We pay a lot of attention to the big points in our married life such as our wedding day and anniversaries — but what about the time that lies in between? The boring, the mundane, the everyday is so often pushed to the side or forgotten, not celebrated or documented. Those ordinary moments, though, are what makes life life. Most of marriage happens in between anniversaries.
Once the honeymoon phase wears off, though, it can be hard to sustain energy and generosity in the daily rhythms of life with your spouse. When she leaves the dishes dirty in the sink yet again, or when he is running late for the fourth time this week, it’s a challenge to keep married love dynamic and selfless.
Our faith tradition remembers and lifts up the lives of people who persevered in faith, hope, and love in challenging conditions — even in the face of the daily grind. So many ordinary yet holy men and women lived their lives in those moments in between the milestones. And while I’m not an expert in living a saintly or ordinary life, I’ve had my fair share of the in-between moments in my first three years of marriage. I’m glad to have had the company of some extraordinarily ordinary saints each step of the way.
Louis and Zelie Martin
The first married couple to be canonized as saints together, Louis and Zelie Martin can teach us quite a lot about marriage. They raised five daughters together, all of whom became nuns — including Therese of Lisieux, more commonly known as Therese of the Little Flower for her meditations on simplicity and the spiritual life.
In addition to raising a saint, Louis and Zelie are an inspiration to my husband and I for their tireless devotion to one another and their family life. Though Zelie died at the age of 45 when Therese was still quite young, the example they set inspired in their daughters a fierce love for God.
Louis and Zelie were not well-off — they lived simple, fairly secluded lives. But their experience is a reminder of the importance of family and how everyday moments can be truly extraordinary.
Joan of Arc
It might sound like a cry for help to say that Joan of Arc, who cloaked herself as a man to fight in the Hundred Years’ War and was burned at the stake, is a saint I turn to in my marriage—but her influence has been with me since the weeks before my wedding date.
Expecting to be an anxious mess and worried about all the things that might go wrong on my wedding day, I continued to hear the voice of Joan of Arc in my head: “I am not afraid. I was born to do this.”
Yes, Joan of Arc was talking about martyrdom and I was talking about a really nice celebration of my marriage, but the point stands: I was called to a vocation of love through marriage, where my spouse and I support one another and journey through life together. We were born to do this — and “this” includes lazy Sundays, trips across the country, going to the grocery store, and everything in between. Joan of Arc reminds me that everything in my life is ordered to a higher purpose — one that I was born to do.
Joseph and Mary
The Holy Family might feel like a bit of an obvious choice, but being the familiar models of holiness they are sometimes keeps us from understanding all that we can learn from this pinnacle of married couples.
Mary teaches us so much about marriage: How to say “yes” in faith even when things seem confusing; how to raise a special child in unusual circumstances; even communicating difficult things to one’s spouse. She is a reminder of the love of the Father that never ends, and the ways we can bear that love to the world and to our families.
For my husband and I, Joseph represents perhaps an even more profound picture of being a spouse through the ordinary times. Maybe it’s because we were married in my childhood church, St. Joseph the Worker, or because I was born on May 1, a feast day for Joseph, but I think it’s because he shows us the way forward in so many “typical” situations.
In a lot of ways, Joseph was a typical husband and dad. He worked hard for his family, giving up everything to be a better spouse and father. He taught his son his trade, and believed and respected his wife in a situation where society wouldn’t have blamed him if he’d simply left. He’s also a shining example for adoptive, foster, and stepparents, as someone who fully embraced his role as father while holding space for Jesus’s Father in heaven.
Joseph also teaches us something extraordinary about trust and faith: Our faithful presence matters more than our words. The Bible doesn’t have any quotes from Joseph — though he’s a main character, we don’t have a record of any words he said. His impact came from what he did — providing for his family and supporting Mary and Jesus when they needed him. Joseph reminds us that it doesn’t take a lot to be a good spouse — just a deep, fundamental trust grounded in love for each other and for God. It’s a simple truth, but one that can profoundly shape our lives, even (or especially) in difficult or boring conditions.
Together, Mary and Joseph show us the blueprint for a good family, in the stories we read in the Bible and in the stories untold between those lines. Zelie and Louis show us what it looks to love through grief and simplicity. And Joan of Arc reminds us that we all have a greater purpose.
These saints didn’t have it all figured out, and I certainly don’t either. But I’m glad to have them walking beside me on my journey on my most boring, mundane days of marriage — and on the milestones and days of celebration.