No matter your particular struggle, there are saints to walk with you. You are not alone.
Father’s Day can be a beautiful holiday, a day to celebrate your father or to be celebrated as a father. For many, though, this is a painful day, as they remember their late fathers, grieve their broken relationships with their fathers or their children, mourn their lost children, or lament the children they’ve been unable to have. If Father’s Day is hard for you, it may help to find some saints who can walk with you in your particular struggle. You are not alone.
If you’re estranged from your father
Bl. Jarogniew Wojciechowski (1922-1942) lived with both parents until he was 11. Then his alcoholic father abandoned the family, leaving his wife a single mother. Jarogniew had recently begun attending the Salesian youth center, where the priests offered him fatherly love and wisdom. Before long, Jarogniew had to drop out of school and get a job at a pharmacy to help support his family. When the Nazis invaded Poland, the Salesian youth group was disbanded, but many of the young people continued to meet in secret—an act of resistance against the Nazis. Jarogniew was arrested with four friends and spent two years in prison before being martyred.
If you feel you’re a disappointment to your father
St. Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787) was a brilliant Italian bishop who eventually became a Doctor of the Church. His father Giuseppe was a sea captain, and was displeased with his small, weak, asthmatic son, ridiculing him throughout his life. Knowing that his son would never succeed in the military, he set Alphonsus up to be a lawyer; when Alphonsus (by then a successful lawyer) chose to leave behind the practice of law to pursue the priesthood, Giuseppe was disgusted. Alphonsus’s response? “I have no father but God.” Giuseppe then tried to manage Alphonsus’s ecclesiastical career and continued to be frustrated by his son’s desire to be meek and poor. He was finally satisfied when he heard his son preach with great power and listened to the people calling him a saint.
Bl. Frédéric Ozanam (1813-1853) is best known as the founder of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. He married at 28 and doted on his wife Amélie; together, they experienced the anguish of losing their first two children to miscarriage. After their first loss, they spent some time apart as Amélie attempted to recover at her parents’ home; Frédéric wrote her almost daily until he was able to rejoin her. His beautiful letters speak of his sorrow, his longing for his wife, and the consolation he found in the Eucharist. The couple ultimately had a daughter, Marie, on whom Frédéric doted until his death from consumption at only 40.
If you’re mourning the loss of a child after birth
Servant of God Takashi Nagai (1908-1951) was a Japanese doctor and a convert to Catholicism. He raised two children and buried two more, both daughters. Nagai’s second child had been born just before Nagai went to war, and died (at 18 months) before his return. Likewise, he hardly had a chance to know his third child, another daughter who died shortly after birth. On August 9, 1945, Nagai’s wife was killed in the bombing of Nagasaki. In reflecting on her death, Nagai took great comfort in the thought of his two little daughters welcoming their mother home. “I could see the two spirits run joyfully and cling to the sides of their mother’s spirit newly ascended into heaven, and I looked forward more than anything else to the day when my own spirit would ascend to join them.”
If you’re estranged from your child
St. Abraham Kidunaia (267-366) was a monk in modern Turkey and the adoptive father of St. Mary of Edessa. Mary lived as an anchoress until a wayward monk manipulated her into sleeping with him. Though Mary was truly a victim of clerical sexual abuse, she blamed herself for the abuse. She ran away and became a prostitute, leaving her father to mourn her loss and long for her return. After two years, Abraham got wind of her location and went to find her, leaving his hermitage for the first time in 20 years because his little girl needed him. He paid to spend the night with Mary, then went up to her room and fell on his knees, begging her in tears to come home. Because her father’s love showed her the Father’s love, Mary agreed and soon became a miracle worker, a testimony to God’s tremendous mercy and healing power.
If you were never able to conceive
Ven. Pierre Toussaint (1766-1853) was born into slavery in Haiti and eventually taken to New York City, where he became a hairdresser to New York’s elite. After he was freed, he purchased the freedom of Juliette Noel, a young woman whom he then married. Though the two were married for 40 years, they were unable to have children. They adopted Pierre’s infant niece, in whom he delighted, fostered several children, and became philanthropists with Pierre’s earnings and investments.
If you’re parenting alone
St. Louis Martin (1823-1894) had nine children with his wife St. Zélie, though only five survived to adulthood. When their oldest daughter was 17 and their youngest (St. Thérèse) just 4, Zélie died, leaving Louis to raise the girls without her. He moved the family to Lisieux to be near Zélie’s brother and sister-in-law and continued to care for the girls for the next decade until dementia caused the exchange of their roles, leaving his daughters with the responsibility of caring for him.
If you placed a child for adoption
St. Michael Nguyễn Huy Mỹ (1804-1838) was a Vietnamese husband, father, and mayor of his village who was tortured three times in place of his father-in-law. He was orphaned at 12, married at 20, and had eight children. When he was arrested, his 12-year-old daughter visited him in prison, as did his wife with their newborn. Huy Mỹ said goodbye to his children (and to the six remaining at home), entrusting them to his wife to care for since he could no longer raise them. He was later martyred alongside his father-in-law.
If your father has passed away
St. Lydwina (1380-1433) was a Dutch woman who was injured while ice skating and spent decades in agony from her injury. Though at first she nearly despaired over her chronic illness, she ultimately found joy in suffering alongside Jesus, particularly in the spiritual ecstasy that she often experienced. But the loss of her kind father (so unlike the mother who treated Lydwina like a burden) threatened to rob her of the peace she’d found. Lydwina was so distraught that she was simply unable to entrust his soul to God. But in her grief she was consoled by the Blessed Mother and ultimately came to find peace in that suffering as well.