"There is no greater force against evil in the world," says Cardinal Raymond Burke, "than the love of a man and woman in marriage."
Keep in mind that marriage, as a sacrament instituted by Christ, is a reflection of the exchange of love between the three persons of the Blessed Trinity. Because of this, marriage is under attack, perhaps in a way that it has never been before.
We should pray for married couples, that they may receive abundant graces to live out their vocations in fullness. As married couples, we should turn to prayer each day to seek renewed strength and love from God. We should also celebrate Catholic weddings as a reverent and joyous occasion.
Do you know who the patron saint of marriage is?
Actually, that's a bit of a trick question, because there's more than one. Some are patrons of specific situations within marriage, which might make one of them in particular a very fitting intercessor for your needs:
St. Adelaide of Burgundy: Patron Saint of Second Marriages
Saint Adelaide, born around 931 AD, was daughter to the king of Burgundy and "one of the most influential women of 10th-century Europe." Her first husband, Lothair, is believed to have been killed by enemies of his throne. Later, it seems that Otto, the emperor of Germany, fell in love with Adelaide and married her. Together they had five children. She was widowed twice, since Otto would die long before she did. During the course of her life she was imprisoned, forced from her throne, held in solitary confinement, and treated with contempt by certain family members. Throughout all of this, she remained humble and gentle, giving her life to the Church and her people. She founded many monasteries and churches, and was overwhelmingly generous to the poor, even to the point of putting the kingdom's treasury at risk. She died on December 16, 999.
St. Gengulphus of Burgundy: Patron Saint of Difficult Marriages
Saint Gengulphus is a little-known saint who has been called a great miracle worker. He was a knight who served King Pepin the Short in the 8th century. One story told about the saint is how his sanctity was revealed to the king when a lamp continued to miraculously rekindle beside him as he slept. Though he was renowned for his great charity and piety, his own wife was unfaithful to him, and he was murdered at the hands of her lover. There aren't many details known about his life, but a certain Gonzo of Florence wrote that "This blessed Gengulphus daily performs among us so many remarkable miracles that, were he alive today, even the swift pen of the poet Thespis could not have described them individually." His feast day on the Roman calendar is May 11.
St. Joseph: Patron Saint of Married People
It will come as no surprise to us that we can turn to Saint Joseph as a patron of married couples. There isn't a better earthly exemplar of Saint Paul's teaching: "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her..." (Ephesians 5:25) Archbishop Fulton Sheen wrote a beautiful book called The World's First Love. In it there is a chapter called "The World's Happiest Marriage," in which he speaks of Joseph and Mary. "No husband and wife ever loved one another so much as Joseph and Mary..." writes Sheen. "But in the case of Mary and Joseph, there was no need of the symbol of the unity of the flesh, since they already possessed the Divinity." Theirs was a virginal marriage, but a true, happy marriage. And who doesn't want a happy, holy marriage? Turn to Saint Joseph as intercessor. He is said to be the most powerful saint in heaven after Our Lady. March 19 is the feast of Saint Joseph, Husband of Mary.
St. Monica: Patron Saint of Married Women
Saint Monica was born in the 4th century to a wealthy Christian family. They may not have been particularly devout, however, for when she came of age, they married her to a pagan Roman official, Patricius. He was infamous for his "violent temper" and "dissolute habits." Though irritated by Monica's faith and by her devotional practices, he did respect her. Saint Monica suffered greatly on behalf of the godless lifestyles of her husband as well as her son (who we now know as Saint Augustine!) but she wept, prayed, and fasted on their behalf, begging God for their conversion. Her prayers would be answered. Her husband was baptized a year before his death, and although it was much longer before Augustine converted, he would become one of the greatest saints in the Church. Almost everything that we know about Saint Monica we have learned from his classic book The Confessions of Saint Augustine. Her feast day is May 4.
St. Priscilla: Patron Saint of Good Marriages
Saint Priscilla and her husband Saint Aquila were Jewish converts to Christianity. It appears that their conversion was brought about when they met Saint Paul. We know about them from the Sacred Scriptures (read the Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 18 for starters) and here is something beautiful: their names are always mentioned together, never separately. This reveals the unity lived out in their marriage. They were tentmakers by trade (as was Saint Paul) and were some of the earliest Christian missionaries. They were martyrs for the Faith, and their feast day is celebrated on July 8.
St. Rita of Cascia: Patron Saint of Difficult Marriages
Saint Rita was born in Italy to devout parents in 1381. When she grew up, Rita desired to become a nun, but her parents arranged for her to marry a man named Paolo Mancini, with whom she would have two sons. It seems that Paolo was a complicated man (and there are varying accounts of his character) but we do know that Rita suffered during her marriage. Paolo was impetuous and had a fierce temper, and seems to have been irresponsible with gaming and debts. Violent conflicts between noble Italian families were common at this time, and Paolo was involved in these feuds. He was rough with Rita and may even have been physically abusive. In spite of all this, she exercised the virtues of patience and humility towards him, and was a truly loving and faithful wife and homemaker. Over time, her love, example, and prayers bore fruit, and Paolo's heart began to undergo conversion. (One biographer writes that he would become ashamed of his temper when it got the best of him, and rush out of the house, returning only when he had calmed down.) Paolo did have enemies, who eventually ambushed him and killed him. His sons wanted to avenge his death, but Rita tried to dissuade them; finally, she begged God even to take the lives of her sons rather than allow them to commit a mortal sin which would endanger their salvation. Both sons did pass away from an illness, and were prevented from acting in violence. Rita subsequently entered an Augustinian order of nuns. She died in 1457. Her feast day is May 22.
St. Thomas More: Patron Saint of Difficult Marriages
Saint Thomas More was born in England in 1478. He is a well-known and beloved saint who was a husband, father, statesman, and renowned lawyer. Sir Thomas was a just man who was both brilliant and blessed with innumerable talents. He married a gentlewoman by the name of Jane Colt. They had a four children, and theirs was a happy marriage; but sadly, she died very young. Thomas More married again. His second wife was Alice Middleton. Though she was of a different temperament than Jane, who was so quiet and meek, we are told that this second marriage was also a very happy one. Thomas More was a devoted husband and loving father. But why is he a patron saint of difficult marriages, if both his marriages were happy ones? The reason is due to his opposing King Henry VIII's divorce, which would eventually lead him down the path of martyrdom. After his trial, he was officially condemned to death for his refusal to acknowledge the king as the head of the Church in England. Saint Thomas More's feast day is June 22.
St. Valentine: Patron Saint of Happy Marriages
There is very little known about Saint Valentine, who lived in the 3rd century under the reign of Claudius Gothicus. It is understood that he was a priest (possibly even a bishop) who was martyred; his remains were buried along the Via Flaminia in Rome. Recent archaeological finds have proved that he lived: the remains of catacombs and a church dedicated to him have been unearthed. There are two legends as to why he was martyred, which might be due to the fact that there may have been more than one "Valentine" and their stories were mixed. One legend says that he was executed for giving aid to Christians. Another legend says that the emperor Claudius had banned marriage in order to obtain more soldiers for his army, since married men with wives and children would be less willing to die in battle. Thus it is said that Saint Valentine married couples in secret and was eventually found out. Various churches today have relics from him, including his skull. He was canonized in 496, but his feast was removed from the general Roman calendar in 1969 due to the resulting confusion of possibly three or four Valentines being treated as one person over the years. However, in various localities the Church still celebrates his feast day, which is, of course, February 14.
Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin
Saints Louis and Zelie Martin are the first married couple to be canonized together. They lived humble, ordinary lives, in which both suffering and joy played important parts. Together they bore nine children, but only five survived childhood. Each of these five daughters would eventually enter the religious life. One of them is well known to us: Saint Therese of Lisieux, called "The Little Flower." It is usually the case that we allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the lives of "great saints"; we feel that they are super-humans whom God has called in a special way, and that He does not mean for us to attain such a level of sanctity. But this is not the case. Simply by cooperating with God's grace in our particular state in life, we can be deeply purified and closely aligned to Our Lord and His loving will. Louis and Zelie are perfect examples for us. They faithfully fulfilled their roles as spouses and parents and through their quiet lives of love, service, and self-sacrifice, God brought them home to Himself. In his homily for their canonization Pope Francis said: "The holy spouses Louis Martin and Marie-Azélie Guérin practised Christian service in the family, creating day by day an environment of faith and love which nurtured the vocations of their daughters..." Although it has not been officially stated that they are patron saints of married couples, they are beautiful examples of the vocation of marriage expressed in all its fullness, and we can certainly imitate their virtues and seek their intercession. Their feast day is July 12.
...And Other Wonderful Saints
If you are reading this, and you are a single man or woman hoping to meet your future spouse, remember that there are patrons saints for you, too!
Saint Ann, the mother of the Virgin Mary, has long been a faithful intercessor for young women who pray for a husband. And Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra (who is usually forgotten outside of the Christmas season) is the patron of young people seeking a husband or wife. This is because of an incident in his own life in which he provided a dowry for three poverty-stricken sisters so that they could marry.
How many of the saints in this post were you familiar with already?
How many were new to you?
Do you have any stories of how the intercession of these holy men and women has been a blessing in your own life?
We'd love to hear from you!
This article has been updated and was originally published in October 2015. © The Catholic Company