CATHOLIC HERALD STAFF
Something beautiful about Catholic culture is the great diversity in the experiences and backgrounds of individuals who have been canonized. As parents, we do not have to look only to the example of those who share our vocation for spiritual inspiration. For every St. Gianna and St. Monica, whose holiness was expressed in maternal life, there is a saint who was not called to parenthood whose example we can embrace, celebrate and emulate, and whose intercession can carry us through difficult moments in our experiences as mothers.
When you’re stressed out at work (or home): Ever feel like running away? St. Walter of Pontoise did — twice. He was so overwhelmed by his responsibilities as the abbot of a new monastery in Pontoise that he fled the place twice. It was only when Pope Gregory VII told him to accept his assignment for the glory of God that he finally stayed put. Today, he is venerated as the patron saint of job-related stress.
When your child is struggling in school: Biographers have commonly reported that St. Bernadette was regarded as a slow learner. Certainly, she had very little education, as the child of a poor family — but she is reported to have said that it was specifically because of her “ignorance” that the Blessed Mother chose her as the recipient of the apparitions at Lourdes.
When you don’t have enough time to pray: St. Martha, sister of Lazarus, has the distinction of having been a real-life friend of Jesus. It’s understandable that, in the Gospel account for which she is famous (Luke 10:38-42), Martha wanted to create a hospitable environment for the Son of God and his friends. But Jesus’ gentle rebuke of her reminds us that the only hospitality he really needs is our attention.
When you and your child don’t see eye to eye: St. Theobald of Provins bucked the tradition of his noble family and eschewed a career in the military in favor of becoming a hermit. Some sources say this angered his parents, but they were not at odds with their son forever — eventually, his mother Gisela even joined him and became a hermitess.
When your child has behavior problems: Leonie Martin has not been canonized or even beatified, but she does have the distinction of being the sister of one famous saint (St. Therese of Lisieux) and the daughter of two others (Sts. Zelie and Louis Martin). Leonie is sometimes called St. Therese’s “difficult sister” and St. Zelie’s writings reveal her great anxiety about her third-born daughter’s rash temper and stubbornness. After the third time Leonie was expelled from her convent school, Zelie wrote to her sister-in-law: “I doubt that anything except a miracle can change her nature.” Leonie later became a nun and led a life of great virtue; her cause for sainthood was opened in 2015.
When your child is feeling socially outcast: Born with a paralyzed and deformed right arm and later developing a condition known as scrofula, St. Germaine Cousin endured the disdain and abuse of her own family because of her condition. Her stepmother made her sleep in the stable and eventually banished her to the fields to mind the family’s sheep. But in her solitude, Germaine became devoted to the one who never abandoned her, and her holiness and piety soon became renowned throughout her remote French village of Pibrac.
When you struggle with your faith (or with your email): Venerable (soon-to-be Blessed) Carlo Acutis was a cheerful “computer geek” born in 1991 who built his own website dedicated to sharing the stories of Eucharistic miracles. He died in 2006 from leukemia. Though his parents were not devout, Carlo was immensely pious as a child and desired to be taken to daily Mass. His mother Antonia calls him “her little Savior” because his example inspired the deepening of her own faith and love of the Eucharist.
When your child has fallen away from the faith: Though it is thought that St. Jerome was raised by Christian parents, when he left home to study in Rome as a young man, he led a lifestyle of sexual dissolution. His conscience was so plagued by guilt that he made a habit of visiting the catacombs and imagining himself in hell. He eventually repented and was baptized around the age of 20.