Canonizations of consecrated men and women far exceed those consecrated in marriage. So it’s a fair question: If sainthood is “the exemplary practice of Christian virtue so that one becomes a model and ideal of Christian discipleship,” then surely more devout parents ought to be considered for sainthood as well (Harper’s Encyclopedia of Catholicism).
Heroic virtue can be found among spouses in service-oriented positions as they share in the ministry of the other spouse. Heroic virtue can be found among mothers and fathers whose self-giving to each other and to their children has virtually no limit. Charged with the responsibility of raising children in the faith, parents educate their children to be citizens in this world and for the next.
The difficulties that challenge modern families are well known. One problem lies in the unwillingness of the members to listen with attention and respect—adult to adult, sibling to sibling, parent to child, child to parent. The lack of discernment—the habit of making decisions at the level of faith—is another basic problem.
Today many young adults reject Catholicism. By choosing agnosticism, atheism, or no organized religion at all, they cause their parents great distress. Where have their parents gone wrong? What can they do to reinvigorate the faith of their children and bring them back to their senses? The family that has been called to become the Domestic Church descends into an arena of discord. When this happens, the nobility of the family collapses.
Gone are the days when saints were described as without faults. Saintly mothers and fathers have their un-saintly days. When an exhausted parent thinks, “I can’t give any more of myself,” this is not complaining but concern about failure to give one’s best to the children.
If mothers and fathers are honest with themselves, they worry. Worry about what? Financial matters, religious and social concerns, medical issues, discipline and good order, whether or not they are worthy role models for their children.
Breaking Marriage Vows
It is no longer rare for a spouse to walk out on the other with or without provocation with simple statements that defy credibility: “I don’t want to be married to you anymore.” Or, “I can’t take the responsibility of being a father or a mother.” Or, “I’ve fallen in love with another person.” While dealing with the deep loss, the remaining spouse is forced to shoulder much more responsibility. With the steady increase of single-parent homes, the one adult is often obliged to work two jobs, and even three, to support the family with all the concerns involved.
What Canonized Mothers and Fathers Could Do for the Church?
The vocation to married life is as blessed as the celibate vocation, but the Church is top-heavy with canonized celibate saints and martyrs. It is true that the latter have given special witness through the ages. It is also true that we venerate those few canonized married saints scattered throughout the ages, for example, St. Monica, mother of St. Augustine. For twenty years, her prayers were offered for his conversion from a life of debauchery to the saintly life of theologian and Bishop of Hippo. Then there have been Saints Henry and Louis IX, Kings of Germany and France, respectively; Elizabeth of Hungary, and Thomas More, Lord Chancellor of England. Each gave witness in his or her own way. Imagine what an increase of canonized mothers and fathers would do for the public image of the contemporary Church!
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What we need is public witness to consecrated married life, public witness to build up the family struggling to live up to their vocation as the Domestic Church, and public witness that convinces the world that there are many more “holy families” than the one in Nazareth of two thousand years ago!