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National Marriage Week: An example of faithful love, enduring unto death (Bl. Elizabeth Canori Mora)

The basics:

  • Born November 21, 1774, in Rome
  • Died February 5, 1825, in Rome
  • Married January 10, 1796
  • Mother of two daughters
  • Beatified April 24, 1994, by Pope John Paul II

A holy card of Blessed Elizabeth.

In Blessed Elizabeth Canori Mora, we have a stunning example of married love that endures “unto death,” even in the midst of profound suffering. Born into a wealthy Roman family in 1774, Elizabeth spent much of her childhood in the care of Augustinian nuns in the countryside of Cascia. In her happy years there, her love for Jesus blossomed, and many thought that she might have a religious vocation.

However, in her teen years, Elizabeth developed tuberculosis and returned to her parents’ home to recuperate. Away from the convent, her desire for religious profession faded just as her interest in a certain young law student, Cristoforo Mora, grew. Discerning that God was calling her to the married state, Elizabeth exchanged marriage vows with Cristofero in 1796.

The first few months of their married life were sweet and joyful. Cristoforo delighted in showing off his young, beautiful bride. However, his affections started to become overshadowed by jealousy, and he began to restrict Elizabeth’s correspondences, wanting to have his wife “all to himself.” Jealously eventually degenerated into disinterest, and disinterest into rejection, and so yet within a few short years, Cristoforo grew cold toward his wife, and began what would be a long chain of infidelities.

A young mother now with two daughters, Elizabeth bore the cruelty and rejection of her husband bravely, offering all of her sufferings for his repentance and conversion. As Cristoforo spent his time philandering and squandering their resources, Elizabeth patiently struggled to make ends meet and ensure that their daughters, Marianna and Lucina, were properly cared for and educated. Even as friends and advisors urged Elizabeth to leave her unfaithful husband, she clung to the vows she had made and the grace of God that she trusted to sustain her.

Drawing her strength from prayer, mass, and her devotion to the Holy Trinity, Elizabeth never ceased loving Cristoforo and praying for him. She encouraged her daughters to do the same, never permitting rancor or anger to be directed at her husband and their father. Faithful until the last, Elizabeth offered her dying words for her husband’s conversion. And finally, after witnessing his holy wife’s holy death, Cristoforo experienced profound remorse for the anguish he had caused his family. Repenting of his sins, he amended his life, and in a turn of events that was due in no small measure to his wife’s intercession, Cristoforo lived the remaining years of his life as a Franciscan priest.

At Elizabeth’s beatification on April 24, 1994 (during the Year of the Family), John Paul II said this about the saintly wife and mother:

“For her part Elizabeth Canori Mora, amidst a great many marital difficulties, showed total fidelity to the commitment she had made in the sacrament of marriage, and to the responsibility stemming from it. Constant in prayer and in her heroic dedication to her family, she was able to rear her children as Christians and succeeded in converting her husband” (original source, in Italian).

And during the recitation of the Regina Caeli on Elizabeth’s beatification day, the Holy Father pointed to Elizabeth as a reminder to all that “love is stern as death” (Song of Songs 8:6) (original source available in Italian or Spanish).

A prayer: Blessed Elizabeth Canori Mora, we entrust to you all struggling marriages, and especially spouses who have been abandoned. May they know that their witness to marital fidelity is a treasure for the world and a sign of God’s never-failing love for his beloved children. Bring faithless spouses back to their families, and heal all of the wounds of sin and betrayal.

Blessed Elizabeth, pray for us!

2 Responses to “National Marriage Week: An example of faithful love, enduring unto death (Bl. Elizabeth Canori Mora)”

  1. Pam says:

    I’ve read so many stories of holy wives saving the souls of their awful husbands by their patience and faithfulness, mercy and love. They are all wonderful, but at least once I’d really enjoy a story about a faithful husband saving a lost wife. Is there such a story? It would give me comfort.

    • Marriage Unique for a Reason says:

      Great question! One saint to learn more about is St. Homobonus (meaning, literally, “a good man”). St. Homobonus was a 12th century Italian tradesman. He and his wife were unable to have children and he devoted much time to caring for abandoned children and the poor. Initially, his wife was very resistant of his charitable work, even critical and demeaning. But eventually he won her over and she served alongside him.

      There are many other faithful husbands whom the Church presents to us as saintly models. Not all of them dealt with the cross of a wife’s infidelity, but nonetheless they witnessed to the power and beauty of faithful married love. Some examples include St. Ferdinand III, St. Louis IX of France, St. Thomas More, St. Frances Borgia and Servant of God Charles of Austria. Their stories (and many more) can be found in the book “Married Saints and Blesseds Through the Centuries” by Ferdinand Holbock (Ignatius Press, 2002).

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