Sometimes, Holiness is Boring

Mary C. Tillotson - Saints


I was complaining to my husband the other day that there aren’t any prominent married saints – at least none who actually lived the sacrament of marriage. It seems like the only way to be a married saint is to be a 14-year-old girl who, having taken a vow of virginity, is forced to marry a big, gross, abusive pagan man. What about us regular spouses who chose to marry each other and who get along pretty well? Don’t we get someone to look up to?

My husband listened to my griping, then ruined my perfectly good bad mood. “I don’t know why it’s necessary,” he said. “We’re all supposed to practice the same virtues.”

I had been trying to justify a claim (sorry, God) that I don’t even know how to be a good wife! which, of course, I could very cleverly follow up with Stop expecting so much of me! The lack of prominent married saints means I’m not responsible for being patient, or humble, or mature? That’s an argument for laziness.

It’s easy to use the great saints as an excuse not to be holy in the lives we’re actually living. We can think of St. Maximilian Kolbe, then say “well, I don’t have an opportunity to take someone’s place in an Auschwitz gas chamber like he did, so I guess I’m off the hook today.” But that’s not how it works. If we keep chasing after great opportunities like this, we’ll miss the real opportunities in our own lives.

Holiness is often annoyingly, boringly obvious and simple. I have no indication of a vocation to give up all my wealth like St. Francis of Assisi (not sure how I’d talk my husband into that, anyway), but I’m still called to poverty and detachment: when my sandal broke the other day, and when I lost my favorite running shorts. St. Damien of Molokai, another exciting saint, went to Hawaii to take care of the lepers, and eventually died of leprosy. I’m also called to care for the sick – for example, when my husband has a cold. St. Lawrence made some witty remarks while being roasted over a fire – a neat sort of martyrdom. That’s more exciting than holding my patience when the three-year-old I babysit chases his brother with a Fisher Price frying pan, but the latter is my job, a step in my path to holiness.

Holiness is always an option, and opportunities to grow in holiness are always right in front of us. But we often don’t want those opportunities; we want the cool opportunities that the saints had. It’s because we’re lazy, and because we’re not looking at reality. I know how hard it is to work in a little more patience and humility next time my husband and I disagree. I’ve tried it, and don’t like doing it. I don’t know how stressed St. Joan of Arc was when she talked to her parents about leaving. I don’t know how close St. Therese was to giving up her vocation. I don’t know what emotions St. Ignatius of Antioch was hiding when he wrote his letter to the Romans. We gloss over those parts. As much as I think I want a cool opportunity like a great saint had, if someone seriously posed the question, I know I’d take my husband over a concentration camp any day.

The path to holiness isn’t confusing or hard to figure out. You don’t have to wait for a great opportunity to be holy, the way you have to wait for a college degree to get a career. You can start now. If you’re stuck, start listing virtues: prudence, temperance, humility, patience, generosity, purity, courage, kindness, forgiveness, hope, perseverance, honesty. Don’t you want to be that sort of person? Why aren’t you? When did you last miss an opportunity to behave this way? Watch for it, and make a plan so you don’t miss it next time.

So what if I don’t know any saints who lived in circumstances similar to mine? I know that my first loyalty is to God and to the vows I made before him – to love my husband and any children God may send us. I know the virtues I’m supposed to practice. I know the vices I’m supposed to avoid. And, really, that’s all I need.

© 2013. Mary C. Tillotson. All Rights Reserved.

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15 thoughts on “Sometimes, Holiness is Boring”

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  4. John Darrouzet

    My parents always reminded me of St. Joseph and St. Mary. Given the child they raised, I expected no better example for family life, for fathers or mothers. Moreover, as far as I can tell, their lives of holiness were never boring. Just the opposite: full and abundant.

    1. Mary C. (Petrides) Tillotson

      Thanks for your comment, John. You’re right, the Holy Family gives us an obvious example of married saints, and it’s hard to find anyone better to look up to! That said, their marriage was unique; those of us called to the vocation of marriage are called to live it in a very different way than they did.

    1. Mary C. (Petrides) Tillotson

      Thanks, Cari! I asked Chelsea this, but I’ll ask you, too – do you know a good biography of her? I started reading one, but it was poorly written and I had to stop.

  5. Great blog.
    However there are some amazing married women saints.
    St Gianna Beretta Molla
    Blessed Zelie Martin, St Therese’s mother is an amazing married (future) saint. I have her books and am constantly getting inspiration from her 🙂
    Coincidentally my daughters are named after those two saints…
    And the future St Mary Tillotson huh?

    1. Mary C. (Petrides) Tillotson

      Thanks! I know of these saints, but I don’t know much about them. Can you recommend a good biography or some good writings?

      Still working on the St. Mary thing 🙂

    2. Call to a Deeper Love by Zelie and Louis Martin is my favourite ‘married saint’ book. It is the letters of each. I read it during times I need inspiration as a wife and mother.
      I think the St Gianna book that we have is Saint Gianna Molla: Wife, Mother, Doctor by Pietro Molla. But can’t remember for sure, we are one of those kind of book lenders that you lend them and then they are long forgotton about until you remember you once had that book!
      Also, as an aside, in my prayer group we have been reading through Kimberley Hahn’s Graced and Gifted for the past two years (we get distracted alot!) and also Kimberley Hahn’s Life Giving Love is another great wife inspiration book 🙂
      I could talk about books for a while though…

  6. Siegfried Paul

    Mary, I have to add that there is an obvious error, that America is bringing to Europe: “Latter Day Saints” define “marriage” using a relation between a woman and man in heaven, Paul of Tarsus says, that we know nothing about that relation – . Public transport is of little importance for cities in America, but I had a conversation with “Latter Day Saints” from America that were using it here; the systems of the cities being connected to railways where “widows” get cheaper tickets.

  7. Siegfried Paul

    Mary, I woke up, I had a dream, I had been calling the police, 133, needing help, but I didn’t know the name of the town where I was: so I started to ask poeple, but nobody wanted to tell me the name, the police being on the phone all that time, in my dream from which I woke up less than one hour ago. I thought at the moment: this dream is about PATRON SAINTS. It is said that it is unknown, if Jesus sent out seventy disciples as he sent out the twelve disciples, among them Judas, telling them: “You will not finish your work in all the towns of Israel before the son of man comes” – “MATTHEW 10:5-23”. But now, it is said that it is unknown if the GOSPEL of the MEDICAL DOCTOR LUKE – “10:1-7” – has the number of seventy: the REVELATION – “4:4” – of the disciple whom Jesus loves has twenty-four elders, one could use this to make a number of seventy improbable – (I contributed to the “Wikipedia”). – My dream is about PATRON SAINTS, because we, my dog – he comes from the Saarland in Germany – and I, had been left yesterday by three male members of the “Watchtower Society” after a discussion on the “Holy Bible”. We had been visited unexpectedly by the “Watchtower Society” these days, we had opened the “Holy Bible” on tables in this appartment house, but yesterday I had a “Holy Bible” in my bag and also also a quotation from it by the “SONNTAG” and “GLAUBE UND HEIMAT” – – and: the precise reason why I think my dream is about PATRON SAINTS is the tale “The Blackbird”, on a mother, by the Austrian Robert Musil, he is not a Styrian though, I am in Styria here, he is from Carinthia.

  8. Being the resident counter-cultural Catholic where I work, I’ve had the opportunity (usually in loving the sinners living together, but very much hating their sin) to talk about requirements for marriage happiness.

    The pat answer to the fairer sex is to believe, after God, there is no more lovable soul, more worthy of every bouquet of love, than your husband, and to teach your children the same. The Wife/Mother role merely a poor type of The Church.

    Husbands must be willing to give up their lives, red or white martyrdom, to sanctify and safeguard their wife and children. The Husband/Father role merely a poor type of Christ.

    If Christ was coming to dinner, a good host (wife) wouldn’t stop thinking of ways to please.

    If Adam thought the only way to save Eve was to suffer anything to keep his bride pure, then a good husband would never stop doting on his wife.

    The enemy is the politics of domination (men) and manipulation (women).
    The enemy whispers what we reluctantly acknowledge. That the soul who cares least seems to have the most power. This psychological game of chicken never ends well.

    We counter this classic, corrupting utilitarianism with spontaneous, super-abundant, and spectacular acts of eros, philia, and agape, with out even the least expectation of reciprocation. Loving exhaustively, with no demands, save what Our Faith teaches, like every Saint.

    You love your spouse as if no one does or will. As if their breathing depended upon you loving them.

    When a wife is loved she feels that her beloved could not exist without her. When a husband is loved he believes no one desires him more than his wife.

    The Mystical Bride, whose every act, word, or sigh of love, makes her irresistible to The Bridegroom.

    Being a Saint is not a self-help list it seems, but a conscious decision to love because you will to do so. True love is never a feeling, but always a choice.

    Boredom, I’ve read, has it’s beginning in ingratitude, which is just our natural inclination to narcissism, preening it’s head at everyone else’s pond of possibilities.

    So, then, ignore all those boring temptations to self-love and choose every ecstasy becoming of a Saint!


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