They gave birth to you, changed your diapers, comforted you when you cried in the middle of the night, gave you that last slice of pizza (even if they really wanted it), nursed you back to health, performed “miracles” to get you that gadget you’ve been asking for, and love you even when you disobey them. No wonder mothers and fathers have often been described as saints!
And yet, history is filled with mothers and fathers who were officially canonized into sainthood. Parents’ Day (celebrated annually every fourth Sunday of July in the US, May 8 in South Korea, June 1 by the United Nations, and every first Monday of December in the Philippines) calls attention to the sacrifices, commitment, and unconditional love that only parents understand and willingly give to their children. (Read: 5 Daily Prayers to Teach to Your Children)
This Parents’ Day, My Pope Philippines highlights the virtues of five parents who are also saints. What can you learn from them?
St. Joseph the Carpenter
Betrothed to Mary, only to find out she was with child, conceived through the Holy Spirit, Joseph could have quietly sent her away to save both their reputations. Instead, he followed the advice of an angel in his dream and took Mary and the baby Jesus as his own, protecting them from King Herod’s threat to kill all male babies in Nazareth.
Fittingly, this humble, compliant man who put others before him is the patron saint of fathers. A figurine of him sleeping is a favorite of many, including Pope Francis, who keeps one in his office and slips notes under it, asking the saint to “pray for this problem.” (Read: The Miraculous Works of Sleeping Saint Joseph)
Mothers who are at their wits’ end with their disobedient children can take their cue from St. Monica who prayed and fasted ceaselessly—17 years!—for her son Augustine to straighten up. Lazy, immoral, and a believer of Manichaeism (a religion that taught that life in this world is unbearably painful and radically evil), Augustine avoided his mother like the plague. But Monica, devoted mother that she is, pursued him relentlessly until he finally came to his senses and was baptized a Christian. He even became a saint! (Read: Let St. Monica teach you how to deal with ‘pasaway’ loved ones)
St. Monica is the patron saint of mothers, married women, difficult marriages, and disappointing children.
St. Gianna Molla
Pregnant with her fourth child, Gianna Molla—wife, mother, and pediatrician—was diagnosed with a tumor in her womb. Doctors gave her three options: an abortion, a hysterectomy, or the removal of the tumor. The first two would save her life but not her baby; the third was a risky procedure.
For Gianna, the answer was obvious. “If you must decide between me and the child, do not hesitate: choose the child. I insist on it. Save the baby.” Though the removal of the tumor didn’t affect her pregnancy, it left her with serious complications. Seven days after giving birth via Caesarean section to daughter Gianna Emanuela, Gianna Molla passed away from septic peritonitis.
Canonized a saint in 2004, this modern-day “saint mommy” is the patron saint of mothers, physicians, and unborn children.
Saints Louis and Zelie Martin
When you have a big family—like Louis and Zelie Martin, the parents of seven girls and two boys—sometimes you just want to get away from it all and indulge in some “me” time.
For the Martins, however, their children were their life. “We live only for them,” said the lace maker Zelie. “They were all our happiness.”
Louis, a watchmaker by profession, was a doting father. He played games with his kids, made them toys, and gave each of them nicknames: Marie was “the diamond,” Pauline “the fine pearl,” Celine “the dauntless one,” Leonie “good-hearted,” and Therese “the Little Queen.” Years later, the daughter who grew up to be St. Therese of Lisieux, would be known by a new nickname: Little Flower of Jesus. (Read: A Life of Devotion: St. Thérèse and Her ‘Little Ways’ of Loving)