Married Saints – Why so few?

Why are there so few married saints? And especially, why are there so few who were canonized precisely as married persons? Most married persons who have been canonized have not been canonized precisely as married persons, but as martyrs, or as religious or widows in the case of those who devoted themselves to the religious state or the state of widowhood after their spouse's death (or in some cases, by the mutual agreement of the spouses). And to my knowledge, in the modern formal process of canonization there have been no married couples canonized as such, though two couples have been beatified together, and may in the future be canonized: Luigi Beltrame Quattrocchi and Maria Corsini, and Louis Martin and Marie Celine Guerin (the parents of St. Therese).

The different explanations made for this fact can be grouped into three categories:

(1) There simply aren't many married saints, because of the practical concerns of married life that make it hard to focus entirely on God and his will.
(2) While there are plenty of married persons who are truly saintly, the exemplar of holiness can be seen more evidently in martyrs or religious than in married persons, and therefore it is mostly these who are canonized.
(3) Married saints are not so frequently recognized for what they are.

Sometimes one of this reasons is given as more or less the entire explanation, but I think there is actually some truth in all three of these explanations:

Fewer married saints

(1) St. Paul says, "To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain single as I do. … The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried woman or girl is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord. … so he who marries does well; and he who refrains from marriage will do better." (1 Corinthians 7:8,32-35,38) The evangelical counsel of chastity (see Mat 19:10-12) is proposed as a means for securing "undivided devotion" to God. The Christian tradition retains this idea, so that it is said "You would find many among us, both men and women, growing old unmarried, in hope of living in closer communion with God" (Athenagoras, A plea for the Christians, Chap. 33).

Pope John Paul II mentions the fact that most canonized saints are religious as evidence for the value of the religious state as a means to perfection, thus suggesting that the superiority of the religious state as a means for growing in the love of God is a reason for the greater number of religious canonized:

Religious communities are called to the duty of perfection, clearly expressed by Christ in his conversation with the young man: "If you wish to be perfect" (Mt 19:21). Later, down the centuries, the Church's tradition has given a doctrinal and practical expression to these words. The state of perfection is not only theory. It is life. And it is precisely life that confirms the truth of Christ's words: do not the majority of canonized saints come from religious Orders or Congregations?

These words, from a pope who has himself canonized a number of married persons, and who is always careful to note the call of every person to holiness and to the perfection of charity, are not without their weight.

But is the scarcity of canonized married persons due principally to the fact that marriage isn't as suitable a means as religious life for attaining holiness, or is it also due to the fact that marriage wasn't properly appreciated as a means for attaining holiness? Because the married state was not seen as a particularly helpful state for growing in divine love and holiness, those who intended to devote themselves most earnestly to this spiritual growth tended to refrain from marriage if possible, with the consequence that there were relatively few exemplary holy persons in marriage. St. Augustine points out: "[There are some marriages in which the spouses are not divided in heart, but completely devoted to God.] But they are very rare: who denies this? And being rare, nearly all the persons who are such, were not joined together in order to be such, but being already joined together became such (On the Good of Marriage, n. 14). That is, where there are few examples of holy marriages, people will more rarely enter marriage seeking or expecting to become holy through marriage." In this sense, the paucity of married saints is arguably a self-reinforcing prediction. The more emphasis that was put on the religious state as a means to holiness, the more rarely would persons choose marriage in order to become holy. And with fewer persons choosing marriage as a means to holiness, the fewer persons there were who attained exemplary sainthood in marriage, etc. (See my earlier post, Is Marriage for the Weak?).

Visibility of holiness

(2) In the early Church, only the martyrs were regarded the way we now regard canonized saints (the term "saint" itself was then used for all the faithful). In martyrdom the imitation and love of Christ is most perfectly manifest, inasmuch as Christ himself gave his life for the life of the world, and inasmuch as there is no greater love than to lay down one's life for the beloved. As martyrdom became more infrequent, but people still needed contemporary examples of sanctity to honor and to look to, the notion of venerable sainthood was extended to those who did not lay down their lives in martyrdom, but who, as far as possible, left everything to follow Christ, since this is the next most clear manifestation of the Christian call to deny oneself and to follow him.

In fact, the path to holiness always involves the evangelical counsels in some way; if not literally, as in the consecrated state, and least in spirit. All Christians are called to follow the spirit of the counsels. And naturally, the taking up of the counsels both literally and spiritually, as practiced by the saints who embraced the evangelical counsels literally, is the example or model for following the counsels spiritually. And in this sense, religious are already seen as models for the laity, not in the sense that the laity should desire to imitate the exterior form of the life of consecrated religious, but in the sense that they should imitate the inner content, that which is expressed, or meant to be expressed, by the exterior form of life of consecrated religious.

As regards canonized saints' being models of holiness, there could be advantages and disadvantages to having "normal" persons from every state of life canonized. On the one hand, one might argue that people need models of sainthood in the state of life in which they live, and so the model of life provided by the consecrated religious is not adequate for married persons–they also need models of saintly married persons. In fact the idea of saints being models was less emphasized early in the Church than it is now. From the point of view of being models, there is much to be said for having numerous canonized saints from every Christian state of life.

On the other hand, one might argue that canonizing people who seem entirely "normal", could lead to a misunderstanding of the radical call to perfect holiness addressed to every Christian. There is a certain danger of looking at all that the saints have in common with us, becoming self-complacent, and neglecting the need to purify ourselves more and more.

Recognition of holiness-process of canonization

(3) The holiness of "normal," married persons living in the world was less likely to be recognized, because the formal process of canonization required much time and effort, a detailed investigation into the person's life, and accepted miracles. These conditions were more frequently and better provided in the case of religious than in the case of married persons: (a) religious communities have much more people and time for seeking canonizations of their members than normal lay persons do; (b) for much of the Church's history, religious were better educated, and were more likely to be able to write, and thus to become known through their writings, whereas lay persons were only known through more direct contact; thus more recorded information about their life would be available (especially important in cases when the cause for canonization was taken up only many years after the person's death), and there would be more people interested in and supporting the person's canonization.

Supporting this argument, those lay persons who were well-known, and who had more persons interested in their canonization; either on account of their position, as in the case of royalty (St. Edward the Confessor, St. Louis of France, Bl. Karl of Austria), or on account of mystical experiences or visions (e.g., St. Catherine of Genoa, Bl. Anna Maria Taigi), have been, in comparison with their small numbers, relatively frequently canonized.

Biography of married saints

Some books have been devoted to biographies of married saints. John F. Fink has compiled a biography of twenty-four married saints (the link is to the description at the publisher, Alba House. The book may also be purchased at Amazon). These twenty-four saints do include several who were canonized for other reasons, such as St. Thomas More, canonized as a martyr.

A book by Ferdinand Holbock describes briefly the lives of over 200 married saints and blesseds: Married Saints and Blesseds: Through the Centuries.

62 thoughts on “Married Saints – Why so few?”

  1. On the non sainthood of laity, I would suggest a 4th reason which for me is the most telling: the sexual impulse was seen until very recently as concupiscence not as part of love. John T. Noonan in his book "Contraception" (Harvard Press 1965) examined such issues century by century and if your seminary has a copy, page 496 notes that Casti Connubii 1930 was the first magisterial document that linked love and sex: a concept incipiently found in John Gury and Tomas Sanchez centuries before but seminal only and then in the outer world prior to 1930 and in Catholic circles by Von Hildebrand in lectures from 1925 (see page 495). Prior to that its positive aspect was generation and its negative aspect was that its impulse was not love mixed with concupiscence but simply concupiscence (Augustine even noted that it was excused by the sacrament). Add to that Aquinas' comment that it was the greatest pleasure on earth and ergo… married couples having access to the greatest pleasure on earth was not enough self sacrifice to warrant canonization. Hence marrieds had to be killed or widowed in order to qualify. Aquinas should have actually asked long marrieds if it was the greatest pleasure on earth at all stages of life… but apparently he did not.

  2. This 4th reason is not entirely separate from the three reasons I gave, but would support each of them to a certain degree. I would note that Leo XIII's Arcanum implies the connection you mention, though it is certainly not explicit.

    1. I was thinking of more recently by “modern”. But also, they weren’t canonized as a married couple, which is what I was referring to. Each of them was canonized separately. He was canonized in 1622, she in 1697 (or beatified). There are a number of other cases of this, where each spouse was canonized separately.

      1. I would add to that canonisation of married couples would not necessarily mean simultaneous canonisation by virtue of being married to each other. It would rather focus on how the couple, each in his and her way first, then as a couple, were able to live the faith and have "won the crown" (ref. St. Paul).

    1. Of course she was. However, she also was, and remained a virgin. And she was not honored as the holiest of all the saints by reason of her married life with Saint Joseph, but as the Mother of God. As I pointed out at the beginning of the post, most married persons who have been canonized have not been canonized precisely as married persons, but as martyrs, or as religious or widows. This applies to the utmost extent to Mary, hailed as "bride and maiden ever pure" in, e.g., the Byzantine Akathist. In the development of honor to the Blessed Virgin Mary, her virginity was generally more of a reason for her being honored than her marriage was, and her motherhood of God far more than her virginity.

      1. I wish to comment on this, that in centuries past, great emphasis was laid on martyrdom, during the persecution of believers,and on religious life, out of the influence of religious orders and consecrated life for that matter. This could explain why married people would get into religious orders after the death of their spouses. The challenges of the modern world are different today. Faith is still the same, ts principles do not chane, God is unchanging yet our living the faith today is through different faith experiences.
        It would be a challenge then to await spouses to enter religious orders after the death of their spouses at a time when it is a challenge to even get vocations into the same orders from young people. However, a saintly life is still expected of the married by Christ. There are definitely couples who have lived their lives in utmost love (and the key is love), who have witnessed to faithful love even though they remain uncanonised. "Many who the Church has, GOd does not have and many who God has, the Church does not have."

  3. OK. Mary did not stay a virgin. She had 4 sons at least besides Jesus. And sisters too. Mark 6:3. Don't believe everyone. Look it up yourself. Blessings to you.

    1. That object was actually first answered at least 1700 years ago. The term used in your translation of Mark 6:3 is used in the Greek translation of the Scriptures known and used by the Apostles to describe more distant relatives than brothers, such as Abram and Lot (Gen 13:8).

      James and Joses in Mark 6:3 are not the sons of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, but the sons of Mary, the sister (or sister-in-law) of Mary the Mother of Jesus, and her husband Alpeus, or Clopas, making them cousins of Jesus. See Mark 15:40,47, 16:1, Mat 10:3, Mat 27:56, John 19:25. On your account, one would have to say that Mark repeatedly refers to Jesus's Mother as "Mary the mother of James and Joses" without any reference to her being also the mother of Jesus.

  4. But why is it that there are almost NO married saints who did not live lives of married continence? The Quattrochis, the Martins, etc. all gave up sexual relations almost immediately after child-bearing. And if you read the Lives of the Saints, those who were married usually at some point decided to give up relations, or were in a sexless marriage in the first place. Some even had children, but their writings and private revelations show a severe distaste for marital relations (Bridget of Sweden, Gregory of Nyssa).

    This makes me uncomfortable, but it seems like that's just how it is. I just get the impression that holiness implies that couples must be continent – certainly the Fathers thought couples should aim for "knocking it off" at some point – and yet there's almost no spiritual director alive who would actually ADVISE that nowadays. So can couples who have normal, healthy, and joyful relations be holy? If so (I think they can be holy), why does the tradition of the Church not reflect, and seems to actually deny it?

    1. I have not heard anything about the Martins giving up sexual marital intercourse after child-bearing, and rather doubt that they did. Zelie Martin died just three years after the birth of her last child. There may be a confusion of time here. At the beginning of their marriage, they did not have sexual intercourse (which likely had something to do with the fact that each of them had had a desire to be a monk/nun, but were not able to, in each case possibly or partially due to poor health), but after 10 months were told by a confessor/spiritual director that they should have children.

      The Quattrochis are said to have given up sexual intercourse after 20 years of marriage for the last 25 years. I wasn't able to entirely verify this, which is one reason I didn't mention it in the post. It may also be connected to the fact that Maria had complications during her fourth pregnancy (Placenta previa according to one biography), was given a 5% chance of survival if she continued with the pregnancy, and was recommended to have an abortion (the doctors apparently also considered the chances of the baby surviving very low, but I haven't seen an estimate). She refused, gave birth to a healthy baby, and survived. It may be that the couple gave up sexual relations at that time for the sake of Maria's life and the good of the family (which would also be sometimes recommended by spiritual directors now in similar cases–if a potential pregnancy were to surely involve almost certain death for the mother, it would almost always be better, if possible, to abstain from intercourse rather than to seek to avoid pregnancy by NFP), and only later made a decision to do so for the rest of their marriage for a more immediately spiritual motive.

      I'll say more about the general tendency later.

      1. I never knew that about the Quattrochis … thanks. I'd like to see you address this more, though, because it does seem to be a common factor among married saints. And like I said, just about any orthodox priest one talks to on the matter would say to follow 1 Corinthians and do not go in this direction, as it would be presumptuous and possibly spiritually dangerous.

        I just wonder why so many medieval married saints and others almost always seemed to give up or detest relations. Saints like Gregory of Nyssa or Bridget of Sweden cannot be said to have a good attitude about sex itself (Bridget prayed at her husband's graveside to forget him completely,lest she remember the 'carnal pleasure'). And far be it from me to knock them – they are in Heaven and I am not, and they both achieved a perfection of virtue that puts me to utter shame.

        I just wonder how that jives with the Church's actual teaching and theology of sex and marriage.

        Merry Christmas, by the way!

        1. In order to avoid a very long and difficult to follow comment thread, as well as on account of the fact that for a long time I haven't had opportunity to post on this blog, I have written a post that makes a beginning of addressing some of these questions, though it is far from completing answering them.

  5. Yes, which is why books like "Married Saints" don't help very much AT ALL, because they all . There are almost no examples of Saints with normal married lives except for St. Gianna Molla, who died in childbirth. There were even several saints who *hated* sex, it seems, like St. Bridget of Sweden and her visions, which are very disturbing in that area.

    I do not doubt the Church's judgment that these people were Saints and are now in Heaven – but I really want to see Mr. Bolin's take on this. Can married people who live a normal conjugal life be holy enough to be Saints, and why does it seem that the record of the Saints implies that sex is an impediment to holiness, even among the married?

  6. 18th april 2011:
    betrothed fiance:andrew j.b.hastie
    engaged fiancee:jodie a.c. foster
    proposal documentation:saints to be married
    church:baptist anabaptist separatist protestant

    1. Though you merely give basic data without commenting on it, if I understand it correctly, you are saying that those to be married are already saints. This is using the term "saint" in a different meaning than in the post, unless you are implying that you have already attained the goal of perfect conformity to Christ, though St. Paul had not: "Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own" (Philippians 3:12).

  7. It is a striking irony, isn't it: We have a sacrament for marriage, whereas religious life is entered by vows (which can be dispensed), yet by far most canonized saints are religious, not married laity. If religious life is a more sure means to holiness, why does it not deserve a sacrament? Just sayin.

    I would stack up the rigors of marriage to the rigors of celibate religious life any day. I have known religious and clergy who were previously married (spouses died, etc.), and they all testified to me that married life was harder than celibate life. Not that either is easy (is there any easy path in life?), but the demands for self-sacrifice are unending in marriage. As for Aquinas and his comment about sex being the highest pleasure on earth, well, after ten years of having sex with the same person, couples universally testify that sex becomes a challenge of love, not an easy source of pleasure!

    I would say the fact of canonized saints being mostly religious must be due to the ability to collect evidence for the procedure. Religious and priests live pretty public lives, with numerous witnesses to how they live their lives. Married couples raising children, up until this day and age anyway, led lives that the historical records have a hard time tracking.

    Anyway, we shouldn't overstate the importance of it all. We should be focused on leading lives of love, not feeling like second-class members of the Church because of who is or isn't canonized.

  8. I agree with you that marriage is a challenge, but because of that it is perfect context to become a Saint.

    I also agree that it is a long procedure to prove someone was a Saint, religous and priests are part of an organization that does the paperwork to Canonize the Saint.

    Us married couples would have to rely on our children to do the procedure to be canonized, with four teens I feel this is very hard, because even though us parents in many cases have rightness of intent when we correct and form our children, they do not seem to think so.

    But there is good news for married couples, the process of beatification of several couples has started and when they are Saints of our Universal Church, they will lead the way for others.

    As you say let's not do the metrics on who has been canonized. Lets struggle to have God centered lives. Remember the best canonization is being with HIM eternally.

    Thanks, Maria

  9. I have been wondering about this too. I know the marriage state is holy but I cant get over the whole sex thing. I just have a difficult time seeing it as good. It only seems good to me if it is for the sake of procreating children. If the couple has sex for any other reason it seems bad to me. Trying to comprehend how it can be holy besides for the sake of children?

    True love to me is to be brothers and sisters to all your fellow christians. That the only difference between friendship and the marriage state is begetting children. This is the only way I can think of it in a holy way.

    1. Mirriam, you can read any Catholic teaching on the matter for the past 150 years or more, including papal encyclicals.

      Marriage is a sacrament and is holy even for those who cannot conceive.

      You seem to assume that sex is de facto bad and must be "excused" by procreation. This is NOT what the Catholic Church teaches. Period.

      And actually your "for any other reason seems bad to me" is contrary to scripture.

      1. Just to clarify, I'm not saying that the Church teaches that marriage and sex are bad. I'm saying that negativity towards marriage and sex is very much a part of Catholic culture, just as negativity towards alcohol and parties is a part of Protestant culture.

    2. In many ways, I wish I could speak to your heart and make you understand.

      The conjugal love of a husband and wife is meant to reflect the Trinity, and that intimate union of love. Yes, you are correct, it is to be open to the begetting of new life… Just as the love of Father and Son inspirated the Holy Spirit, so should the love of Husband and Wife be open to life…. that is why the Church stands so strong against abortion and contraception. Abortion and contraception is not Trinitarian.
      But the fact is, that that intimate union of Husband and wife is desired by God to build up friendship and love for its own good to be sure, just so they can enjoy their love, BUT also they can face the difficulties of life together.
      Marriage is one of those way-cool gifts from God.

  10. I think it has very little to do with sex.

    It has a lot to do with the fact that it is harder by far to track the life of a person outside of religious life.
    For even a religious: all known correspondence must be gone through. All facets of life are examined. All documents are gone through. All significant contacts are questioned. This is very difficult with a lay person… more so than with a religious.
    In addition, there must be someone to champion a person as a saint. Again, it is difficult to find someone in religious life to do that… it is even more difficult among lay people.

    The Catholic Church does not consider sexuality within marriage in any sense evil. It has much to say about it only because when it is abused, it is devastating. That in itself is not a factor about canonization of a saint.

  11. One more thought…
    Recently, in my diocese there was a nun whose body was found incorrupt as it was exhumed while renovating a chapel… No one pursued canonization for her even though an incorrupt body is a good reason to pursue it… no one could trouble themselves to champion the cause… or perhaps it was so long ago, no one remembers enough about her.
    These kinds of issues are even more difficult with lay people.

  12. Reading this and the comments that follow is very depressing. I am strongly called to the married state, yet I sit here and am crying my eyes out because it seems holiness is only attainable in a religious state – or is only publicly recognized as such. I don't want what is supposed to be a Sacrament to separate me from God! And many of the married saints I've read about were either widowed and became religious, were martyred as laity if married (and only canonized for their martyrdom), or separated with the blessing of their spouses to become religious or live as recluses! I am very torn right now and just knowing this is so very troubling! Why would Marriage even be a Sacrament if it's nearly impossible to recognize the State of Holiness it calls for! Why would so many saints look with disgust on sex when God Himself created it – as the Church teaches – to bring us closer to Heaven and to be a "foretaste of the joys of Heaven?" My soul is so very disturbed right now.

    1. As I was preparing for this feast of Louis and Marie-Zelie Martin, I was looking around the Internet trying to discover how many of the Martins are on their way to Canonization. Therese is canonized. Obviously Louis and Marie-Zelie are on otheir way, and I think two other sisters are as well. But I stumbled onto something that I thought would be appropriate to talk about.
      One blog asked the question, why are there so few married saints in the Catholic Church? And you can take a wild guess as to what was discussed first. S-E-X. All I can do is role my eyes. No, this is not the reason that so few married saints are canonized.
      But please consider what it does take to be canonized. All known correspondence such as letters is examined. All writings are examined (now think about that in terms of John Paul II or Benedict XVI). Every facet of a person’s life is examined. All significant friends and contacts are questioned. Were there any miracles attributed to this person during their lifetime; this must be examined.
      In addition to this, there must be someone to champion a person as a saint and request this person be examined by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, and someone must champion it through the course of the inquiry.
      Add to it, the canonization process can take centuries. Mother Theresa and John Paul and even Louis and Marie-Zelie are rarities… and they would be centuries long processes – especially in the case of John Paul II with all that he wrote during his life – if Benedict XVI had not dispensed with some of the usual protocols – and Benedict XVI is much more conservative in this regard than John Paul II ever was.
      This is difficult enough with a person in religious life. Let me give an example: recently, in this diocese there was a nun whose body was found incorrupt as it was exhumed while renovating a chapel. While bodily incorruption by itself is not considered a miracle for sainthood, it is a reason to start an investigation. But in the case of this nun, no one pursued canonization for her even though an incorrupt body is a good reason to pursue it… whether it was because no one could trouble themselves to champion the cause or if it was because the person lived so long ago, no one remembers enough about her, I cannot tell you. But no one will champion her, and thus, we are left without a possible saint to ponder.
      As you can see, this process is difficult enough when it is a religious, and there is an order or a diocese to push that canonization through a centuries’ long process. How much more difficult do you suppose it to be with a lay person?
      So why are there fewer saints? Sadly enough, the logistics for a layperson to be canonized is just not there, especially to carry it through centuries. If one of you is looking for a good ministry, and I say this with sincerity, build the Church an organization that will responsibly and within the confines of Church Teaching see to the process of canonizing lay saints, you would be doing the Church a great ministry. Lay saints are out there, and we need to keep these souls in our minds and hearts as examples of how to live in this world… the mechanism for canonization of lay people is simply not there to make it happen. That is sad.

      1. Sad, yes, but that is not my concern. My concern is with the very teachings of these Saints against marriage (from other blogs on this subject), and the seeming duplicity of raising Marriage to a Sacrament while saying it's better to be single and religious! How am I to reconcile these two notions? The Church teaches that to degrade one is to degrade the other, and to elevate one is to elevate the other, but how can I believe that if the Saints themselves do not speak or act in such a way? To the Saints, marriage is a hindrance, and only for those who are weak? What? How insulting! Even if they only speak on their own behalf and about their own experiences, they speak in a way that teaches. Several Saints even refused to recommend marriage, as if it were bad! Saints who were married were disgusted with sex, and only used it to have children. How am I supposed to reconcile their examples with the teachings of the Church regarding the Sacredness of Sex?? Why even bother calling a person to the married life if the examples of the Saints themselves dictate that Marriage does not lend itself to a holy enough state of being? The recognized married Saints were canonized because of their martyrdom and faith, and not with any possible holiness associated with their married state. Worse still are the examples set by Saints who were married but left married life to "become more holy!" I now look on the contradicting statements of St. John Chrysostom as words to placate the laity to whom he preached. And the teachings of the Catholic Church regarding the "Sacrament" of Matrimony? Pretty words that don't match the reality of the Lives of the Saints She canonized! This whole troubling matter makes me, in the spirit of rebellion, want to refuse completely to answer the call to married life. But I refuse to join the religious life. It's not my calling, and I have no desire to make it my calling. What are we to do? You suggestion to set up a ministry to look for lay saints is good, but it does nothing to reconcile the words of the Saints of the Church themselves. Father, what are we with this horrible calling to do?

        1. Carmen,

          It is interesting to see that comments on this thread have gone for years between people. Wow! I have noticed you haven't commented in a while

          Please look to the book "Divine Likeness: Towards a Trinitarian Anthropology of the Family" by Cardinal Marc Ouellete – specifically read page 99 – I believe this could help a ton. It is deep theologically though.

          Just to make an overall point – sometimes saints get things wrong…. and the holiest of people will even speak popular opinion of their comrades. Remember the celibate state was often at need to be defended against society, not the married state – it is rarer to see a defense for the logic of getting married against celibacy, so this can account for strong language. However, the POINT – the Church really is only getting around now to developing the sanctity within the married state AND the fact that the family is not only an evangelized community but an evangelizing community. Every pastoral movement comes from a prior theological movement (and I think it is okay to say that the Church has lacked this development theologically, but is getting there now). Marc Ouellet is a great example (as is Angelo Scola) of driving this forward – we shall see many married saints in the future and will hear words of the saints praising marriage!

      2. Dear Father,
        I believe no saints wanted themselves to be honored on Alter.In fact,many of them wanted to be less known in this world.Sanctity is not some thing craved to be considered by men, but by God.I do believe that there will be more saints in Heaven among the laity than religious.There is every possibility that at least one of the parents if not both, of a Saint is recognized as Saint,in most cases by GOD.Is God's recognition not enough?

        1. "I believe no saints wanted themselves to be honored on Alter.In fact,many of them wanted to be less known in this world.Sanctity is not some thing craved to be considered by men, but by God.I do believe that there will be more saints in Heaven among the laity than religious.There is every possibility that at least one of the parents if not both, of a Saint is recognized as Saint,in most cases by GOD.Is God's recognition not enough?"

          This comment just appeared to me via e-mail… so at least part of my answer is that the recognition of saints has nothing to do with the saint themselves. Their veneration does not in anyway effect them. The veneration of saints is for our good. They — as the Eucharistic Preface tells us — spur us on to victory.
          As to there being more "lay saints" than those of the canonical life. That is likely true. First there are more Christians of the married state, and second, any consecrated person takes a few risks that go along with their consecration — they are a Christian for their sake; they are consecrated for the sake of others, and the weight on their shoulders is huge.
          A lay person has a similar weight in their children and the work of bringing them up to be good solid people. But the effect of a bad priest ripples enormously. Consider the effect of the sad scandal.

          Your point is well taken, though.

  13. First, I do not agree that all married saints are as you say. Again consider who is going to be stand the test of time: the ones with religious institutions behind them?
    There are some men and woman who are saints who lived their vocations in marriage very well. St. Louis IX, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Zoe and Louis Martin (parents of Therese).
    And I say this BECAUSE there is no one in the married community to hold up a married woman or man as: this is how to live Marriage in Christ. There is a couple in my acquaintance that I would elevate… but who would take over when I die?
    If I could change your mind on this, I would… BUT…

    All the saints that I personally hold as examples do not think marriage and consecrated life are at odds or have one as better than another. Ambrose of Milan has said: if you want marriage to be venerated, venerate virginity. If you want religious life to be venerated, venerate marriage.
    Everything I have seen in watching hundreds of couples is that when married life is strong, good solid priestly vocations spring up… that couple I would bring up as saintly proves that.
    The two rise and fall together. Without respect for one, the other is badly weakened. Both marriage and consecrated life is in the dumper — why: we respect neither as Ambrose of Milan warned us.
    John Paul II was a HUGE proponent of Marriage…
    Vatican II calls it the domestic Church…
    It is selfishness and a lack of respect that has destroyed both vocations in the world.

    To deal with your question specifically:
    The vocation of Marriage is offered for the sake of the husband and wife to love each other into heaven. The Grace offered is for that mission. Marriage is meant so that the couple might live out original nakedness as did Adam and Eve. It is meant to be a foretaste of paradise.
    You asked so: that is how to live the vocation so as to become a saint.
    The biggest danger in this vocation is that it is much more difficult to withdraw to that place of Christ; it is easier to loose sight of Christ. Elizabeth of Hungary once said: I love that man (her husband), but I would not pray for him one second longer if Jesus would not let me. Her secret was detachment. This is what St. Paul is warning about. Detachment is more difficult in the married state.
    [Priesthood has its own particular dangers.]

    How are you suppose to live out this highly important calling of marriage. (1) By believing that without you, I cannot exist. No saint would criticize that Truth. The two absolutely rise and fall together. (2) By living out your vocation to love your husband into heaven and by allowing original nakedness — the complete sharing of self with the other… as Christ loves the Church as St. Paul tells us in Ephesians. Share self: emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and physically… that is total and complete original nakedness. Obviously we need Christ's Grace to do this. (3) By real detachment, as Elizabeth of Hungary explained. Detachment did not mean she did not miss her husband or did not love him or did not enjoy the blisses of marriage. It meant Christ-first. Marriage was Christo-centric. (4) By recognizing that what I said was true: that there are married saints who did do well exactly as the vocation was outlined. The Church in her human weakness cannot keep track of them as they should. There are some: but as you see: these men and women had the all important backing across centuries to make it to the calendar.

    No saint in the world would criticize what I have said: without you the dignity of my vocation does not exist; without virginity, the dignity of your vocation is lost. The world is proving that day in and day out.

    Please believe in your great saintly dignity. It takes detachment which is not as easy in marriage… but then I have my own pitfalls to be on guard over. 🙂 🙂 🙂

  14. Thank you, Father. I already understood all this, but your words set me at ease. Still, some of the harsh quotes (at least that's how I read them) from some of these Saints are troubling. It does make me want to learn more about what made them tick.

    I have been thinking about your suggestion for a Ministry of Lay Saints. I think the lack of publicly recognized lay saints and married saints (who were canonized for the sake of the holiness of their marriages) is a sad state of affairs and fails to give a complete picture of the Church and the Communion of Saints in Heaven. If only, if only.

    Something I say (and have considered putting on my dating profile) is: the moment a man takes me away from Christ is the moment I walk away. I guess great minds think alike. Now to get to Heaven. Oy vey!

    One thing: I'm familiar with a married saint who agreed with her husband to separate in order to grow in holiness. My question is this: why did she think it would be better to separate to become holy when the very Sacrament is designed to bestow Grace and thus make a couple Holy? (This attitude is persistent, by the way).

  15. And I finally found one who was a lay woman and a loving wife! Finally, a Saint who those called to the Vocation of Marriage can imitate!

    Finally, a truly exemplary witness of the Graces provided in the Sacrament of Matrimony. Now, where are all the Others hiding in our vast history as human and as a Church?

  16. Oh heaven, why did I not remember Gianna Molla… maybe I did not remember so that you would find her yourself. 😀 😀 😀

    [I think the lack of publicly recognized lay saints and married saints (who were canonized for the sake of the holiness of their marriages) is a sad state of affairs and fails to give a complete picture of the Church and the Communion of Saints in Heaven. If only, if only.]
    Of this, there is no doubt.

    [One thing: I'm familiar with a married saint who agreed with her husband to separate in order to grow in holiness. My question is this: why did she think it would be better to separate to become holy when the very Sacrament is designed to bestow Grace and thus make a couple Holy? (This attitude is persistent, by the way).]
    Without knowing who it was: it could be because that was what God called her to, and marriage was a mistake… you know: arranged marriages and all of that. It could be that it was God's plan. It could have been a mistake. After all, Therese's parents thought this way and planned for a celibate chaste marriage until a priest told them… ummm, no, I do not think so. And in fact, if she entered into this state freely and forced the man into this [or vice versa], she would be sinning and not growing holy.
    Celibate chastity is never to separate someone from others; it is to free them to love others. AND AND AND… if her husband needed her and she forced it upon him (again vice-versa), it would be very, very wrong because she MADE the commitment to love him.
    And some people need the one on one affection to know God, and to be able to go outside one's self, to see outside of one's self. The Lord has been calling me to the priesthood since the age of 7 — but the love of young woman showed me to love outside of myself. {AND for anyone else reading this, I fully believe in the celibately chaste priesthood… it frees me to love others} And then the couple who is saintly showed me how to love outside myself with nothing in return. I would not have grown in love without my priesthood… BUT BUT BUT
    The Lord uses a variety of means to draw us outside of our selves. For you, it may be to love a husband and children… for you it may requires those levels of intimate giving at mental, spiritual, physical. They are God's gift to you so that you in turn at the Mass may offer up those gifts to God right alongside the bread and wine to be Eucharistized.

    [Something I say (and have considered putting on my dating profile) is: the moment a man takes me away from Christ is the moment I walk away.] That will make for a good marriage.

    More discussion: feel free to write more.

    1. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful…….thank you with all my heart. 'Loving outside myself' yes I definitely needed to learn this. What a wonderful insight. God bless you Father!

  17. A couple more thoughts: do not cry your eyes out. It is up to you and God to figure out how best to get you into heaven — to be that saint you want to be. No one, not St. Paul, not Pope John Paul… can determine that best course for you.

    Pray to your Guardian Angel to help you in this pursuit. He can help you find the man who you are to fulfill this saintly vocation with.

    Do not cry your eyes out. It could be your saintly marriage will produce a whole family of saints like the Martin's did? And who would ever, ever… I mean EVER say that was the wrong vocation for the Zoe and Louis Martin.

    It is you and God's time as far as figuring out which way you should become a saint. You can do it; you have to want it. You have to want it so bad that you will be humble to God's Grace to live out this love He offers to you and through you.

  18. My husband and I (both cradle Catholics) have been married 42 years and have 7 children. I came to this blog while searching for "married saints." While I appreciate the difficulty the church has had through the years in "proving" sainthood and realize it is easier for religious, there is definitely a need in our day for holy role models in the married state. I can attest to the heroism needed to sustain a loving relationship over a lifetime and nurture all the children God sends. Only God's grace can accomplish it. If anyone decides to write a book profiling such "saints in the making" of our time, a book that is sorely needed to encourage all of us in this difficult vocation, I think an excellent title would be "Living Naked." Thanks Fr. Tim!

  19. Married Saints and Blesseds Through the Centuries.

    Here is an excellent text on Married saints… I gave this to my brother and his wife and have a copy my self.

    And a less useful source, but still kind of neat, Anne Ball's work.

  20. Good grief – I was looking to see if a mom had ever been canonized and I ran across this. Really glad I'm a recovering RC. This is all so over analyzed. Sure sounds like a bunch of guys got together and came up with some convoluted game plan. Is there a graphic process flow to go with this? Parents who raise ethical, moral, responsible humans are all saints. That in itself is a miracle.

    1. What do you mean by "over analyzed"? Do you mean that you have a simpler answer to the question?

      Or do you mean that you don't care much about the question or the answer? If so, that is fine, but some people do care a lot; for some people the issue is an important one, and demands a careful, considered answer.

      1. Life is not this complicated. If you look towards your first person who directed all of this, Jesus, he kept it simple. Look at the gear that all of the priests wear from priest to pope — it is all flamboyant and complicated. Churches are ornate and ostentatious. Please don't tell me "greater glory of God" that is a catechism answer. When did God tell anyone that she/he needed this. I'm saying, when we look at people, we don't need complicated formulas for figuring out who the good guys are. Also, I see in the next post that only married mothers & fathers can be part of the "good" guys. It is all so much patriarchal nonsense.

  21. No one has ever said there are not parents/married mothers and fathers who are not what is called little 's' saints who the Church has no knowledge of. We celebrate them on All Saints Day, November 1st.

  22. I would love to have a sincere pleasant conversation about your anger with the Church, or her call to holiness. But there is a lot underlying anger on this entry, and my experience is that nothing good comes from such a discussion. But I wish I could heal what is there, and I wish I could have an intelligent and fruitful discussion with you.
    As someone who attempts to live frugally and simply, I have sympathy for the old maxim: lots of gold, few Miracles; little gold, lots of Miracles.
    May you find the way to true Charity.

  23. Thanks – I have already found my way to charity and one does not need a religion/church to do so. Yes, I am angry with the church. It is very mentally/psychologically abusive today and perpetrated the same abuse when I was growing up as a female. I'm 70 years old. It took me a long time to recover. I started out in this thread seeing if the church ever had mom's as saints and it segued down this path. I'm glad that you seem to be happy in you delusion. My husband and I have raised 2 very ethical, compassionate, responsible children who are doing the same with their children without steeping them in some mythological entrapment that Constantine and his henchmen modeled on the worship of Mithras.

  24. I wonder if I could ask: what is the role of misogyny in the "lack of married saints" discussion. I feel that to leave it out might be a major oversight in this discussion. It also connects to the many questions being asked in regards to sex=bad theology/saint lives.

    Just one theologian to another….

  25. That is a fair question. It is nearly midnight, so I do not have time to do thorough check my databases… tonight.
    A cursory glance seems to show that there are even fewer married male saints then there are married female saints. The male married saints that are listed, if memory serves, tends to be kings, or martyrs such as St. Thomas More.
    The married female saints tended to be more like St. Monica, or Dr. Saint Gianna Molla, or even a mix such as St. Brigit of Sweden.
    And there are lots more saints in the queue from the massive number Pope John Paul II brought before the Church's eyes.
    I would be a fool to pretend that misogyny is not likely — particularly in certain centuries. I probably ought to add a couple more indexes to the databases to show male/female and from there laity/religious.
    I will do this, and get back to this blog. It probably will take some time, being that we are nearing Christmas…

  26. I have been working through as time allows to see the breakdown:
    Male to Female:
    It would appear among those associated with the clergy/religious life, there are more men.
    HOWEVER: among the married, there appear to be more women. But as I said, unlike men, women who have married also enter religious life after their husbands died, so we have a mix.
    I still need to complete the examination. My databases were not set up for male versus female… because there are angels mixed in, promulgation of major documents, major events in Church History…
    The database was meant to help with homilies and not to answer this question. I have an idea to help this dicussion, but it will take a few days to make it work, and as you can imagine, this is not exactly my priority in the parish.

  27. I have been reluctant to answer to the soul who is so angry with the Church about the [mythological entrapment that Constantine and his henchmen modeled on the worship of Mithras.]
    But I also recognize a need to answer to this before others for fear that the think I do not have an answer to this error.
    I say this not to further enflame your anger; it is my wish that I could speak to you and heal this rift.
    To answer to this challenge laid before Holy Mother Church, I point ALL who wonder about this to the earliest of Church documents, documents LONG before Constantine…. Documents on the Eucharist, Documents on how the Church was laid out, Documents on certain teachings, and you will very quickly that the Holy Mother Church holds as true can be found in her earliest Documents, either in its fullness, or in seminal form. If you go to Fr. Michael Witt's web site, you will find Early Church History… He has quite a number of good talks on the subject, and provides to anyone interested MANY names of the original Church documents showing that if the Church were collapse today, if we have these earliest documents, Documents by Apostles, Documents written during the period of Special Revelation, we would still have the Roman Catholic Church. In fact, that is one of the MAJOR themes of Monsignor Witt's talks.
    I do not expect you to believe me: listen to Fr. Witt, pick up the documents and read them: you will see the Truth.
    In point of fact, the documents are so Catholic, the original Protestant rebels accused the Church have having written them later. Modern dating the documents prove they are written when the Church said they were: before Constantine.
    To the soul who laid down this challenge, again I say this not specifically to you for I have no desire to alienate you further, I answer to all who follow and read this blog. Your thesis is incorrect. Read those documents: the documents of the Apostles, and Early Church Fathers; the Church has its foundations in the Apostalic Period

  28. Wow! I have been struggling lately with sainthood/suffering within the married state. The thing is I am married to an incredibly holy man, and we have three young children and our goal has always been to protect our children's vocations…to build a home together that fosters vocations and upholds the teachings of the Church. We truly, truly pray for this each night! But I am so overwhelmed with fear, now that I am a mother, I have encountered so many tragedies within families close to ours…that I find myself begging God to spare my child any fatal suffering. Isn't this selfish of me? And I pray constantly to St. Joseph to protect our family, to keep tragedy far from us…to live a long, holy life with my husband who (I know, I need to work on detachment) but I love him so much I just cannot imagine living without him. So I'm really confused because I KNOW there is no way I or any of us could ever achieve sainthood with this mentality. Can we? For, what saint ever prayed for a longer life on this earth? Or to actually be spared tragedy? It seems to me that all the saints had so much tragedy and suffering….because that is the path to sainthood. I am so just wanting an ordinary, mundane, simple..yet HOLY life…is it possible to achieve heaven still? Those are the saints I'm in search of, but I'm having a hard time finding. I know Blessed Anna Maria Taigi led a pretty ordinary life and that is encouraging to me. Also, I pray the prayer of Tobias & Sarah often to "live to a ripe old age together and see our children's children's children" and they are considered holy, right??
    Stumbling upon this blog has been so helpful though, and reading all the comments really encouraging. Thank you, Fr. Tim for saying this " The Lord uses a variety of means to draw us outside of our selves. For you, it may be to love a husband and children… for you it may requires those levels of intimate giving at mental, spiritual, physical. They are God's gift to you so that you in turn at the Mass may offer up those gifts to God right alongside the bread and wine to be Eucharistize" I really needed to hear that! Please pray for me, for I am certainly not as brave as my patron saint but long for a quiet, holy life at home with my family.

    1. I think the one gift you could ask for is detachment… and detachment is not what the world thinks it is. You certainly can love your husband with great love, and your children.
      As I said above above St. Elizabeth of Hungary: I love that man (her husband), but I would not pray for him one second longer if Jesus would not let me. Her secret was detachment. Pray to be open to God's will whatever that might be, and the rest will flow.

      One other thought, the words of St. Padre Pio come to mind, 'People think that my day consists of miracles 25 hours a day out of 24…' The average day of a saint is NO DIFFERENT from yours. They live ordinary events with holiness.
      St. Thomas More, Blessed Zoe Martin, St. Elizabeth of Hungary lived 90% of their Faith in the common and everyday. This should be great hope to any one of us. Sainthood can be made in the extraordinary, but more often than not, it is lived in the ordinary. And in many cases, where we hear about extraordinary happenings to saints, like Perpetua tomorrow (3/7), they lived the ordinary life of a saint for many years before finally coming to the extraordinary.
      The best gift you can give your children as a parent is to live your married vocation well.
      Keep on keeping on by the Grace of God.

  29. Thank you very much, and I will pray for detachment! Just after I read your advice, I watched the second episode of the "Catholicism" series, and the message of that episode was about detaching ourselves from our own will and attaching ourselves to God's will…I know God isn't ironic, so I will certainly be intensifying my prayers! Thank you!

  30. Fr. Tim,

    Thank you very much for the explanations. I am leading Fr. Barron's "Catholicism" series and this exact discussion came about after the episode on Saints. I was able to give some rudimentary defense to some of the attacks posed by one particular participant – who has great difficulty, even dislike, for the priesthood, especially celibacy.

    Do you have a citation for St. Ambrose's quote about venerating virginity if you want marrige to be honored and vice versa? I'd love to be able to use it in our next class.

    Thank you and God Bless,

    I just typed in a long response, and it disappeared because of a bad e-mail address…

    [u]The quote is:[/u]
    Population increases in direct proportion to the esteem in which [u]virginity is held.
    [u]The document was:[/u]
    De Virginis…
    I think there was a snippet from that document in the Office of Readings from December — St. Lucy's Feast if memory serves. I do not think that quote is in though…
    [u]The context was:[/u]
    The saint was forced to refute the charge that he was depopulating the empire, by quaintly appealing to the young men as to whether any of them experienced any difficulty in finding wives. He contends, and the experience of ages sustains his contention (De Virg., vii) that the population increases in direct proportion to the esteem in which virginity is held.

    That certainly is proving out in our own society.
    Virginity is not at all honored. And as Ambrose points out: Marriage and children are not honored.

    Do you wish me to talk about priestly celibacy and the Signs?

  32. Great article. I found it while searching for information on the topic of Saints and the vocational percentages that make up canonised Saints. Anyone have any idea's?
    I would dearly like a ballpark figure on what percentage of Saints might have been Religious, Single, Married, Clergy?

  33. I have a saint database that I constructed, but I suspect it is somewhat skewed.
    You may wish to visit this site
    and speak to the operator here.
    He has a massive databased, and perhaps he can run statistics for you.
    If you are successful, please let me know; I am curious myself.

  34. There is really one main reason why there are so few canonized married saints, its the same reason that out of all the saints that the vast majority about 3/4 are men and why there were no women doctors of the church until 1970 (there are now 4 out of 35). Its that the nominating committee was and is male clerics-bishops,cardinals etc and they nominated their own-also they had higher visibility-if you follow the saint of the day in Magnificat, quite a few are from noble families or rich and disdain that and become a priest. Sainthood is sometimes bestowed to make a point, martyrdom, founded an order etc. There are far more married saints just not canonized or recognized by the Church and yes the Church may have had a hang up about sex in the past and used to see religious vocations as higher calling (no longer according to Catholic Catechism.) BTW Church which did not canonize any saints until 993.

  35. The biggest reason overall is NOT the male issue. The biggest reason is that there was no religious order to bird-dog and watch over and provide money to see through the canonization process over the centuries that it takes.
    As to Doctors of the Church, that is partially a male thing because it was males who did the preaching and teaching and writing. Fewer females wrote in the early centuries because they did not get the same kinds of education and so on as obviously priests, and priests less so than bishops, and so on. So that is a male thing in its origin. And you are also correct that a formal canonization process is a later phenomenon. When you look at the various databases on the subject, it was often times by consensus of the people who knew the person, and Graces received after death from the 'saint'.
    I would agree with you that there are a lot of married saints that simply have not been canonized. But again, unless you have a religious order to watch over and keep the cause alive OVER centuries, it is VERY difficult to be canonized. And few married saints have that kind of backing.
    I think the married issue has a lot more to with a lack of backing than anything else. I think somewhere above I said that a chapel here in my Diocese was renovating, opened a grave, and found a nun's body incorrupt. Nothing could be done because there was institutional memory of who she even was. One of the few saints to be canonized without any documentation, and entirely on her miracles is St. Philomena. So it is a rare happening to be canonized without someone having some kind of memory of the person.

  36. Oh… and I would also agree with you that in part, saints are sometimes canonized at a time and a place because it helps the Church in some way; that is true.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *