Next in our book excerpt series, is 'Parents of the Saints' by Patrick O'Hearn. As we look back through history and study the lives of the Saints, it is oftentimes easy to forget the role that the parents of these holy men and women played in their formation and ultimate salvation. This book reveals the hidden heroes behind Sts. Faustina, Giana Molla, Josemaría Escrivá, Pope John Paul II, Maximilian Kolbe, Padre Pio, Thérèse, and countless others.
Hallmark Three: Sacrificial Love
After God, I owe it to my mother; she was so good! Virtue passes readily from the heart of a mother into that of her children. A child that has the happiness of having a good mother should never look at her or think of her without tears.1 —St. John Vianney
Matthieu and Marie Vianney
As the twenty-nine-year-old St. John Vianney received the Sacrament of Holy Orders from his bishop in 1815, we can only wonder what sentiments filled his heart, especially directed toward his holy parents, Matthieu and Marie Beluze Vianney, whose prayers and sacrifices helped bring his ordination to fruition. After disappointment, failure, and even being dismissed from the seminary because of his inadequate grasp of Latin, John Vianney persevered with God’s grace, especially due to his mother’s intercession, both while living and then from Heaven. Sadly, Marie would not physically witness the greatest day of her son’s life, for she went to her eternal reward at fifty-eight years old. John Vianney confessed that after his mother’s death, he no longer felt any attachment to this world. Marie was John Vianney’s greatest advocate, as she supported his vocation more than any other person. His father had opposed his vocation because he did not want to lose a skilled laborer on their farm.
Years before John Vianney became a priest, Marie attended daily Mass with her eldest daughter, Catherine, whenever possible. Soon, her fourth of six children, John, came along. John loved to watch his mother pray. At the time of his birth, Marie led her son John to the greatest sacrificial love by literally pointing to the crucifix and various pious pictures throughout their home as well as teaching him the Sign of the Cross. Marie even gave him a small, wooden statue of Our Lady, which remained by his bedside for life.
Finding her four-year-old son missing one day, Marie searched in anguish, thinking he might have drowned, but was surprised to find him kneeling in prayer in their stable. Marie responded lovingly, when most women might easily have yelled at their son for running off without permission. She embraced little John with tears and said, “Oh! My darling, you were here! Why hide yourself when you want to pray? You know we all say all our prayers together.”
Besides his mother, John inherited his sacrificial nature from his father, Matthieu. As a young boy, Matthieu’s family sheltered and fed the poor, one of whom happened to be St. Joseph Benedict Labre, who had just discerned out of a Trappist monastery. A biographer of John Vianney once beautifully recalled this meeting between Joseph Benedict and the young Matthieu in these words: “Little did [Matthieu] guess, as he contemplated this youthful mendicant, so pale and so meek, who was telling his beads all the time, that one day he himself would be the father of a saint.”
Like his parents, Matthieu and Marie gave food to the poor and sheltered the homeless, which sometimes included over twenty guests who slept in the barn or above the bakehouse, thus performing the corporal works of mercy. Before retiring for the night, the young John would lead his family and the guests in prayer. Specifically, John continued his grandfather’s and father’s tradition of reciting the Our Father and Hail Mary, especially for the Holy Souls in Purgatory.
Parent of the Saints is available for purchase HERE.