dogmas are so contrary to obvious, basic, everyday truths” (47-48). Not only philosophers like Anderson, but many educators, doctors, scientists, and politicians have been cancelled for standing up to the blatant falsehoods of this ideology. 

Does 2+2=5? Is a man a man and a woman a woman? No matter the effect of hormones and surgeries, every cell in the body points to the biological reality of sex, along with a myriad of other physical and emotional traits. Shutting down study and debate does not get to the heart of the matter, the truth of reality and the way to help those who suffer. The ideology does not truly focus on tolerance of others or creating reasonable accommodations, as it seeks to impose itself and coerce us. The reinterpretation of Title IX manifests an “Orwellian fiat” by which sex discrimination, meant to protect women, now becomes a means to discriminate against them: “The Women’s Liberation Front highlights the strange transformation of Title IX into a means to deny privacy, safety, education opportunity, and equality to women” (190). Anderson’s book provides an essential overview of the goals of the transgender movement and how to respond to it from a philosophical and scientific perspective. We should not allow the book to be cancelled! 

The goal of this new ideology is not simply to accept and tolerate a particular position, but, as Orwell recognized, to change us. It constitutes an attempt to redefine what it means to be a human being and to change the way we think about reality. Anything standing in the way will be cancelled or even burned. The quick success of this movement, and other ideologies as well, should make us pause. Do we want our children to think freely and wisely or simply to conform to what is imposed on them without question?  

As Catholics, we are called to think in conformity with faith and reason, upholding the truth, even when inconvenient. We are called to continue to form our own minds and accept the reality of how God made us and how he calls us into relationship with him, as the true source of overcoming suffering and difficulty. If you are uninformed and unable to judge rightly and logically, you are more likely to become prey to the new ideology, especially as enforced by government control and big business. We need Catholic freedom fighters, those willing, with charity, to stop the burning of the great ideas and the cancelling of our own faith.  


Photo by Fred Kearney on Unsplash