"Big Four" Highlights


Household Holiness

As fathers, we are called to daily acts of self-giving sacrifice with our loved ones
By Brian Caulfield

All Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity. All are called to holiness: “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48). (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2013)

What a high calling! Let us take a minute, or at least a full 30 seconds in our busy lives, to think more deeply about what Jesus is telling us. BE PERFECT (or holy, as some translations render it) as GOD THE FATHER.

Exactly right. Help. Where do we go for help in this high calling?

Fortunately, the Catechism gives direction, explaining that the key to holiness is wholehearted devotion “to the glory of God and to the service of their neighbor.” This is supported by intimate union with Christ in the reception of the sacraments, especially Holy Communion, and by walking with Christ along the way of the Cross.

Household Holiness

“There is no holiness,” the Catechism stresses, “without renunciation and spiritual battle.”

Sounds forbidding, indeed, like an extended trip to the dentist. But as fathers, let us look at these words in the context of a married couple that has been declared saints as members of a family: Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin. They were parents of St. Therese of Lisieux, the “Little Flower.”

Louis was a watchmaker and jeweler; Zelie a lace-maker and homemaker. What was their “secret” to reaching holiness in ordinary life, what we might call household holiness? I think we can find it by focusing on the “yes” to God’s will rather than the “no” of renunciation and spiritual battle.

Why? Because that is the “Little Way” of their youngest daughter, who wrote Story of a Soul and is now recognized as a Doctor of the Church for her spiritual genius. If the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, we should look at the fruit of their union –St. Therese – to understand her parents.

The Little Flower wrote that she could not hope to reach the sanctity of the saints she read about who engaged in great sacrifices, fought worldly and spiritual battles, or endured perpetual hunger and pain. Yet she could practice her “Little Way,” coming to God as a helpless child, seeking to please him in every way, and asking for the graces that she needed to even seek to please him.

Surely, she learned this attitude from her parents. How did Louis and Zelie say “yes” in their lives?

  • Yes to children – they had 9 children, and grieved over the early loss of four of them.
  • Yes to prayer – family prayer was a regular part of their home life.
  • Yes to God’s call – all five of their grown daughters entered the convent, and Louis considered this a great privilege.
  • Yes to loss and grief – they lost four of their offspring in childhood, and Zelie died at a young age, leaving Louis with the care of the family.

These “yes-es” to God’s will make up the heart of holiness. None of them alone would seem extraordinary, perhaps, but together, in the context of a life offered to God, they constitute the heroic virtue of sainthood.

This is good news for us fathers, who seem to struggle just to get through the day and provide for our families in reasonable comfort. Our mission is not to save the world or convert those in far-off lands. Our field is at home, our place of work, the upbringing of our children, the devotion to our wife. Day by day, yes by yes, we can build a life of holiness and happiness, in the small acts of sacrifice born of love, as we lead and serve the ones whom God has given into our care.

Brian Caulfield is editor of Fathers for Good.