Saintly Dads and Their Saintly Kids

Father's Day feature

A dad’s job is a manly and saintly undertaking. Children are fortunate if they have a father who is honest and does what is right (Proverbs 20:7). But what does it take for a man to become a saint and thus inspire his children to likewise follow his fatherly steps? The Church has been graced with a number of saintly fathers who have raised saintly kids.


St. Joseph and Jesus

Joseph ben David, the “faithful and prudent servant” (Matthew 24:45), was a very holy and trustworthy man. He was visited no less than three times by angelic messengers who counseled him on what he should do to protect Jesus and Mary (Matthew 1:20, 2:13 and 2:19). St. Bernardine of Siena reminds us that Joseph was “chosen by the eternal Father as the trustworthy guardian and protector of his greatest treasures, namely, his divine Son and Mary, Joseph’s wife. He carried out this vocation with complete fidelity until, at last, God called him, saying: ‘Good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.’”

St. Joseph is thus the epitome of human fatherhood. As Bernardine also reminds us, “We undoubtedly owe special gratitude and reverence to St. Joseph.” The Church selected Joseph as a special patron of the Church: In 1870, Pope Pius IX proclaimed Joseph the patron of the universal Church. Church Tradition says that Joseph died while being attended to by his son and wife — and thus he is also the patron of a holy death. 


Sts. Zachariah and
John the Baptist

Zachariah, Jesus and Mary’s cousin-in-law, was a priest of the Temple — a saintly and righteous man (Luke 1:6). Gabriel the Archangel appeared to him while he was offering a sacrifice and promised Zachariah and his wife, Elizabeth, a child, assuring him that the boy would be holy in God’s sight and prepare the way for the Messiah (Luke 1:14-17).

It’s interesting to note that although Zachariah and Joseph were both righteous men and dedicated fathers who raised their respective sons as part of God’s divine plan, the two stand in marked contrast to each other. When Gabriel approaches Zachariah, the latter is shocked at the suggestion that his elderly and childless wife is about to give birth. For his incredulity, Zachariah is made mute, perhaps to give him sufficient time to contemplate his words and the glory of God (Luke 1:20).

In contrast, when Gabriel spoke to Joseph, who is never quoted in the Gospels, he “silently” assents to God’s will and takes on the responsibility assigned to him.

Zachariah’s Canticle (Luke 1:68-79), a prayer sung in the Morning Office, is comprised of the first words Zachariah utters when he greets his newborn son. In it, you can hear a father’s gratefulness to the Creator for the miracle of his child’s birth.


St. Joachim and the

Blessed Virgin Mary

According to the Protoevangelium of James, an ancient non-canonical source written in the year 150, Joachim was a rich and pious man, who gave generously to the poor and supported the synagogue at Sepphoris. He and his wife, Anne, were childless and thus incapable of offering sacrifices at the synagogue, as infertility was then seen as a sign of God’s displeasure. Tradition holds that Joachim went to fast and pray in the desert for 40 days to seek God’s will. While in contemplation, angels appeared to both Joachim and Anne, who was still at home, and told them they were to have a child. The two joyously rushed to meet each other at Jerusalem’s Golden Gate. Such was the love that Joachim offered to daughter Mary as she grew up under his care.


Blessed Louis Martin and

St. Thérèse of Lisieux

Soon-to-be St. Louis Martin was a French layman and the father of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. He had intended on becoming an Augustinian monk but was rejected because his knowledge of Latin was subpar. His hopes crushed, he decided to become a watchmaker. He later fell in love with Marie-Azélie Guérin, a lacemaker, and the two were married. Mr. and Mrs. Martin will be canonized as saints in October, during the Ordinary Synod of Bishops of the Family.

Louis was a pious man who devoted his time to good works, pilgrimages and prayer. Equally as important to him was the gentle contemplation of nature. It was from him that Thérèse inherited her passion for the natural world. Everything in God’s creation spoke to her in the silence of her soul and demonstrated God’s love and wisdom.

While living in Lisieux, Louis created a “man cave”/monastic cell in his attic, to which he might retire in order to contemplate his Redeemer. His daughters were allowed egress only if they could sit in silent meditation with him. This, too, profoundly affected the young Thérèse, who later became a Carmelite nun and a doctor of the Church.

All dads should be protectors and providers, teachers and guides. They should be a model for the way we think of our Heavenly Father.

Saintly fathers, pray for us!

Angelo Stagnaro

writes from New York.