This was too fun to write.
A woman I know, who is engaged to be married, recently asked me for some book recommendations about married couples who lived a holy life. There’s a wide variety out there, of course, and some powerfully inspiring witnesses (e.g. one, two, three, four). But so many of the canonized holy husbands or wives, I realized, are really quite culturally distant from 21st century Americans; or were so profoundly shaped by the characteristics of consecrated Religious life that they don’t really helpfully embody what married holiness looks like for the regular guy and gal out there — the “secular geniuses” most of the lay faithful are called to be. You know, those tasked with sanctifying all things mundane, secular and ordinary, by becoming vividly colorful sacraments of God’s love for the world.
In the process of thinking all this through, I spoke with my wife one evening about what kind of “hagiographies” we would love to read to help inspire us to holiness as a couple. It was a great conversation! And it involved a lot of laughter. Shortly after we spoke, Patti went to Walmart to get groceries and we began to text back and forth, developing a pithy description of the saintly couple we could look up to, to give us hope. We came up with a whimsical description that’s inadequate in scope but (for us) dead-on in essentials.
I don’t know canonized couples like this, but do know living-on-earth ones. They rock! I really hope some of them will be canonized one day. They are our models.
So here’s the final version we came up with in our last text volley. Not much to it, but when she hit “send” for the last time, I said: Posting it! Our idiosyncratic view of nuptial sanctity:
We need examples of married saints who knew their way around a cocktail happy hour, complete with the occasional cigar; who weren’t necessarily pious but prayed unceasingly; who raised good kids with generous hearts and normal problems, had passionate sex until the end, danced whenever they could, loved to laugh often, enjoyed the good things of this world as God intended, faced unabashedly their faults and sins with hope, lived heroic lives of sacrificial love in a thousand insignificant ways, were unshakably faithful to the church and in love with Jesus. They’re average enough to be accessible, weak enough to be real, great enough to look up to and holy enough to be fully human. But this is the real key: the icons of these holy couples would have to have crooked halos.