“You cannot be half a saint. You must be a whole saint or no saint at all.”
~ St. Thérèse of Lisieux
On Nov. 1, the Church celebrates All Saints’ Day, a day where we honour all the saints throughout history who have gone before us to heaven.
The origin of All Saints’ Day dates back to May 609, when Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon in Rome to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Pope Gregory III changed the date to November 1 in the eighth century when he dedicated a chapel at the Vatican in honour of all the saints, and Pope Gregory IV later expanded this celebration of all saints to the universal church. As we prepare to honour these holy men and women, perhaps we can reflect on the examples they provided, turning to them for guidance and support in our lives and especially in our marriages.
In the Catholic faith, marriage is not merely a legal or social contract, but a sacred sacrament that holds profound spiritual meaning. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that marriage is a “covenant between baptized persons (that) has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament.”
Within the month of November, we reflect on the saints who have gone before us, but also all people, all souls, who have passed away. Most parishes have a Book of the Names of the Dead to write down the names of our family and friends to pray for during the month of November.
Within the sacrament of marriage, you are called to help get your spouse to heaven, so it is a good time of year to reflect on how to accomplish this task. In Matthew 5: 48, Jesus says, “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect”, implying that we are all called to sainthood.
Given that within marriage, there are two people who are human who make many mistakes, and sin, it is reasonable to expect that, as part of your calling to marriage, you have a duty to support your spouse in their quest for heaven. Since the saints are men and women who have been declared to be in heaven, they can be great witnesses for you on how to get to heaven since you know they have succeeded in getting there!
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, there is a beautiful explanation of what the communion of saints means. It says,“Communion with the saints. It is not merely by the title of example that we cherish the memory of those in heaven; we seek, rather, that by this devotion to the exercise of fraternal charity the union of the whole Church in the Spirit may be strengthened. Exactly as Christian communion among our fellow pilgrims brings us closer to Christ, so our communion with the saints joins us to Christ, from whom as from its fountain and head issues all grace, and the life of the People of God itself”: We worship Christ as God’s Son; we love the martyrs as the Lord’s disciples and imitators, and rightly so because of their matchless devotion towards their king and master. May we also be their companions and fellow disciples!” What saints do you know, or could you get to know, that could be companions to help bring you and your spouse closer to Christ?
There are many saints whose stories you can discover and possibly develop a relationship with. For example, St. Louis Martin and St. Zélie Martin are a married couple who were canonized together and are the parents of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. St. Zélie worked as a lace maker and St. Louis helped manage the business while St. Zélie worked from home while raising their children.
We can see from their life choices that they were both familiar with the struggles and blessings that come from balancing raising children and providing for their family. They also both experienced great suffering. In the end, St. Zélie died of breast cancer leaving behind her husband and five daughters, and St. Louis suffered from dementia and he was admitted to a psychiatric hospital. Yet they both lived their faith throughout their trials and suffering. Consider the wisdom of St. Zélie and St. Louis as you face the difficulties in your marriage, using their experiences as inspiration to draw nearer to Christ and fortify your marital bond.
Asking a saint to intercede for you means asking them to pray for you as you would ask a friend to pray for you. The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of how the intercession of saints occurs because “Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness… They do not cease to intercede with the Father for us, as they proffer the merits which they acquired on earth through the one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus … So by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped”.
There are so many other saints who were married whom you may turn to for their intercession and to learn from their examples:
- Gianna Molla was a physician and mother;
- Monica persistently prayed for her husband, which eventually led to his conversion;
- Adelaide of Burgundy, the patron of second marriages, was widowed twice;
- Thomas More was martyred after standing up against King Henry VIII for the sanctity of marriage;
- Joseph and Our Blessed Mother Mary, the parents of Jesus, faced many trials and graces through the pregnancy, birth and childhood of Jesus;
- Joachim and St. Anne were the grandparents of Jesus and the parents of Mary;
- Aquila and St. Priscilla were a married couple who hosted St. Paul in Corinth and joined him on his trip to Ephesus.
These are only some of the many married saints that exist. Can you and your spouse take some time to learn about one of these saints or other married saints and then ask for their intercession in your marriage? By the way, you can check out the links in the resources at the end of this article to learn more about each of these married saints.
As he was dying, St. Dominic said, “Do not weep, for I shall be more useful to you after my death and I shall help you then more effectively than during my life” and St. Thérèse of Lisieux said, “I want to spend my heaven in doing good on earth.” You can see from these saints that they knew and believed in the power of being able to intercede for us from heaven and the good that would come about from doing so. So, do not overlook the powerful gift of intercession offered to you by your heavenly brothers and sisters, and unite your spousal prayers with those of the communion of saints, employing all the help you can receive in getting each other to heaven.
There may be times when you struggle to see how you and your spouse may be getting to heaven and how you will ever be perfect. Know that you are in good company, as the saints weren’t perfect and sinned, with the exception of the Our Blessed Mother Mary but they remained faithful and continued to turn to God through their struggles. We hope this November as you celebrate All Saints Day and honour all the people who have gone before you in your family and friends; you are able to take some time to get to know some of the married saints and see how their example can help guide you and your spouse in your marriage.
-Melissa Guzik and Jean MacKenzie are registered psychologists who work in private practice in Edmonton. They are co-authors of the Catholic marriage enrichment book and workbook To Know, Love and Serve: A Path to Marital Fulfilment. For more information, see: www.knowloveserve.info.
 National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (2021). What is the Significance of All Saints Day? https://www.nationalshrine.org/blog/what-is-the-significance-of-all-saints-day/
 Catholic Church (1997). Catechism of the Catholic Church: Revised in accordance with the official Latin text promulgated by Pope John Paul II (2nd ed.). Washington, D.C.: United States Catholic Conference, 1601.
 Catholic Church (1997). Catechism of the Catholic Church: Revised in accordance with the official Latin text promulgated by Pope John Paul II (2nd ed.). Washington, D.C.: United States Catholic Conference, 957.
 Franciscanian Media (n.d.). Saints Louis Martin and Zélie Guérin. https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saints-louis-martin-and-zelie-guerin/
 McDonald, T. L. (2017). St. Louis Martin Novena: For depression, anxiety and mental disorders. Aleteia. https://aleteia.org/2017/11/09/st-louis-martin-novena-for-depression-anxiety-and-mental-disorders/
 Catholic Church (1997). Catechism of the Catholic Church: Revised in accordance with the official Latin text promulgated by Pope John Paul II (2nd ed.). Washington, D.C.: United States Catholic Conference, 956.
 John Paul II (2004). Gianna Beretta Molla (1922-1962). Libreria Editrice Vaticana. https://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/saints/ns_lit_doc_20040516_beretta-molla_en.html
 Franciscanian Media (n.d.). Saint Monica. https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-monica/.
 Peterson, L. (2017). St. Adelaide: This empress of the Holy Roman Empire is patroness of abuse victims. Aleteia. https://aleteia.org/2017/12/16/st-adelaide-this-empress-of-the-holy-roman-empire-is-patroness-of-abuse-victims/
 Letters from the Saints (2020). St. Thomas More: Martyr for the Unity of the Church and Marriage. https://www.lettersfromthesaints.com/blog/st-thomas-more-martyr-for-the-unity-of-the-church-and-marriage
 Franciscan Media (2023). Saints Joachim and Anne. https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saints-joachim-and-anne/
 Vatican News (2023). Sts. Aquila and Priscilla, disciples of St. Paul. https://www.vaticannews.va/en/saints/07/08/sts–aquila-and-priscilla–disciples-of-st–paul-.html