Three Fathers of Three Saints
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
Thanks for the reflection Sr. Melannie.
My father’s countless acts of love have always inspired me. He never needed to be thanked but did what was necessary to help others. A man of few words, my father’s faith and actions still inspire me today.
Thank you, Sr. Melannie. My father taught me the virtue of manual labor. He and I would engage in some physical task, and work side by side in silence. I’ll admit that as a teenager I often worked beside him with a sour attitude, wanting instead to be off doing what teenage boys are wont to do, but as I look back on those days, I see that what we shared was a beautiful companionship. I wish I had realized it more then. He taught me to appreciate the unifying rhythm of working in tandem to achieve a common goal. He taught me the language of hard work. Thank you, Dad.
Thank you Sr. Melannie.
Thank you for the reflection – and the observation that a father’s influence on a child is profound – good or bad. My father died 16 yrs ago last week. Although I didn’t realize or appreciate it at the time, I see now how he was the moral compass and the emotional anchor for our family. How I miss him! He truly exemplified “actions speaking louder than words”. I work every day to follow in his footsteps.
Happy Father’s Day to all the wonderful, caring men striving to be good Fathers!
Because of your reflection on St. Vincent de Paul I think I’ll go to the library and find a biography about him. He sounds like an interesting character.
When learning about the lives of the saints, it often strikes me that many of them were flawed human beings, just like me. I am then reminded that in God all things are possible, and with that realization comes the great gift of hope. God is good. Thank you, Sister Melannie.
Beautiful song – it brought tears to my eyes thinking about my Dad who passed 17 years ago. I’m sure he is fine. My father was a completely self-less man who did anything and everything for his daughters. He left a legacy of compassion, faith, hard work, and most of all, love. We girls were blessed and graced by his incredible personality and giving to all people. He was truly the best gift from God!
I work with children whose fathers are often in jail, on drugs or addiction, or not in the picture at all and think how lucky I am to have a dad who truly cared for his eight children. As we remember our own dads, let us not forget those children who have never experience the love of a father. Dad you are missed; he just pass this past year.
I have always held Vincent de Paul in high regard since my father was a founding member of his parish’s conference of the SVDP Society. However, I never knew of Vincent’s conversion from a clerical climber to his humble life of serving the poor. I suspect that the memory of his refusal to acknowledge his poorly dressed father may have played an important role in recognizing his own spiritual poverty.
Dearest Sister Melannie: Thank you so much for this post. My Dad has been gone for 8 years now. He was such an intelligent person, a police officer, a teacher, a wonderful father and a fabulous husband to my mother. All that was taken from him through Alzheimer’s and my Mama, siblings and I watched the progression over a many-year period. He and mother always prayed for us each day. At the end of his life, he didn’t know us any longer; but we knew him. In the worst of days, he was still always kind. My parents’ steadfast love and devotion was always there; in the end he didn’t even know her. He was a role model and a loving, devoted father. Thank you so much for the great information about the saints and their fathers. Blessings, Michelle
Thanks, Sister Melanie, for the opportunity again to reflect on our father’s love. My father was a farmer who worked long days that were sometimes fifteen or more hours, but I always remember how he would kneel by his bed every night in prayer. He would take us children to Mass on Sundays when the snow was so deep no one but the priest would be there. On Christmas we would attend three Masses, as that was his custom. Wouldn’t that be amazingly wonderful if we had such great religious role models in our families nowadays?