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Your Family Matters - Saints who were happily married, widowed or divorced

St. Helen and St. Fabiola St. Helen and St. Fabiola

November is the perfect month to call attention to happily married saints, as well as to men and women who stand out as shining examples of holiness after suffering the unhappiness of marriage’s end through death or divorce. The great celebrations of All Saints’ Day, All Souls’ Day and the solemnity of Christ the King make us mindful of our own deaths and the world’s end. Our hope and fulfillment is in Christ, our ultimate goal, whose mercy embraces and sustains us through the ups and downs of family life. He is near to the widowed and divorced as well.

In keeping with the upcoming Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis, may the mercy manifest in these saints’ lives inspire us to be generously merciful — especially with our spouses, our children and even with ex-husbands and -wives!

Married saints, causes filed jointly

St. Louis and Zélie Martin (d. 1894, 1877) are the parents of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, four other religious and four children who died young. They made history last month by being the first married couple to be canonized together. “Works of mercy were the very base on which Louis and Zélie Martin built their life,” notes Father Antonio Sangalli, vice-postulator of the cause for the Martins’ canonization.

Blesseds Luigi and Maria Quattrochi (d. 1952, 1965) lived in Rome and raised four children — two priests, a nun and a laywoman. Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints Cardinal José Saraiva Martins stated that they “made a true domestic church of their family, which was open to life, to prayer, to the social apostolate, to solidarity with the poor and to friendship.”

Servants of God Henry and Inez Casolani (d. 1999, 1992), of Malta, raised a daughter who became a religious sister. Their joint cause for canonization was announced this year. Author Stephen Degaura wrote that “because of the love that existed in their warm and cheerful home, they transmitted to all those who knew them an example of life founded on Christ. They were the Good Samaritans wherever they found themselves.”

Bereaved saints

The Scriptures repeatedly manifest God’s tender care for the bereaved. After losing a husband or wife, many find comfort, meaning and purpose in dedicating the rest of their lives to Christ with renewed devotion.

The Prophetess Anna, St. Peter and the Blessed Virgin Mary (first century), from the Gospels, played key roles in announcing, serving and magnifying God’s mercy in Christ.

St. Jane de Chantal (d. 1641) worked hard to forgive the friend of her beloved husband who accidentally fatally shot him in a hunting accident.

Servant of God Catherine Doherty (d. 1985), of Madonna House in Canada, remarried after a failed and annulled first marriage. When her beloved Eddie died, she experienced the ache of his loss especially poignantly at every anniversary of his death. She also knew Christ was with her, accompanying her through it.

Divorced saints

The working document for October’s Synod on the Family urged special pastoral care for spouses who are separated, divorced or abandoned, especially for “those who have been forced by maltreatment from a husband or a wife to interrupt their life together. To forgive such an injustice that has been suffered is not easy, but grace makes this journey possible.” Experiencing and sharing Christ’s merciful forgiveness ultimately heals our hearts and untangles anger’s knot in our soul.

St. Helen (d. 329) is often depicted embracing the True Cross, which she found in Jerusalem. She also found a cross to embrace after her husband of 22 years dismissed her for a young woman of Rome’s imperial family.

St. Fabiola (d. 399) remarried outside the church, then experienced the mercy of reconciliation when she publicly repented after her second husband’s death. She shared mercy by serving the poor, pilgrims and the sick. St. Guntramnus (d. 592), king of Burgundy, divorced his wife and killed her doctor. Later, he keenly repented of his past sins and ruled his kingdom with great love. According to Catholicsdivorce.com, “Guntramnus recognized the Lord had been merciful to him, so he in turn was merciful to others."

St. Joan of France (d. 1505) was devoted to her husband, who despised her and divorced her once he became king of France. Sorrowfully, Joan forgave him and saw this turn of events as an opportunity to serve Christ more fully in her newly assigned Duchy of Berry. After her death, her ex-husband came to her tomb to beg her pardon.

Northwest Catholic - November 2015

Sarah Bartel

Sarah Bartel, a member of St. Andrew Parish in Sumner, holds a doctorate in moral theology and ethics from The Catholic University of America, where she specialized in marriage, family, sexual ethics and bioethics. Her website is www.drsarahbartel.com.

Website: www.drsarahbartel.com
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