November is here, the holidays are fast approaching, and that means that traditional social gatherings will be taking place. The majority of us spend the holidays with our families, and while seasonal commercials and hallmark movies like to make these get-togethers look joyous and fun, we all know in reality, that this is not always the case.
We live in a broken world, and many of our intimate circles are just as broken. Even in the most perfect-looking family, there are extreme difficulties and challenges occurring. For many people, the holidays are lonely, ostracizing, and emotionally draining because of family or lack thereof. There are unending reasons as to why the holidays may not be happy times for others (recent deaths, difference in religious or political beliefs, mental health, abuse of any kind, infidelity, etc.) so I’ve compiled a list of saints who dealt with difficulties in their family lives as well in the hopes that they will intercede and give us strength to make healthy and virtuous decisions about the holidays. Although, this sort of help will certainly be useful in difficult situations at any part of the year!
Litany of Saints
The head of the Holy Family, it could be tempting to think his home life was rather pleasant and full of constant peace. However, we know that Joseph had to deal with many difficulties—including the discovery that his betrothed was pregnant before their wedding feast had taken place.
Though undoubtedly crushed (who wouldn’t be in that kind of situation?), Joseph acted with mercy. He decided to divorce Mary quietly and did not bring formal charges against her according to Mosaic Law. Had he done so, Mary would have been stoned to death for adultery. By divorcing her, it could be assumed by others that Joseph was the father and was simply abandoning both her and the child.
Joseph knows that pain and confusion of family difficulties. May we all find it within us to show mercy and find heavenly guidance, just as he did.
Blessed Philip Hong Pil-ju
Philip’s mother died when he was a young boy. When his father remarried, his stepmother introduced him to Catholicism which was illegal in Korea at the time. Philip’s father was not as receptive as his son, ridiculed them both, and abandoned them for a concubine because of it.
Both Philip and his stepmother, Blessed Columba Kang Wan-suk, were eventually imprisoned and martyred for harboring the local priest. May they both intercede for us when our family or community ridicules, abandons, or persecutes us because of our Faith.
Blessed Lojze Grozde
A Sloveian Catholic who was rejected by both of his parents who were ashamed they had bore him out of wedlock, Lojze was raised by his maternal grandparents and an aunt. Though his parents and his step-father were still “around,” they never fully accepted him.
When he was nineteen and traveling home from college, Lojze was searched by communists, who discovered that he was carrying The Imitation of Christ and a booklet on Fatima. Lojze was tortured and martyred.
May Lojze pray for us especially when we feel unloved by our parents.
With normalizing conversation surrounding mental health gaining much-needed momentum, devotion to this Saint is on the rise. The death of Dymphna’s mother left her father completely shaken and broken. Since Dymphna bore a striking resemblance, her father (the king) decided that she would be his next wife. Dymphna ran away, but was eventually captured and killed.
Many of us have family members with severe mental illness; some of us may also be victims of incest. May Saint Dymphna intercede on our behalf, to give us courage to know what to do to protect ourselves in these often torturous situations.
Saint Flora of Cordoba
A 9th century Spanish Saint who knows the sting of personal betrayal far too well. Flora’s mother raised her as a Christian, keeping it a secret from her Muslim father. When she was discovered, she endured torture and abuse… even being sent to a brothel as punishment.
When she refused to renounce Christ, she was beheaded. May Saint Flora give us comfort when we’ve been deeply scared by those who are supposed to love us most.
Saint Thomas Aquinas
Though the family of this well-known Saint didn’t necessarily hate his Faith, they certainly hate how seriously he took it. When Thomas entered the Dominican order, his family was ashamed of his choice and went to extreme measures to try to get him to change his mind.
He resisted successfully, but surely it was heart-wrenching to have one’s family be so against what one loves!
Saint Francis of Assisi
When Francis experienced his radical conversion, and began giving away his father’s goods to the poor, his father demanded everything be returned to him before disowning his son. Francis striped down naked, handed his clothes to his father, and chose to continue following Christ. The local priest then took off his outer robe and placed it on Francis… somewhat symbol of where he would now find family and love.
When our families disown us for following Christ, may we experience acceptance and belonging within the Universal Church.
Saint Marguerite d’Youville
Marguerite’s husband had a severe drinking problem, was often absent from the home, and made money through illegal trading before his early death. A widow, she also had to endure the deaths of four of her six children in infancy.
May Saint Marguerite be with us when we encounter loss, after loss, after loss.
Blessed Catalina de Maria Rodriguez
Though she herself felt called to religious life, Catalina’s spiritual director wrongly pushed her into marrying his widowed best friend through manipulation and guilt trips. She became the step-mother to his two children, grew to love them, and their love consoled her after the stillborn birth of her only child.
When her husband died, she followed her vocational desires and began a religious order in her native country of Argentina.
Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati
A joyous Blessed despite the troubles at home,Pier Giorgio’s parents were on the brink of divorce at the time of his death. It was the impact of Pier Giorgio’s life on others that they witnessed at his funeral the inspired the couple to continue to fight for their relationship and make it work.
She was a queen with rival sons who fought over power when their father died. Eventually they united, only to turn on their mother who was giving away monarchy treasure to the poor. In loving response, she repaid them with her own inheritance from her father and retired in solitude to a villa. Later they called her back and asked for forgiveness.
Matilda understands the pain a mother feels when her children are each other’s enemies, and also how it feels to have your children be disgusted with your choices.
Saint Adelaide of Burgundy
This royal Saint has an incredible story of marriage, death, capture, escape, and a happy remarriage. However, her second husband also died when her children were young. When they became adults, her daughter-in-law turned her son (whose throne she had protected at great cost) against her.
May Saint Adelaide pray for us when our sons-and-daughters-in-law hate us and turn our children against us, forgetting all the great sacrifices we made for them.
Saint Elizabeth of Hungary
Another royal Saint who married for love, Elizabeth had learned the consolation of Christ at six years old when her mother was murdered. She lived her Faith well throughout her life, bringing it into her marriage.
Her generosity to the poor was not deemed appropriate by her in-laws. When her husband died, she was exiled and denied the goods owed to her as the King’s widow. May Saint Elizabeth intercede for those of us whose in-laws do not approve of our Faith.
Saint Margaret of Cortona
Margaret’s stepmother was so unaccepting and cruel that Margaret ran away from home to be rid of her. She found a home with a man who became her lover and they had a child together, living happily for years.
Sadly, one day, Margaret found the body of her love murdered in the woods and she became hyper aware of her own mortality. In fear, she returned to her step mother and was not well-received. May Saint Margaret pray for those of us seeking forgiveness for the sins which have hurt our family.
Blessed Seraphina Sforza
Seraphina married a widower with two children when she was sixteen. Despite her youth, she was wise and virtuous, so much so that when her husband went away to war, he left her in charge of all his duties.
In a shocking twist, when he returned, he had an extremely public affair to the disgust and bewilderment of their children and household. Humiliated, Seraphina joined a convent. Her husband eventually came crawling back, asking forgiveness, which she gave him, but they never lived as husband and wife again.
For those of us who have experienced the unfaithfulness of a spouse, may Blessed Seraphina send us grace to heal!
Saint Kateri Tekakwitha
As a Mohawk, Christianity was incredibly foreign to Kateri’s culture. It was really no wonder that when she was orphaned, she was eventually considered an outcast by her extended family because of her devotion to Christ.
May Saint Kateri intercede for those of us who come from cultures that oppose our Faith.
Blessed Anna Maria Taigi
A housewife and mother of seven, Anna Maria was a breathtakingly beautiful woman greatly concerned with her appearance and clothing. Because of her beauty and confidence, her hot-tempered husband abused her, trying to keep her confidence down. She sought solace in the arms of another man and had an affair.
Naturally, after her conversion, she ended the relationship, but she had to mentally and emotionally come to terms with her actions and also forgive herself. She is patron of verbal and spousal abuse. May Blessed Anna Maria pray for those of us in abusive relationships, and for those of us who have cheated on our spouses. May we also find the freedom, healing, and authentic love and acceptance of Christ that she did.
Keep Your Heavenly Friends Close
Satan likes to isolate us—especially women. Often those of us with imperfect families and backgrounds are tempted to feel discouraged and ashamed. However, the lives of these Saints prove that holiness has little to do with perfect life situations and everything to do with turning to Christ with all our “muck.”
If you’re struggling with dysfunction in your family, remember that your situation may not be as unique as you think. We are all dealing with brokenness. If you need some extra help, we encourage you to print this litany and keep it handy, calling on the Saints daily and in your moments of difficulty!
Which Saints do you turn to in difficult family situations?
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