A few years ago my husband and I decided to start praying novenas for our friends in the nine days leading up to their marriages, ending on the wedding day. We like to ask the couple about saints they have a devotion to and try to choose a novena to one of them. Yet the communion of saints is also rich with holy men and women whose lives and spiritualities speak to spousal love, self-sacrifice, and beautiful witnesses to marriage. If you're in search of saints whom you can call upon during your engagement and beyond, as well as devotions you can add to your daily prayers, we have a particular love for...
St. Josemaria Escriva: The priest who founded Opus Dei rooted his prayer, writings, and homilies in the universal call to holiness. He viewed small, ordinary daily tasks as a path to sanctity, particularly for the laity. "Husband and wife will listen to each other and to their children," he wrote, "showing them that they are really loved and understood. They will forget about the unimportant little frictions that selfishness could magnify out of proportion. They will do lovingly all the small acts of service that make up their daily life together.” This novena, inspired by one of Escriva's homilies on marriage, has one set of prayers for the engaged and another for married couples, with piercing reflections on vocation, chastity before and after marriage, suffering and forgiveness, and creating a peaceful, loving home. Feast Day: June 26th
St. Joseph: It's beautiful to imagine the affection and pure love Joseph and Mary must have shown each other and the joys and trials they must have experienced while raising the son of God together. The novena to St. Joseph invokes this great man's strength as a husband and father and his guardianship of the Holy Family. Feast Day: March 19th
St. Gianna Beretta Molla: A wife and mother for modern times, Gianna Beretta Molla famously refused to abort her unborn fourth child in spite of grave pregnancy complications, at the cost of her own life. Gianna's relationship with her beloved husband, Pietro, is worth contemplation and admiration, as well. They constantly wrote each other love letters, were free and sincere in their expressions of love, and even years after Gianna's death, Pietro continued to praise her holy example and ask her intercession for their children. Feast Day: April 28th
St. Raphael: This Archangel is known as the patron saint of "happy meetings" and his name means "God heals". He only appears in Scripture in the Book of Tobit. Disguised as a human, Raphael heals Tobit of his blindness and heals his future wife, Sarah from a demon. In the New Testament, St. Raphael is credited with the healing power of the pool at Bethesda in the Gospel of John: "An angel of the Lord descended at certain times into the pond; and the water was moved. And he that went down first into the pond after the motion of the water was made whole of whatsoever infirmity he lay under" John 5:1-4. Feast Day: September 29th
St. Jude: Healing might seem necessary only for major wounds or transgressions, yet it's in repairing even the smallest sources of division that we find deeper union and true peace. There is value in total honesty and a will to forgive and repair what comes between you; these prayers to St. Jude for the healing of relationships and marriages can aid you in bringing about that restoration. Feast Day: October 28th
Pope St. John Paul II: If this great man, a lover of free, faithful, fruitful, and total love and champion of the human person, seems like an obvious patron for your engagement and marriage, it's with good reason. His writings on truths about men and women and the divine romance of our creation and redemption read like a framework not just for a holy marriage, but a life fixed on responding to Christ's invitation into total communion with him. Here's a Theology of the Body-inspired novena, suggested to be prayed nine days before your wedding (or anniversary!) that invokes the intercession of the Holy Family, the archangels, and John Paul the Great for brides and grooms. Feast Day: October 22nd
Sts. Anne + Joachim: Tradition holds that, like Sarah and Abraham, the parents of Our Lady longed for a son or daughter for ages; after many years, God spoke and promised them a child who would be set apart for him. They are known as patrons of married couples, expectant parents, and those struggling with infertility. Seeking their intercession, in times of both joy and suffering, is a reminder that in his providence--whatever that looks like in your particular life and calling--the cries of our hearts are always, always heard. Feast Day: July 26th
Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin: We chose this couple, the parents of St. Therese, as patrons for Spoken Bride. They are the first married saints from modern times and exemplars of loving purely and entirely, rejoicing in suffering, and creating a home for their children in which even mundane, daily tasks could be consecrated to God and used for his glory. The Novena to Louis and Zelie and Prayer of Spouses and Parents for the Martins' intercession each invite a deeper spiritual and biographical understanding of their life together and unyielding trust in the Father. Feast Day: July 12th
We also love...
This sweet, simple marriage blessing that would be a wonderful addition to prayers for friends who are preparing for marriage--or for yourselves. In a way, wedding guests have a responsibility for spiritual preparation just as the bride and groom do. Prayers for the couple's marriage and, God willing, future family, is powerful and invites us as guests to experience the wedding in a way that draws us out of passivity; not because it's about us, but because together with the couple, our eyes are fixed on something greater.
A prayer for your husband that speaks the language of self-emptying love of the other. It's beautiful both for engagement and after marriage.
This nightly examen for married couples inspires the living out of your wedding vows, not just in the broad sense but in the details: carefully weighing your words and critiques, spending your time intentionally, and cultivating a servant's heart for your spouse and family.
The theologian Hans urs Von Balthazar wrote, “Prayer is dialogue, not man’s monologue before God.” I’d add that prayer is not a monologue between spouses, but two voices united, crying out to the Father--in suffering, in joy, in praise, in petition, and in all things. May these prayers bear much fruit in your relationship.