The Church recognizes saints and
blesseds not to give them bragging
rights in heaven but to offer us models
of holiness for our earthly pilgrimage.
One of the Sacramentary's opening
prayers for the Feast of All Saints begins,
"God our Father, source of all holiness,
the work of your hands is manifest in
your saints, the beauty of your truth is
reflected in their faith."
Are the "work" of God's hands and
the "beauty" of God's truth fully
reflected in the small number of married
saints and blesseds whom the Church
recognizes officially? Doesn't that number
suggest that marriage hinders holiness
rather than encourages it? The
Church's prayers at weddings recognize
marriage's potential—even demand—to
foster the holiness of each spouse. In
fact, weren't most of the saints whom
we honor on November 1 married?
Most of the Church's canonized married
saints were martyrs (for example,
St. Thomas More, martyrs in various
countries) or were previously married
but lost their spouse and later founded
religious communities (St. Elizabeth
Ann Seton and many others).
In almost 27 years, Pope John Paul II
canonized 482 people and beatified
1,338 men and women, many of them
the first canonized saints or blesseds in
their countries. All 482 of those saints
were martyrs, clerics or members of religious
communities when they died—except Gianna Beretta Molla (married)
and Giuseppe Moscati (single).
Of the 1,338 people whom Pope
John Paul II beatified, all were martyrs,
clerics or members of religious
communities when they died—except
for 14 single people and the married
Frederic Ozanam, Lazlo Batthyany-Strattmenn, Charles of Austria, Giuseppe
Tovini, Gianna Beretta Molla and Luigi
Beltrame Quattorcchi and Maria Corsini
(husband and wife). The latter were
also parents of two priests, one nun
and another daughter.
By October 12, 2009, Pope Benedict
XVI will have canonized 28 people—
but no one who was married when
he or she died. By mid-August 2009,
Pope Benedict XVI had approved
the beatifications of 191 women and
men—all reflecting the categories mentioned
above except for Eurosia Fabris
(Mamma Rosa) and Louis Martin and
Zélie Guérin (parents of St. Thérèse of
Lisieux and four other nuns).
These numbers and the biographies
of new saints and blesseds can be
checked at the Congregation for the
Causes of the Saints section of www.vatican.va.
Don't these numbers unintentionally
cast doubt on whether the call to
holiness is as universal as Chapter Five
of Vatican II's Dogmatic Constitution on
the Church says it is?
For the Church's first 300 years, most
of the saints whom it recognized were
martyrs—with exceptions such as the
Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph.
Later, the Church began recognizing
hermits (Anthony of Egypt), virgins
(Macrina the Younger, who died in
379), monks (Benedict of Nursia), bishops
(Martin of Tours), founders of religious
communities (Scholastica and
Francis of Assisi, for example) and missionaries
(Francis Xavier). People who
were married when they died have
been overlooked for centuries!
John Fink's 1999 book Married Saints (Alba House) concentrates mostly on
23 married saints in the worldwide
liturgical calendar. Except for four married
couples (Mary/Joseph, Elizabeth/
Zachary, Ann/Joachim and Isidore/
Maria de la Cabeza), only five of these
23 saints were married when they died.
Fink's 2009 book Future American
Saints? Men and Women Whose Causes
Are Being Considered (Alba House, and
describes 51 people with a U.S. connection
who have completed the diocesan
level of review and are one miracle
away from being beatified.
All were clerics or members of religious
communities when they died,
except Pierre Toussaint, Virginia Merrick,
Dorothy Day and Catherine de
Hueck Doherty. Only Toussaint was
married when he died.
Does our list of saints recognized by
name reflect the fact that raising children
and being grandparents are part of
the holiness of most of the saints
whom we honor as a group every
November 1? Are there no saintly childless
couples to be recognized?
Aren't there saintly parents dealing
with challenges raised by their teenagers?
Aren't there saintly couples who
volunteer at soup kitchens, homeless
shelters or other works of mercy?
Saintly parents raising special-needs
I propose that for the next 10 years the
Holy See approve for beatification only
married couples. Recognizing more
married saints will follow. The current
imbalance is in our records—not in
Martyrs, clerics, members of religious
communities and single people "in the
world" can patiently wait another 10
years for official recognition. All of
them, in fact, were helped and inspired
by saintly married people.
The Holy See's Congregation for the
Causes of the Saints initiates no causes
but rather handles those that dioceses
have recommended for further action.
Change needs to begin at the diocesan
Because holy women and men offer
us inspiration and strength along our
pilgrimage of faith, we need to recognize
officially more married saints and