“Parents of the Saints”: An Interview with Patrick O’Hearn
The St. Josemaria Institute is delighted to share our interview with author, Patrick O’Hearn, on the inspiration and topic of his new book, Parents of the Saints: The Hidden Heroes Behind Our Favorite Saints. In the book, we learn about the lives of parents who raised saintly children and how they achieved it through common “hallmarks” exercised in the ordinary circumstances of family life. Through the example of these parents, O’Hearn aims to demonstrate how “a father and mother who embrace the Gospel message… can transform the world one diaper at a time, one prayer at a time, and one conversation at a time.”
As St. Josemaria Escriva wrote: “Being a father or a mother is not simply a matter of bringing children into the world. The capacity for generation, which is a share in the creative power of God, is meant to have a continuation. Parents are called to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in the development of their children into men and women who will be authentic Christians” (Christ is Passing By, no. 27).
Parents of the Saints is the St. Josemaria Institute’s July 2021 Book of the Month!
Q: Please tell us a little about yourself and what lead you to the path of becoming an author.
Patrick: I grew up in the Midwest in both Moline, Illinois and later near Cleveland, Ohio. My parents Steve and Maureen are from Ohio. I am the youngest of three boys. I now live in North Carolina with my wife and son. I am an acquisition editor at TAN Books. As a young boy, I dreaded writing. But the Holy Spirit gave me a gift. After discerning out of religious life (I spent three years as a Benedictine monk), I felt this inspiration to write on the hidden heroes of the saints—to really inspire married couples to live a holy life. It is the same Spirit that inspired St. Josemaria to remind lay people of the universal call to holiness. Later on, through the tragedy of losing two children from miscarriage, I also felt inspired to write about that topic to help Catholic couples carry this enormous cross. The Holy Spirit also inspired me to write a fictional children’s book called Nissim: The Shepherd of Bethlehem, who meets Jesus both at Bethlehem and Calvary. With God’s help, I hope to write more books in the future.
Q: As a child you devoured the lives of the saints. How did you discover them? And what specifically caught your heart and imagination about their lives?
Patrick: As an elementary student at a Catholic school, my favorite movie was the apparition of Our Lady of Lourdes. There was something about Our Lady. This movie peaked my interest and led me to read books on Our Lady and various saints. I remember reading about St. Martin de Porres’s great humility and care for the poor. His example led me to choose him as my confirmation saint in eighth grade. These saints taught me to live for God and others, not this fleeting world. I only wish I followed their example better. So many of the saints had such a great love for the Holy Eucharist from their First Communion Day. It is so beautiful to see many parents bring their little ones to Daily Mass and Eucharistic Adoration.
Q: In the book, you explain beautifully why you were compelled to write about “the heroes behind the lives of the saints”, i.e. their parents. But for those who haven’t read the book yet, can you explain briefly why this topic is so important to you?
Patrick: I always say the saints choose us. They discovered me. They chose me, and it was they who asked me to write about their parents. In prayer, I felt like so many saints wanted me to reveal to today’s parents how they were formed. I am always blown away when I attend a priestly ordination or a solemn profession of a religious sister. In many cases, it was the prayers and sacrifices of the parents that paved the way for their vocation. This is certainly true in the life of St. Josemaria. The same is true for these parents. There is no question that many of the saints would not have become saints without their holy parent’s example. St. Therese said it so herself. She said her soul might have been lost. The greatest gift we have in this world is to be Catholic, and to have had holy parents. For without this foundation, we might never have encountered our Eucharistic Lord. This topic is so important because our world has lost its compass and many parents feel helpless trying to keep their children on the narrow road. It is our task as parents to not just raise up good people, but to raise up saints, perhaps even martyrs. Our Church needs saints more than ever. This is our legacy.
Q: You describe Christian parenting as “a simple mission: to impart the Faith to their children and raise them to be saints”. Is it truly simple? How do you think this book can help parents not feel overwhelmed by this great mission and task?
Patrick: Living a holy life is not complicated. As seen in this book, there are seven hallmarks, or characteristics that these holy parents exhibited: sacramental life, surrender, sacrificial love, suffering, simplicity, solitude, and sacredness of life. These parents loved the Holy Eucharist and Our Lady with the greatest love. And everything flowed from that love. I also include some of the mistakes these parents made to reveal that holiness is a struggle as St. Josemaria so often said. There are only two perfect parents: St. Joseph and Our Lady.
Q: As a father yourself, which parent or couple in the book did you identify with the most? Were
you surprised to discover this connection?
Patrick: I identify the most with Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin for they both desired to enter religious life, but God led them down the path of marriage. They also lost several children. I was surprised by these connections.
Q: In the preface, you explain that writing this book was a daunting project. Is this your first book? How did you approach this project to bring it to completion?
Patrick: This was the first book I started to write, but not the first book I completed. As I was waiting on the final edits, I co-authored another book after my wife and I lost our second and third children from miscarriage called Nursery of Heaven: Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant Loss in the Lives of the Saints and Today’s Parents. Initially, my book was well over 500 pages and eventually I had to cut it down to under 400 pages. There were a few delays in the editing process, which pushed the publication date back. All in all, this book took me three years to write. But I believe God wanted this book to be published at this moment in history.
Q: Whom did you have in mind as you wrote this book? Who do you hope will read this book and why?
Patrick: My audience is married couples and those discerning marriage. But as I wrote more, I included some examples from St. Josemaria’s grandparents, too. I pray this book touches everyone from grandparents to married couples to priests. My task in writing this book was to tell these parents’ holy lives, and to get out of the way. Holiness is the key to forming saints. We cannot expect our children to become saints if we are not seeking sanctity. And when I talk about being a saint, I am not talking simply about the desire to be canonized. Whether or not we get canonized is not the point. The point is to respond to God’s graces everyday and live the present moment completely for Him and others. In the hidden Nazareth of our homes, we can transform the world by loving our spouse and children with Christ’s love. I believe the stories in this book will inspire all readers to holiness. And I truly believe that many of the parents in this book were holier than their saintly children even though the former were never canonized.
Q: Patrick, thank you for your time! Is there anything else you’d like to share with us? Where can our readers find your book and learn more about your initiatives?