Editor's Note: This is a longer version of our print article.

 

FAMILY INTERCESSORS. St. Joseph and St. Monica are among the patrons of relationships. Renata Sedmakova/Shutterstock and Alfgar/Shutterstock

 

There are many saints whose patronage includes relationships — good, bad or otherwise.

These holy people lived exemplary lives of service to God. Many of these saints selflessly prayed for their spouses or protected the sanctity of marriage, despite the challenges of married life.

 

St. Raphael the Archangel,

Patron of Those Seeking a Spouse

Raphael is one of seven archangels who stand before the throne of God. His patronage as a matchmaker is a reference to the Book of Tobit in the Old Testament, where Raphael arranges a marriage. Sarah had had seven husbands die on the night of their weddings. The Pharisees refer to her when they try to entrap Jesus (Matthew 22:25-32; Luke 20:27-38). Raphael accompanied Tobiah, the son of Tobit, into Media disguised as a man named Azariah. Raphael helped him through his difficulties and taught him how to safely enter marriage with Sarah. Tobiah said that Raphael was directly responsible for him meeting his wife and that he gave joy to Sarah's parents for driving out the evil spirit in her. The marriage was literally made in heaven. In addition, the matchmaking afforded Tobiah the opportunity to heal the blindness of his father.

 

St. Adelaide of Burgundy,

Patron of Second Marriages

St. Adelaide was a princess who was married to Lothair II, the king of Italy. When he died of poisoning, she married the Holy Roman Emperor Otto the Great. The Empress was very beloved by her people, as she was particularly devoted to the care of the poor. When her second husband died, she became a nun and dedicated herself to a life of prayer in an Alsatian convent.

 

St. Gengulphus,

Patron of Difficult Marriages

Devout St. Gengulphus had an unfaithful wife but was unwilling to publicly shame her with a divorce. Instead, they separated, and he lived out his life as a monk in his castle in Avalon. Despite his incredible charity towards her, she conspired with her lover to kill him in the year 760.

 

St. Joseph,

Patron of Marriage/Stepfamilies

The Virgin Mary’s husband and Jesus’ earthly father serves as an important intercessor for married couples and blended families. His love for the Virgin Mary and Jesus led him to selflessly serve them both. And, at the end of his mortal life, he was honored and comforted by their presence at his deathbed.

 

St. Monica,

Patron of Troubled Marriages

This saint was the mother of wayward son-turned-doctor-of-the-Church St. Augustine, but she was also the wife of an ill-tempered husband and had a highly critical mother-in-law. Monica persisted in an intimate prayer life with God, interceding often on the behalf of others. Through her prayers, God rewarded her by the conversion of her son, husband and mother-in-law.

 

St. Priscilla,

Patron of Good Marriages

St. Priscilla and her husband, St. Aquila, were martyrs and friends with St. Paul. This holy couple offered their hospitality to first-century Christians by making their home available for Mass and prayer. They’re mentioned seven times in the Book of Acts and in St. Paul’s letters. They supported each other even as they faced death together.

 

St. Rita of Cascia,

Patron of Difficult Marriages

Rita’s husband was particularly violent and caused her much pain and consternation. However, after many difficult years of marriage, Rita’s husband repented. He was then killed by one of his many enemies. Upon his death, she became a nun, entering an Augustinian convent.

 

St. Thomas More,

Patron of Difficult Marriages

St. Thomas More stood up to the lecherous and treacherous King Henry VIII in defense of the Catholic Church’s teachings on marriage. Interestingly, Thomas isn’t the patron of difficult marriages because of his own marriages. In fact, he had the good fortune of having not one but two exceedingly happy marriages, the first to Jane Colt and the second to widow Alice Middleton.

 

St. Valentine,

Patron of Happy Marriages and Betrothed Couples

According to the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493), Valentine, a third-century Roman priest, was beheaded on Feb. 14 in Rome during the reign of Emperor Claudius Gothicus. He was arrested and imprisoned upon being caught performing marriages for Christian couples. Though Claudius offered to commute his death sentence, Valentinus proselytized the emperor and was thus condemned to death.

 

St. Castora Gabrielli,

Patron of Abused Spouses

Gabrielli was married to an Umbrian lawyer who beat her regularly. She, on her part, forgave him, offering her suffering to God on behalf of her husband's violence.

 

St. Dorothy of Montau,

Patron of Difficult Marriages

Dorothy was born into a poor family but married a wealthy swordsmith named Adalbert of Prague. Together, they had nine children — only one, a girl, survived. She grew up and became a Benedictine nun. Dorothy had an exceedingly difficult marriage and suffered abuse at the hand of her husband. Despite this, she encouraged him in his profession and in his faith. On a pilgrimage to Rome in 1389, she fell ill and remained there to recuperate. During that time, her husband died at home. She became a nun and developed a great devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. Her hagiographers wrote of her that the Eucharist "agitated her like boiling water — had she been allowed, she would willingly have torn the Host from the priest's hands to bring it to her mouth." Dorothy was graced with many divine gifts. She became a prophetess, a visionary and a miracle worker.

 

St. Edward the Confessor,

Patron of the Virtue of Patience in Marriage

Edward’s people universally recognized him as a holy man. He proved himself a competent ruler and became known for his generosity to the poor, pilgrims and strangers. He also built many churches, including Westminster Abbey. Edward was known to be able to heal at the touch of his hand. He married to satisfy his people’s desires; however, he and his queen remained celibate.

 

St. Elizabeth of Portugal,

Patron of Familial Peace

Princess Elizabeth of Castile married King Diniz of Portugal at the age of 12. Diniz was a moral reprobate, and thus Elizabeth suffered many years of abuse and adultery; however, she continually prayed for his conversion. Her piety sustained her, and she spent a great deal of time helping the poor and sick. She even convinced some of the ladies of her court to assist with her charity work. Due to her prayers, Diniz reformed his life and begged her forgiveness for the pain he had caused her. She twice rode into battle, exposing herself to danger by separating warring factions of her own family in order for them to pursue peace, thus securing herself the patronage as a peacemaker. After Diniz’s death, she gave away her property and became a Secular Franciscan. She then became a nun at a monastery she founded in Coimbra.

 

St. Fabiola of Rome,

Patron of Divorcees

Fabiola divorced her adulterous husband after many years of physical and emotional abuse. Her second marriage ended in his death. She befriended Sts. Jerome, Paula of Rome and Pammachius. In fact, we know about her life from Jerome's hagiography of her. She founded the first hospital ever and a hospice in Porto Romano for the poor and visiting pilgrims. Pope St. Siricius received her back into the Church after she completed suitable penance for her divorce. In 394, Fabiola embarked on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, where she worked in a hospice in Bethlehem.

 

St. Godelieve,

Patron of Abusive In-Laws

Godelieve was born into Flemish nobility and entered into an unfortunate marriage to Bertulf of Ghistelles, who abandoned her before the wedding feast was over. Her mother-in-law was cruelly abusive towards her, and she was often locked in a cell, starved, beaten and emotionally abused. Godelieve's father threatened to turn her husband and in-laws over to state and Church authorities, and, seemingly, Bertulf repented of his ways. Godelieve returned to him but was immediately murdered at his family's hands. In life, she was particularly caring of the poor and sick. Her love and forgiveness extended to the entire world even after her death, when many miracles were ascribed to her.

 

St. Gummarus,

Patron of Difficult Spouses

Son of an official of Pepin the Short's court, Gummarus married a particularly cruel and selfish woman named Guinmarie, but the couple remained childless. Gummarus served as a soldier in Pepin's army for eight years in Lombardy, Saxony and Aquitaine. In his absence, his wife abused their servants and refused to pay them. On his return, Gummarus repaid the servants and tried to convert his wife. Unfortunately, he failed, and the couple separated. Gummarus became a hermit at Nivesonck and, with his friend St. Rumald, founded an abbey at Lier, Belgium.

 

St. Helena, Patron of

Abandoned Spouses

Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, was married to Constantius Chlorus, co-regent of the western Roman Empire. Her husband divorced her so he could marry a woman who had better political connections. Upon his death, her son ascended to the throne and restored her to the palace. She used her high position and wealth in the service of the Church and helped build churches throughout the empire. On a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, she discovered the True Cross.

 

St. Margaret the Barefooted,

Patron of Abused Spouses

Born into a poor family, Margaret was 15 years old when she was married to a rich Italian man who abused her for many years for her attachment to the Church and her ministry to the poor. She refused to wear shoes and dressed in rags so as to better identify herself with the poor. Margaret was ultimately widowed, freeing her to work more closely with the needy.

 

St. Marguerite d’Youville,

Patron of Widows

Marguerite’s husband François turned out to be an abusive, negligent and adulterous bootlegger. Of their six children, only two survived infancy — both became priests. After she was widowed, she opened a small store to support herself and her children and spent the reminder of her profits helping those even poorer than herself. She founded the Sisters of Charity of the General Hospital of Montreal (also known as the Grey Nuns) on Dec. 31, 1737. Her sisters were put in charge of the failing General Hospital in Montreal in 1747, where Marguerite lived for the rest of her life, working as its director. The hospital soon began functioning again and reached out extensively to the city’s poor.

 

St. Radegunde,

Patron of Childless Marriages

Princess of Thuringia and, later, queen of France, Radegunde was born into a pagan family but converted to Christ in the sixth century. She was forced into an arraigned marriage to Clotaire, who abused her partly for being childless. In 555, she finally left him and became a nun at St. Medard Monastery in Noyon, France. She founded the convent of the Holy Cross, in Poiters, France, and remained there for her remaining 30 years of life. She made the convent a center of scholarship, making sure that her nuns were thoroughly educated. Her friend, St. Fortunatus, composed his hymn Vexilla Regis in her honor. She remained active in the affairs of the Church and secular politics, securing her reputation as a peacemaker.

 

St. Zedislava Berka,

Patron of Unhappy Marriages

Born into a noble Bohemian family, Zedislava was forced into an unhappy marriage. Her husband was particularly incensed when she insisted on spending their money to assist the poor. She found her solace in God and became a Secular Dominican. She started the St. Lawrence Dominican Priory near her castle, where she received the Eucharist daily, which was highly unusual practice at the time.

 

St. Catherine of Genoa,

Patron of Abused Spouses

Catherine was born into a noble and well-connected Genovese family — she was related to Popes Innocent V and Adrian V. She intended to become a cloistered nun but was instead pressed into an arranged marriage to Giuliano Adorno — a known moral reprobate. They never had children, and Giuliano squandered his family’s fortune and impoverished them both. In addition, he was particularly cruel, violent and unfaithful towards her. Though Catherine had always been pious, the abuse she experienced made her spiritually apathetic, and she fell into a depression. Then Catherine experienced a vision of God’s love and her own sinfulness. She managed to lead her husband back to the Church, and the two lived together celibately for the rest of their lives, dedicating themselves to the sick and poor. After she was widowed, Catherine became a Secular Franciscan.

 

Angelo Stagnaro

writes from New York.