For Mother’s Day I wrote about three mothers of three saints. In honor of Father’s Day, here are the stories of three fathers of three saints.
The father of St. Camillus de Lellis. St. Cammilus (1550-1614) is best remembered for founding a religious congregation devoted to the care of the sick. But he could also be known for having one of the most unlikely “saint begetting” fathers. Camillus’ father was a soldier who hired himself out to the highest bidder. In addition he was a spendthrift and a man addicted to fighting and gambling. In contrast, his wife was a timid and pious woman. One biographer said, “The chief consolation he gave to his wife was that he was seldom at home.”
Mr. de Lellis was 60 when Cammilus was born. Like his father, Camillus grew to be quite tall (6′ 6″). He also inherited his father’s violent temper, his penchant for brawling, and his gambling addiction. Cammilus’ mother died when he was only 12, so he was raised by relatives. But at age 17 he followed in his father’s footsteps and became a soldier of fortune. The father and son fought side-by-side in battle and then gambled most of their money away. But their wild life came to a screeching halt when the father became gravely ill. Young Camillus watched in shock as his father begged for a priest, repented of his dissolute life, received the sacraments, and died. This deathbed conversion had a profound affect on Camillus who repented of his own sins and eventually became a priest who spent the rest of his life caring for the sick and establishing hospitals throughout Italy.
Benigne Fremyot, the father of St. Jane de Chantal. St. Jane (or Jeanne) de Chantal (1572-1641) was a fascinating woman honored as a wife, mother, and foundress of a religious congregation. But most people are unaware of the key role her father played in her achievement of sanctity. At age 20, Jane married Baron Christophe de Rabutin and bore him seven children, three of whom died in infancy. By all accounts, the couple was happily married for nine years when tragedy struck again. Christophe was shot in a hunting accident and died several days later, the victim of primitive surgery.
Jane became disconsolate. She fell into a deep depression, neglecting her children and refusing to forgive the man who had accidentally shot her husband. It took a gentle but firm letter from her father to bring her out of her depression. In his letter he reminded his daughter of her duties to her children. He also called to mind her obligation as a Christian to forgive. Jane heeded her father’s wise counsel and eventually went on to become the co-foundress of the Visitation Sisters. Her friend, St. Vincent de Paul, regarded her “as one of the holiest souls I have ever met on this earth.”
The father of St. Vincent de Paul. Vincent de Paul (1580-1660) was born to a peasant family in southwest France. As a boy, he spent long hours watching his father’s sheep—often standing on stilts to do so. He hated this job. In fact, he hated farming and was ashamed of his family’s poverty. Vincent’s father was sensitive to his son’s keen intelligence and his distaste for farming. In an act of love for his son and faith in his future, Mr. de Paul sold his livestock to finance his son’s education.
In time Vincent decided to become a priest not as a way to serve God and people, but as a way to escape poverty forever. Once, while still in the seminary, his father came to visit him. Vincent was so ashamed of his father’s shabby clothes, that he refused to see him. After ordination, Vincent set his sights on becoming a bishop and living a life of relative luxury. But God had other plans. While on a sea voyage, Vincent was captured by pirates and sold into slavery. This experience changed him dramatically. When he returned to France after his ordeal, he began devoting his energies to caring for the poor, the sick, and the elderly. In the process he founded the Vincentians and co-founded the Daughters of Charity. Today the St. Vincent de Paul Society (named for him) also continues his legacy of charitable works.
I want to wish a happy Father’s Day to all you fathers out there!
The song I chose is called “Father’s Love” by Gary Valenciano. As we listen to the words and gaze upon the beautiful pictures, let us pray for our own fathers, whether living or deceased. And let us pray for all father’s today, especially for those who may be struggling to love and care for their children.
Did anything in the stories surprise or touch you today?
Is there anything inspiring about your own father that you’d like to share with us?
What did you think of this song?
NOTE: Christy from Virginia: I tried answering your email, but my email wouldn’t go through. Please try again. Sr. Melannie