National Catholic Register

Culture of Life


BY Mary Ann Sullivan

June 23-29, 2002 Issue | Posted 6/23/02 at 1:00 PM


Father's Day is past but it's always a great time to think about holy men whom the Church has acknowledged either for their own heroic fatherhood or their courageous support of family life.

St. Joseph (Christ's Father)

St. Joseph, a simple, hardworking carpenter, was chosen by God to be the father of Jesus on earth. As such he was the guardian and defender of Jesus and Mary. According to Pope Leo XIII, “St. Joseph, by his work, regularly earned what was necessary for Mary and Jesus' nourishment and clothing.” When an angel appeared to Joseph warning him that Herod sought to kill his child, St. Joseph guarded Jesus and Mary and led them to Egypt. In Nazareth Jesus obeyed St. Joseph and was subject to his paternal authority.

St. Joachim (Christ's Grandfather)

St. Joachim was the father of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Tradition holds that Joachim and his wife, Anne, first lived in Galilee and then settled in Jerusalem, where Mary was born to them in their later years. Since St. Joachim was the grandfather of Jesus, he is considered a patron saint for grandfathers.

St. Thomas More (1478-1535)

St. Thomas More tried to be a Carthusian monk, but, after discerning that he was called to be a family man instead, he married Jane Colte in 1805. Together they had three daughters and one son — Margaret, Elizabeth, Cecilia and John. After his wife died in childbirth, he married Dame Alice Middleton. As a politician, he defended the sanctity of marriage and would not support King Henry VIII's plan to divorce Katherine of Aragon.

Unwilling to compromise his loyalty to the magisterium, he was imprisoned. From his cell he wrote letters to his children. In one missive to his daughter Margaret, he said, “Therefore, my own good daughter, do not let your mind be troubled over anything that shall happen to me in this world. Nothing can come but what God wills. And I am very sure that whatever that be, however bad it may seem, it shall indeed be the best.” When he was beheaded in 1535 his final words were: “The King's good servant, but God's first.”

Venerable Ralph Milner (16th Century)

Venerable Ralph Milner was born in England. Since he could neither read nor write, this father of eight children supported his family by manual labor. Raised an Anglican, his conversion to the Catholic faith led to his being imprisoned. His good behavior charmed the jailer into frequently letting him out on parole and he even received the keys to the prison.

For a while he escorted priests to the jail to administer the sacraments to other prisoners.

But when others discovered his liberties, he was placed under close confinement in Winchester, where a judge pleaded with him to attend a Protestant church and give up the Catholic faith. He refused, even when he was offered one last chance for life as his own children were brought before him at the gallows. Rather than give up his faith, he blessed his children, saying he wished them “no greater happiness than to die for a like cause.” He then died peacefully.

Blessed Edmund Rice (1762-1844)

Blessed Edmund Rice, an Irishman, married Mary Elliott when he was 23. His wife became pregnant, and in her final weeks of pregnancy was thrown from a horse and died. A doctor managed to save the child and, throughout his life, Edmund provided for his daughter, Mary, and even made sure she was provided for after his death, which came in 1844.

Blessed Nikolaus Gross (1898-1945)

Blessed Nikolaus Gross was a German editor a for a miner's newspaper. He married Elizabeth Kock, with whom he had seven children. When he became a member of the Nazi resistance, he was advised to stop for the sake of his family. He replied: “If we do not risk our lives today, how do we then justify ourselves before God?” While he was imprisoned he wrote to his family, assuring them that he had entrusted them to God's care. He was hanged in 1945.

St. Manuel Morales (1898-1926)

Saint Manuel Morales, a Mexican father of three, failed in an attempt to save an imprisoned priest during the religious persecution in Mexico. As a result, he was publicly insulted by government authorities and taken outside the city. A priest pleaded for the officials to spare Manuel for the sake of his family. But Manuel responded, “I might die, but God does not die. He will take care of my wife and my family.” Moments later, he was martyred.

Blessed Peter To Rot (1912-1945)

Blessed Peter To Rot was a native of Papua New Guinea. He married Paula la Varpite and they had three children together. Blessed Peter bravely defended the sanctity of marriage when he strongly opposed polygamy, which the Japanese had legalized on his island. Because of this, he was arrested, taken to a hut, held down and martyred by lethal injection.

Blessed Luigi Quattrochi (1880-1951)

Blessed Luigi Quattrochi, an Italian lawyer and civil servant, married Maria Beltrame in 1905. They had three children over the next four years.

When his wife had a difficult pregnancy with their fourth child, he was advised to have the baby aborted.

However, he and his wife chose life for their child. Both the mother and child survived. Three of their four children entered religious life. He and his wife were the first couple ever to be beatified together.

Blessed Frederic Ozanam (1813-1853)

Blessed Frederic Ozanam, founder of the Society of St. Vincent De Paul, married Marie-Josephine Amelie-Soulacroix in 1841. They had one child together, Marie. Though devoted to helping the poor, Blessed Frederic always found time to spend with his lovely daughter.

St. Maximilian Kolbe (1894-1941)

Saint Maximilian Kolbe gave his life so that a father could live. For this reason, the Franciscan is considered a patron saint for fathers. Because of his work as an editor for a controversial religious publication, St. Maximilian was arrested by the Nazis and imprisoned in Warsaw in 1941.

When Francis Gajowniczek, a father with young children, was chosen to die at the camp, Maximilian volunteered to take his place so that the father could look after his family.

Mary Ann Sullivan writes from New Durham, New Hampshire.