A few months ago, I started doing research on saintly parents. I wanted to find holy men and women, dedicated moms, and dads, who were able to raise a family and live their faith fully. I was surprised at how many examples we have in our Catholic faith of saintly parents. I wanted to share some of these inspiring stories with our readers, in a series of posts called Saintly Parents. This is the second article in the series about sainthood and parenting. Does parenthood make you a saint? Can your saintly life inspire your children to live holy lives as well? Blessed Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi are examples that prove that it can.
A Saintly Couple: Blessed Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi
They were married for 50 years. Luigi was a lawyer by profession and Maria was an educator. They were parents to four children, one of whom became a nun, and their two sons became priests. They lived simple lives of heroic virtue as a married couple and parents. In 2001, Pope John Paul II declared Luigi & Maria Quattrocchi as the first married couple in history to be beatified together. He said their lives as husband and wife, and as parents were models for all Christians.
The reason I chose Luigi and Maria for my second saintly parent story was because they were a couple with a deep faith and incredible prayer life. Luigi and Maria were both born in Italy. Luigi went to university in Rome and graduated with a degree in Law. He worked at several banks and government organizations. Maria was born to a noble family in Florence and grew up very involved in social and cultural life. She loved music and was a member of Catholic Action. Luigi met Maria in Florence and they were married in 1905 in Rome. They had 4 children Filippo, Cesare, Stefania and Enrichetta.
During the 50 years that they were married, their relationship and faith grew by attending Mass and receiving Holy Communion daily. They led a normal family life – full of sports, vacations, and busy school activities. Maria would say “The family has to be a sanctuary where God is always glorified.” Every evening, they prayed the Rosary together. They also held a family holy hour on the first Friday of every month. The Quattrocchis had a great devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and consecrated their family to it.
Maria took her motherly duties seriously, but also found time to pray, to write, to be a catechist, volunteer as a nurse for the Red Cross during the Second World War. Luigi and Maria made a firm decision to grow in their faith together by going to religious courses at the Gregorian University and weekend retreats. Their life wasn’t devoid of trials, though. While Maria was pregnant with her fourth child, in 1913, it was discovered that she had placenta previa. Her condition was so serious that she was given a 5% chance of surviving her difficult last pregnancy. Abortion was strongly advised. Maria and Luigi firmly refused, putting their trust in God. In the end, both Maria and the baby girl, Enrichetta, were safe. Luigi and Maria seldom fought in the presence of their children. Their youngest daughter, Enrichetta, recalled, “It is obvious to think that at times they had differences of opinion, but we, their children, were never exposed to these. They solved their problems between themselves through conversation, so that once they came to an agreement, the atmosphere continued to be serene.”
Their home was always open to anyone who needed food or friendship. During the Second World War, their apartment in Rome was a shelter for refugees, Jews, and deserters. Gossip was banished in their family, especially gossip about priests. Luigi and his sons founded a scout group for youth from the poor parts of Rome. It is no surprise that their two sons became priests and chaplains in the army. Their daughter, Stefania, became a cloistered nun. Luigi once wrote, “I dream of a life of work and of love…to be tired from working hard and find peace in the joys of our love and family.”
In 1951, Luigi died of a heart attack in his home. After 14 years as a widow, Maria joined Luigi in heaven, and she died in her daughter Enrichetta’s arms. At Luigi’s funeral, a friend of his who was an atheist said to one of the children, “Your father never pestered me with sermons. But I want to tell you: It’s through his life that I discovered God and that I love the Gospel. Pray for me!” On Sunday, October 21, 2001, Pope John Paul II beatified the Italian couple, setting them as an example for married couples to follow in our troubled times. Three of their four children were present at St. Peter’s Square to witness what no other siblings have ever experienced: the joint beatification of their parents. “Drawing on the word of God and the saints, the blessed couple lived an ordinary life in an extraordinary way. Among the joys and anxieties of a normal family, they knew how to live an extraordinarily rich spiritual life,” said Pope John Paul II at the beatification, characterizing the simple but deep spirituality of this married couple.
The three main “saintly parent” lessons that I have taken from their life stories were:
1) Never stop trying to grow in your spiritual life. Family life and business cannot be an excuse to not pray or attend a retreat. We all need those moments, especially as a couple.
2) Pray with your children regularly. It goes without saying but it just cannot be omitted for other activities. The rosary, mass and adoration are prayers that can be done together from a young age.
3) Being a true Christian means opening your home and heart to those in need. Whether it is refugees or scouts, or simply the friends of your children, an open door means an open heart.
Prayer Inspired by Blessed Luigi and Maria’s Story:
Prayer For Our Children
Almighty God, heavenly Father, who has blessed us with the joy and care of children; Give us light and strength to train them, that they may love those things that are true and pure and lovely and of good report, following the example of their Jesus Christ. Amen