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Saintly Marriage

Whenever I read about married Saints I seem to uncover the fact that they did not have “normal” marriages. Since many of my readers are under the impression that celibate marriage is not good, I assume that you must know of married Saints who had “normal” sexual relationships. I have never read the books on married Saints, so I would love your help in finding them.

“Normal” Married Saints

I’ll start the list off with Elizabeth of Hungary. We know that she had children, and that she sought to detach herself interiorly from her husband, but that he would not agree to celibacy so they had a “normal” marital relationship (if you call her staying up all night praying normal) until God conveniently killed him off his death in the crusades. She then embraced celibacy.

Then there is Saint Gianna who had four children in five years and died for the sake of the last.

Thomas More was married twice and I know of no evidence that he was ever celibate in marriage.

Elizabeth of Portugal had children and appears to have had as normal of a marriage as one can have with a jealous licentious husband.

Rita of Cascia is somewhat similar in having two sons with her abusive husband and joyfully embracing celibacy after his death.

Margaret of Scotland is said to have at first refused marriage due to desire to remain a virgin, but eventually consented and bore eight children.

Bridget of Sweden also had eight children, and embraced celibacy only after her husband’s death.

Stephen of Hungary had a son, but I don’t know much else about him other than that he lived in a context where celibacy was not taken seriously by anyone, even priests/bishops.

Something that stands out to me in this list is that it seems that most either suffered a heroic death/martyrdom or else had a less-than-holy spouse who probably was not up for the challenge of chastity, let alone celibacy.

Not so “Normal”

Catherine of Genoa
Francis of Rome
Edward the Confessor
Luigi Beltrame Quattrocchi and Maria Corsini
Henry II
Louis Martin and Marie Guerin (we are all glad renounced their celibacy, but it would be silly to ignore it)
Catherine of Sweden

Elizabeth Ann Seton, Jane Francis de Chantal etc. don’t count because it is highly unlikely that they would have been canonized if their husbands hadn’t died and freed them to embrace, guess what, a celibate life.

What other Saints can you think of who we know were married and never embraced celibacy in marriage?

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Edith Stein on Pulling All-Nighters

It took me a while to get around to posting yesterday on the memorial of Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, but that still did not satisfy me. So I think that this shall be the week of Edith Stein. Check back next week if you’re interested in something else!

Heaven is expert at economy. Therefore, whatever comes your way after nine o’clock is evidently no longer essential.

That quote is the sort of thing that I simply adore about Edith Stein. It reminds me of  the PsalmIt is vain for you to rise early and put off your rest at night, To eat bread earned by hard toil– all this God gives to his beloved in sleep.

Of course it did not stop me from staying up all night to finish papers. For me there is something about the combination of adrenalin and exhaustion associated with an all-nighter that makes for less work overall. But it does give me a lovely perspective on ordinary days.

Why on earth should I not be able to get to bed at a reasonable time? Why should I not have time to read something in the evening, purely for enjoyment? How could I ever not have an hour a day to pray?

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Edith Stein and Feminism

It just seems strange that a celibate, cloistered nun would care about normal women of the world. Stephen

Stein was shaped in her formative years by women who fought with their husbands (if they had them), and were disconnected from their children.

From Edith’s autobiographical account of Life in a Jewish Family it is clear that she did not see domestic life alone as sufficiently fulfilling for a woman. She describes her mother as perhaps outdoing the Proverbs 31 woman as the most demanding of housekeepers and mothers.  And this is when describing a woman who genuinely loved business and chose to continue her husband’s business after his death rather than depending upon friends and family for financial support. So the ideal homemaker was one who was away from the home for most of the time after Stein’s second year of life.

Not only was marriage not always (usually) happy, but the women around her did not thrive in typical feminine ways.  Her one sister, Rosa, who is portrayed as a competent housekeeper only remains such because she “lacked sufficient initiative and energy to implement her plans for a career” (112).

Stein pursued philosophy and deeply wanted to become a professor. But solely due to her sex she was relegated to sorting through Husserl’s notes rather than being allowed to teach at a university. Thus feminism was not some abstract concern for Stein, she personally felt the profound sting of patriarchy in the denial of her life’s greatest desire.

After converting to Catholicism, Stein wanted to enter the Carmelite Order. Her spiritual directors urged her to wait, and so she bided her time while working for a Dominican school for girls. During these years she gave most of the lectures on women (particularly the education of girls) which are compiled together as her Essays on Woman. In Stein’s Letters we learn that Stein became so captivated by the spiritual world that she lost her former interest in women’s issues. But she still saw it as her duty to help those who remained behind in the unjust secular world. Stein described herself as one who had been a radical feminist, then lost interest entirely in “the women’s question” and subsequently working on “purely objective solutions” because she was “obliged to do so.” Upon entering Carmel, Stein wrote to a feminist asking for a copy of her book because she knew that she had “a holy duty toward those who must remain outside.”

It is difficult for me to properly explain the feeling that one gets from reading Stein’s writing. It is clear how much she was stifled by sexism, and how strongly she saw that things needed to change. But eventually it is also clear that she was swept up into something more removed from this world. It is not that she no longer saw sexism as a problem, but rather that she began to care about something, someone who transcends all worldly issues. And so one can almost sense the tiredness with which Stein addresses women’s issues once she was caught up in longing for something more. She knew that others did not yet have what she had, but I read her as putting forth significant effort to work for something which no longer consumed her. She renounced the world, and in doing so renounced the ties that once held her back because of her sex.

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Joachim and Anna

Alas! To what have I been likened? I am not like the fowls of the heaven, because even the fowls of the heaven are productive before You, O Lord. Alas! To what have I been likened? I am not like the beasts of the earth, because even the beasts of the earth are productive before You, O Lord. Alas! To what have I been likened? I am not like these waters, because even these waters are productive before You, O Lord. Alas! To what have I been likened? I am not like this earth, because even the earth brings forth its fruits in season, and blesses You, O Lord. Anna, Mother of Mary

Now I know that the Lord God has blessed me exceedingly

Today, the feast of Saints Joachim and Anna, is one of those days when it seems most fitting to dust off some apocryphal literature and see what we can learn from those stories that did not quite make it into the Bible.

The Protoevangelium of James makes dull holiness delightful for me. Imagine a longtime married couple who have no children. The husband is publicly shamed, so he goes off to the desert without telling his wife. She then laments the fact that she is not only childless, she is also a widow! Her servant tells her that she has to cheer up because it is “unlawful” to morn on the great feast day. Wouldn’t that just cheer up your childless, widowed soul?

Apparently it did not immediately work for Anna, because she proceeds to bite off the head of the servant who tries to cheer her up with a gift!

She then proceeds to do what any normal woman would, and after taking out her old wedding dress to make sure it fits, wears it to the garden to pray.

You know the rest of the story, but have you ever read it in its full glory of delightful amusement? I am not a complete fan of The Protoevangelium of James (among other things I prefer a young, virginal Joseph to the old man hesitant to become “a laughing-stock” and entirely clueless about Mary for six months) but there is nothing better for making today fun.

My favorite part is when Anna picks up the precocious Mary because she does not want her to walk until she is walking in the temple. What is your favorite part?

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Lawrence of Brindisi On the Vision of St. John

Recently Josh and I have been talking about the Franciscans as Marian maximalists, something I find quite fascinating. But today I was struck by something not so “maximalist” as obviously new to me in a Franciscan text. Doesn’t that sound lofty?

In reality I realized that I knew nothing about the man whose memorial we celebrate today. So I read one of his sermons online and was quickly struck by the fact that I was reading something completely unfamiliar from a doctor of the Church. That is never a good thing in terms of my theological understanding (the doctors should be familiar and their thoughts my own, no?) but it is always a delightful thing in terms of awakening understanding.

One thing could have been lacking to St. John. He loved above all things Christ, with all his affection, truly from his spirit, with his whole inmost being, just the most loving Groom (is loved by His) most beloved  Bride. On this account, he was steeped in such great joy by the vision of Christ. But who does not know, that he was also devoted to the Virgin Theotokos, the Most Holy Mother of God, with a most high piety, that he pursued Her with a most high charity as one does a most sweet and loving mother? For he knew that he was loved similarly by Her as Her dearest son after Christ. For even to His Mother Christ had said of St. John: Behold Thy son!, and to St. John of His Mother: Behold thy Mother! and he accepted, he said, Her, the disciple into his own: that is he accepted Her among his own.

What, I ask, did St. John have of his own in the world, he who, to follow Christ, had forsaken all things, father and mother, indeed even his own life? In what manner did he accept the Virgin, Mother of Christ, among his own, who having left all things, possessed nothing of his own? However, one does show one’s feelings. He accepted Her as the thing most dear (to him) beyond measure, as riches inestimable, as a treasure infinite. He esteemed Her his own treasure, all his riches, all his goods. Thus did St. John pursue the Virgin Mother, with great, ineffable, inestimable affection.

[…]St. John knowing that the Virgin had been assumed into Heaven and exalted above all the angelic orders to the right hand of Christ, could not not rejoice and exult in spirit. But deprived of the conversation and sweet solace and divine consolation of such and so great a Virgin, he could not not be sad and weep at his lot. Thus his quest for the Virgin was also a thing most familiar to him. And are we to think that She had forgotten St. John? In what manner could She forget him, whom, accompanying in place of Christ, She was to hold to Her maternal bosom? The chief butler of the Pharaoh forgot the innocent Joseph in prison. In this manner, Mary, least of all, could be forgetful. Wherefore it helps one believe that the Most Holy Virgin would often look upon St. John from the sublimity of the heavens, and would console him as a most dear mother does her most beloved, and at the same time loving, son.

But St. John seemed to me to have wanted to record a certain singular apparition of the Virgin in the Eternal Monuments [i. e. in Sacred Scripture], when he said: A great sign appeared in Heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under Her feet, and on Her head a crown of twelve stars. Read the rest here.

I have got to admit that I had never before thought of Mary in Revelation/The Apocalypse as the mother who was dearly missed by John. Now that I have read it, it seems both obvious and beautiful, but it is something which I never would have come up with myself.

The whole sermon is well worth reading for an old fresh take on an old ever-new biblical text.

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Venerable Chiara Badano

I just read Chiara Badano’s story for the first time. I was struck by her if you want it Jesus, so do I and her beautiful response to pain.

But I found it difficult to focus on Chiara because of her parents. Her story starts with the note that her parents waited for eleven years for a child. Her story ends with Chiara telling her mother to “be happy, because I am.”

Can you imagine praying for eleven years for a child? And then when you have finally gotten used to your great joy at having her, she has cancer and dies at eighteen?

My Italian isn’t good enough to follow this, but Chiara’s mother, Maria Teresa Caviglia, is quoted elsewhere as saying: even though we were so immensely happy, we understood straightaway that this child wasn’t ours alone. She belonged to God first of all.

I want to want my future children to be Saints more than I want them to be happy, healthy, and alive with me. I do not think that nine years will be enough for me to naturally get to that point. And that is why I am so fascinated with Chiara’s story. It is full of the evidence of God’s grace, not only in her life, but also in her parents.

For now I will stick to praying for a bit more grace in my own life, and try to resist the urge to joke with my husband about not allowing our children to join Focolare. Apparently they have a tendency to die young and holy. And somehow I have to learn to entirely find that desirable.

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Kateri Shrine

On the Feast of the Ascension I was driving through upstate New York and saw a sign that said “Kateri Shrine.” It looked like a generic historical marker sign, but the only “Kateri” that I could think of was Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha. Josh did not mind adding time to our trip, so we took a short detour and soon found ourselves at the National Kateri Shrine in Fonda, NY.

Known as the Lily of the Mohawks, Kateri was called Tekakwitha or “she who bumps into things” because of her poor vision. It is likely that her eyesight was damaged when she contracted smallpox as a young child. The disease, brought by the Christian settlers scarred Kateri and killed her parents, but it did not deter her from the Jesuit missionaries and her mother’s religion.

Kateri dedicated her life to God and refused to accept the marriage her uncle arranged for her.

Kateri was baptized when she was 20. She vowed perpetual virginity when she was 23, only to die a year later after living short life of intense holiness.

Loving creator God, we acknowledge your power and presence in the Four Directions of your vast and beautiful universe. We celebrate Kateri Tekakwitha, “Lily of the Mohawks”, as one of your Son’s most faithful followers. Help us to turn our backs on all evil and walk in her footsteps, sharing our love and Christian concern with others. Let us reverence, as she did, your mystical presence in the poor and suffering.

Through Kateri’s powerful intercession, we confidently ask you to grant us this special favor we ask for in her name. (Mention your intentions.) Share your healing and peace especially with my family, friends and the sick, whom we commend to your loving care. We ask this through your crucified and risen Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal World, who lives and reigns with you forever and ever. Amen.

Prayer from the National Shrine

Blessed Kateri, Star of Native People and Bright Light for all! We thank God for your heroic courage, constant perseverance and deep love of the Cross.

Pray for us that our love for Christ may deepen. And may we imitate you in following God’s Will even when difficulties arise. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Lord God, You called the virgin Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha,
to shine among the American Indian people as an example of innocence of life.

Through her intercession, may all peoples of every tribe, tongue and nation, having been gathered into Your Church, proclaim your greatness in one song of praise.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen

Collect of the Mass in honor of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha

Litany of Kateri Tekakwitha

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father of Heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the World have mercy on us.
God the Holy Ghost, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us.

Kateri, lily of purity, pray for us.
Kateri, consoler of the heart of Jesus, pray for us.
Kateri, bright light for all Indians, pray for us.
Kateri, courage of the afflicted, pray for us.
Kateri, lover of the cross of Jesus, pray for us.
Kateri, flower of fortitude for the persecuted, pray for us.
Kateri, unshakeable in temptations, pray for us.
Kateri, full of patience in suffering, pray for us.
Kateri, keeper of your virginity in persecutions, pray for us.
Kateri, leader of many Indians to the true faith through your love for Mary, pray for us.

Kateri, who loved Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, pray for us.
Kateri, lover of penance, pray for us.
Kateri, who traveled many miles to learn the faith, pray for us.
Kateri, steadfast in all prayer, pray for us.
Kateri, who loved to pray the rosary for all people, pray for us.
Kateri, example to your people in all virtues, pray for us.
Kateri, humble servant to the sick, pray for us.
Kateri, who by your love of humility, gave joy to the angels, pray for us.
Kateri, your holy death gave strength to all Indians to love Jesus and
Mary, pray for us.

Kateri, whose scarred face in life became beautiful after death,
pray for us.

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, spare us, 0 Lord.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, graciously hear us, 0 Lord.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.


0 Jesus, who gave Kateri to the Indians as an example of purity, teach all men to love purity, and to console your immaculate Mother Mary through the lily, Kateri Tekakwitha, and your Holy Cross, Amen.

Kateri Tekakwitha, pray for us.

Kateri, favored child, Flower of the Algonquins and Lily of the Mohawks, We come to seek your intercession in our present need: (mention it here).

We admire the virtures which adorned your soul: love of God and neighbor, humility, obedience, patience, purity and the spirit of sacrifice. Help us to imitate your example in our life. Through the goodness and mercy of God, Who has blessed you with so many graces which led you to the true faith and to a high degree of holiness, pray to God for us and help us.

Obtain for us a very fervent devotion to the Holy Eucharist so that we may love Holy Mass as you did and receive Holy Communion as often as we can.

Teach us also to be devoted to our crucified Savior as you were, that we may cheerfully bear our daily crosses for love of Him Who suffered so much for love of us.

Most of all we beg you to pray that we may avoid sin, lead a holy life and save our souls. Amen. In thanksgiving to God for the graces bestowed upon Kateri: one Our Father, Hail Mary and three Glory Be’s. Kateri, Flower of the Algonquins and Lily of the Mohawks, pray for us.

Attributed to Fr. Lovasik

O God, who, among the many marvels of Your Grace in the New World, did cause to blossom on the banks of the Mohawk and of the St. Lawrence, the pure and tender Lily, Kateri Tekakwitha, grant we beseech You, the favor we beg through her intercession, that this Young Lover of Jesus and of His Cross may soon be counted among the Saints of Holy Mother Church, and that our hearts may be enkindled with a stronger desire to imitate her innocence and faith. Through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, pray for us.

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