Holiness in Relationships – Part XXXV

Many saints had deep relationships with their contemporaries who were also saints



Typically our statues and paintings portray saints as individuals. And except for martyrs who are often canonized in groups, canonizations are of individual saints. Nonetheless, many non-martyred canonized saints have had deep relationships with their contemporaries who were also saints. A few are: Mary and Joseph; Sarah and Tobias; Ruth and Boaz; Anne and Joachim; friends Philip and Nathanael; the married couple Priscilla and Aquila (see Gerard Castillo, Sixteen Marriages That Made History (2015), and Pope Benedict XVI’s general audience of Feb. 7, 2007); twins Benedict and Scholastica; friends Francis and Clare of Assisi; lifelong friends Basil and Gregory (see my “Basil and Gregory: Two School Chums Who Became Saints,” Spero Forum, Aug. 15, 2013) and Basil’s sister Macrina and brother Gregory of Nyssa; Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac; brothers Cyril and Methodius (see Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical, “Slavorum Apostoli” or “Apostles of the Slavs”, June 2, 1985, http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_19850602_slavorum-apostoli.html); mother and daughter Paula and Eustochium; mother and daughter Bridget and Catherine of Sweden; college roommates and founding members of the Jesuits Ignatius of Loyola and Francis Xavier; mother and son Monica and Augustine; friends Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross; friends Patrick and Brigid. And I hasten to add, from our time, Pope St. John Paul II and the several laypeople I have identified in earlier blogs. It behooves us, I think, when we look for holiness in others, to look for holiness in people who know each other well.

St. Paul wrote of “the grace bestowed in abundance on more and more people [that it may] cause the thanksgiving to overflow for the glory of God” (2 Cor 4:15). Have you seen this abundant grace? Have you — whether you’re a bishop, priest, religious sister or brother, or layperson — ever met anyone who was holy? Perhaps a co-worker, fellow parishioner, a relative, someone who has helped you or your loved ones with care, money, guidance?

Let me suggest that we seek enlightenment from the Holy Spirit as we try to discover, describe, and discuss holiness in laypeople. We can pray St. Augustine’s prayer “Da Mihi Animas”:

Breathe into me, Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy.

Move in me, Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy.

Draw my heart, Holy Spirit, that I may love only what is holy.

Strengthen me, Holy Spirit, that I may defend all that is holy.

Protect me, Holy Spirit, that I may always be holy.

And we can pray to Our Mother:

Mary, model of holiness, pray for us. (A title of Our Mother from Preface, Feast of the Immaculate Conception)

Mary, Mother of holiness, pray for us. (A title of Our Mother from “Novena in Honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe)


This concludes my 35-part series on lay holiness. For Part XXXIV in this series, click here. To return to the beginning of the series, Part I, click here


James Thunder is a Washington, D.C., lawyer and author, with degrees from the University of Notre Dame, the University of Virginia, and Georgetown. He is former general counsel of Americans United for Life, and past grand knight in the Knights of Columbus.

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