Maybe I was wrong, though. Maybe I just hadn’t paid attention to all the married fathers that were canonized, and had foregone writings about these amazing men. So, like everyone else, I went to the internet in search of what I could find. Through a number of different sites, I came upon www. catholicsaints.info/ and more specifically, a list of saints who were fathers (and those who were mothers). To my surprise, 123 fathers were listed as being saints (for the record, 147 mothers were reportedly canonized. I was encouraged to see this many fathers deemed worthy of this title, and my first reaction was a desire to find out more about these men.
However, given that there are reportedly over 10,000 canonized saints in the Catholic Church, these men would represent just over 1% of the total number of saints. Of course, there are many historical and statistical issues that leave this calculation fraught with problems, not the least of which is that it is likely that good records don’t exist of early saints who may have been fathers themselves. But if we took the numbers at face value, it still raises the question. Why have so few fathers become saints, especially since at least in the United States, almost half of all men will father (or adopt) a child by the time they are in their mid 40’s?
In the end, more questions than answers remain. Years ago, I recalled feeling very disappointed in reading the book Banker to the Poor by Muhammad Yunus. It detailed how microloans had been used in many countries to significantly reduce the rate of poverty. In many situations, it had worked wonderfully with mothers, who used the newfound income as a means of supporting their family more than they could before, and even repaid the loans at high rates. But, when it came time to use the system with fathers, it largely failed. Instead of investing in their families, the men often used the loans in selfish ways. Since then, I have noticed similar trends in many situations, and I continue to wonder if we as men must overcome a sense of self-absorption and pride (especially when others depend on us) that often prevents us from truly seeking out the divine way.
I don’t know. I could be totally wrong on this. But what I do know is that nothing is needed now more in our world than fathers who strive for sainthood. In the midst of the huge challenges our families face today, often as the result of absent or misguided fathers, it seems time that a brotherhood of imperfect men emerge in search of an existence with much higher aspirations than we are often socialized to live. But before sainthood ever happens, it seems we must first be honest with ourselves— about where we are, where we have been, and just what and Whom we are seeking.
Jim Schroederis a pediatric psychologist at St. Mary’s Center for Children in Evansville, Indiana. He also writes a monthly column titled "Just Thinking" (www.stmarys.org/articles) designed to inform, educate, and motivate parents and providers in applying pertinent research in meaningful, practical ways.He is the author of Into the Rising Sunand 40 Days of Hopeful Prayer.