These holy men remain strong models for fathers around the world.
The responsibility can feel intense at times and every father fails at some point. The good news is that with God’s grace, becoming a great father is possible.
If you need some inspiration, just look to the saints! Many saints were excellent dads and led their children closer to God, showing the effect that a heroic father can have on a family.
Bl. Charles of Austria
Besides being the last Emperor of Austria (and ruler of the Austro-Hungarian Empire), Charles was a family man and a loyal husband to his wife, Zita. They were married for 11 years before his early death in 1922, and raised 8 children.
Being the head of an empire at war certainly has its many difficulties, but in the midst of it all Charles never forgot the importance of his family. After he and his family were exiled, it proved to be a fruitful time for the family to grow together. According to the website for the cause of his canonization, “His only consolation in losing his throne was the fact that he could spend more time with his wife and family. This time of being together-whether all in one room reading, playing and praying together, or outdoors walking and hiking together, or doing other activities such as hunting, boating and fishing-was a great treasure for him. As he lay dying, he prayed for all of the children by name, and one of his frequent prayers was: ‘Look after my little ones. Let them die rather than commit a mortal sin — keep them in body and soul.'”
St. Louis IX of France
King of France from 1226 – 1270, Louis was a model father and wrote this powerful letter to his son:
My first instruction is that you should love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your strength. … If the Lord has permitted you to have some trial, bear it willingly and with gratitude, considering that it has happened for your good and that perhaps you well deserved it. If the Lord bestows upon you any kind of prosperity, thank him humbly and see that you become no worse for it, either through vain pride or anything else, because you ought not to oppose God or offend him in the matter of his gifts.
Be kindhearted to the poor, the unfortunate and the afflicted. Give them as much help and consolation as you can. Thank God for all the benefits he has bestowed upon you, that you may be worthy to receive greater.
St. Stephen I of Hungary
Ruler from 1001–1038, he is considered the first King of Hungary. Like King Louis, he wrote to his son and advised him to keep the faith.
My dearest son, if you desire to honor the royal crown, I advise, I counsel, I urge you above all things to maintain the Catholic and Apostolic faith with such diligence and care that you may be an example for all those placed under you by God, and that all the clergy may rightly call you a man of true Christian profession. Failing to do this, you may be sure that you will not be called a Christian or a son of the Church. Indeed, in the royal palace, after the faith itself, the Church holds second place, first constituted and spread through the whole world by His members, the apostles and holy fathers, And though she always produced fresh offspring, nevertheless in certain places she is regarded as ancient. However, dearest son, even now in our kingdom the Church is proclaimed as young and newly planted; and for that reason she needs more prudent and trustworthy guardians lest a benefit which the divine mercy bestowed on us undeservedly should be destroyed and annihilated through your idleness, indolence or neglect.
St. Louis Martin
Louis was an amazing father, with many of his children entering the convent, including the well beloved St. Thérèse of Lisieux. He had an affectionate heart, loving each child individually. He showed this by using little nicknames for his children. He called Marie, “the diamond”; Pauline, “the fine pearl”; Celine, “the dauntless one”; “good-hearted Léonie”; and Thérèse, “the Little Queen” or “bouquet.” Louis was also an active father, joining in the games of the children, often making little toys for them, making up games and singing songs with them.
Louis and Zelie also did what they could to model for their children how to lead a life of virtue. Celine wrote how her father was patient with others, even when they were harsh with him.
Once he went with me to collect the house-rent from a tenant; it was in the main street of Lisiuex. The woman refused to pay, and ran after him crying insulting things. I was horrified, but he remained calm and made no reply at all, and he did not complain about her afterwards.
Little is recorded about St. Joseph and his fathering abilities, but from his appearances in scripture, he is willing to do whatever it takes to provide and protect for his family. Even when presented with the miraculous conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary, Joseph is steadfast in his faith, believes in the words of the angel, and acts without a second notice. He is described as a “just man” in the Gospels and eagerly searches for his son when he is teaching in the Temple. Above all, the primary evidence for the effectiveness of Joseph’s fatherhood is the fruit found in the life of Jesus. While he certainly was divine, he was also human and learned many virtues from his parents. For this reason, St. Joseph is the patron of all fathers.