Catholic Homeschool Articles, Advice & Resources

The Most Important Question For Parents


Discover this treasure for Catholic homeschooling parents based on a brilliant real-life study of how to raise a child to become a saint.

It’s fair to say that all the thousands of questions of Catholic theology come down to one essential question: Who is God? All the questions of Catholic homeschooling form an interesting parallel. For the past four decades, parents have called Seton with thousands of questions like: Which Algebra text should my daughter use? Should my son take the online American Government course or the print version? Can my daughter skip kindergarten and start in first grade?

All these questions from you heroic parents—and God love you, we hear it in your voices—come down to one foremost question: How do I raise my child to become a saint? (Actually, we’ve received that specific question many times.)

For all you parents who ever asked that wondrous question, a new book has come along that provides some profoundly beautiful answers. It is called Parents of the Saints by Patrick O’Hearn, and it should be considered required reading.

O’Hearn was inspired to write the book after asking the primary question discussed above. He recounts, “As a husband and father, I yearned to read stories on holy married couples and how they formed their children, but those books were scarce. What were their secrets to sanctity?”

Thus, he took it upon himself to spend three years researching this question and putting the answers into book form. He provides pithy but insightful biographies and colorful stories of over one hundred Catholic parents. Why so many? O’Hearn writes, “I never intended to write a lengthy book. But, as this book progressed, I felt more and more saints whisper to me in prayer, ‘Tell my parents’ story. The world needs to know about our unsung heroes, who laid the foundation for our spiritual lives.’ ” It’s a pretty wonderful thing to know that the parents of the saints were also the heroes of the saints.

The Seed of Future Saints

Clearly, one of the foremost ways for us parents to raise saints is to desperately desire to become holy ourselves; in that regard, O’Hearn illustrates in detail that these parents of saints lived sacramental lives. Using the examples of the Martin parents and Saint Monica, O’Hearn posits that “a father and mother’s love for the Holy Eucharist is the seed of future saints.”

These parents also fostered a love of the vocational sacraments—Matrimony and Holy Orders—for their children. O’Hearn writes, “Each sacrament is interdependent upon the others, specifically the Holy Eucharist and Holy Orders. Without the priesthood, there is no Eucharist. And without the Eucharist, there is no priesthood. The parents of the saints wanted their home to become the first seminary for their children by disposing them to God’s will and by providing the Church with vocations.”

Regarding Matrimony, speaking of Louis Martin’s mother, O’Hearn notes, “Without Louis’s mother praying for him and encouraging him to pursue Zélie, he might have remained a bachelor for the rest of his life. In effect, Louis’s mother witnesses the powerful role parents have in nurturing their child’s vocation, especially praying in a special way for their future son-in-law or daughter-in-law so that, like their own child, they might be holy and without a blemish on their wedding day. Interestingly, the Church commemorates Sts. Louis and Zélie Martin’s feast day on July 12, the eve of their nuptials.”

The Secret to Sanctity

Citing dozens of saints, O’Hearn also takes great care to illustrate the importance of surrendering to God’s Holy Will, living sacrificial lives, and simplicity. Writing of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, who laid down his life for another man at Auschwitz, O’Hearn writes, “From a young age, Maximilian learned from his parents that a secret to sanctity is forgetting oneself.” Regarding the role of suffering in our lives, he writes, “While

Our Lord blazed and finished the trail that ends at Golgotha, He gave each of us the ability to share in His redemptive mission, i.e., to save souls by carrying our crosses and helping those around us carry theirs….Suffering was the path of the parents of the saints.”

I’m happy that the author included a section about the importance of solitude in prayer—something I have come to appreciate as I grow older.

I’m also happy that O’Hearn discussed the role of grandparents in the lives of the saints. He writes, “Pierre and Marie-Anne Martin hold one of the greatest distinctions in the Church’s history, achieved only by a select few couples, which is to be both the parents and grandparents of saints, in their son, Louis Martin, and their granddaughter, Thérèse of Lisieux.” It’s important to remember that grandparents can have a powerful influence on their children’s children.

I don’t use the term “required reading” often, and I can’t remember the last time I used this column to endorse a new book, but O’Hearn’s book is a treasure for us Catholic homeschooling parents. After all, how many books seek to answer the question: How do I raise my child to become a saint?

About John Clark

John Clark is a homeschooling father, a speechwriter, an online course developer for Seton Home Study School, and a weekly blogger for The National Catholic Register. His latest book is “How to be a Superman Dad in a Kryptonite World, Even When You Can’t Afford a Decent Cape.”
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