Rick Santorum

According to the Bible, we are all called to be saints. That is, we are all called to be with God in heaven. In fact, the designation of sainthood bestowed by the Roman Catholic Church is, at its core, simply a declaration that a person is in heaven.

My wife, Karen, and I have been blessed to deliver eight children into this world. We knew that one of our responsibilities was to impart faith to them. However, it wasn't until our child Gabriel died two hours after birth that I confronted the gravity of my duty as a father. Karen and I survived the death of our son, in part because we were comforted in the belief that he is in heaven, a saint. I can't say it lessened the pain, but it gave meaning to the suffering and brought peace.

Twelve years later, Karen delivered our eighth child, Bella. A few days after she was born, the doctors told us that Bella had a genetic abnormality, trisomy 18, and that her life would be measured in days and weeks, not years. My first thought was that we would have to endure the death of another child and that this painful journey would be measured in not hours but perhaps weeks or months. Thanks to Bella's mama-bear mom, we quickly rallied from despair to resolve, to do all we could to accept her for who she is and give her the best and happiest life.

We took it a day at a time; in fact, we celebrated a birthday for Bella every week, with the fervent hope that she would have as many weeks as our other children would have years on this earth.

Well, this week, Bella is celebrating her 260th-week birthday. These five incredibly blessed years have transformed me, Karen, our family and others who have been touched by Bella's beautiful spirit. And as we celebrate her life this week, we can't help but be grateful to so many who supported us on our journey -- prayer partners, her doctors, nurses and therapists, and our friends and family. But of all these amazing people she has been blessed to have in her life, there always has been a special patron.

In 2000, Karen and I were blessed to have the opportunity to meet Pope John Paul II in Rome. At the time, a 3-year-old boy in our community, Brendan Kelly, was battling a virulent form of leukemia, so we brought his picture with us to give to the pope and asked him to pray for Brendan. The next year, Brendan was in remission and was granted a wish by the Make-A-Wish Foundation. His wish was to meet the man who had prayed for him in Rome.

Rick Santorum

Former Senator Rick Santorum is the author of Blue Collar Conservatives: Recommitting to an America That Works.

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