An exemplar of a couple whose depth of togetherness, in faith in and love for Christ, is Aquila and Priscilla. Saint Paul fondly called them “fellow workers in Christ Jesus.”
The couple risked death to save Paul, but he added that all Gentile communities are indebted to them, as well (Romans 16:3-5).
Their feast day is July 8.
Husband and wife
Aquila, a God-fearing Jew, and Priscilla, who is of Jewish heritage, are among the early Christian couples in Rome.
When Emperor Cladius expelled the Jews for continuing disputes with non-Christians, the couple left for Corinth in Greece. They started a tent-making shop where Paul had a part-time work after his evangelization trip in Athens (Acts 18:1-3).
The couple opened their house to Christian congregations or local churches, who listened to Paul. Aquila and Priscilla were baptized by Paul and were cited in the scriptures as among the 70 disciples of Christ.
Paul brought the couple with him to Ephesus, an ancient Greek city, where they stayed, while Paul proceeded to Antioch in Turkey.
Appolonius (Apollos), an Alexandrian Jew, preached in Epheseus. Many people came to hear the eloquent preacher. But his teachings about Jesus was in the context of the baptism and repentance taught by John the Baptist.
The couple updated him on the ways of God (Acts 18:26). The Apostolic Constitution identifies Aquila and Nicetas as the first bishops of Asia Minor, currently known as Asian Turkey.
The Epistle to the Hebrews is the only book in the New Testament with an unknown author. But Ruth Hoppins writes that Priscilla, the intelligent wife of Aquila, is the author of “Finding the Author of Epistle to Hebrews.”
Gilbert Bilezikian in Beyond Sex Roles said the book with author anonymity was to “suppress female authorship or protect the letters from suppression” publication wise.
After the death of Emperor Claudius in 54 AD and Emperor Nero’s reversal of Jewish expulsion decree, Priscilla and Aquila returned to Rome in 55. Paul instructed the church in Rome to welcome them on his behalf.
The Great Fire on July 19 AD, which destroyed 10 of the 14 districts in Rome, was blamed on Christians. Aquila and Priscilla were martyred with other Christians.
An extensive research on husband-wife saints listed only 10 since the time of Christ. This is a little disheartening for marriage, like holy orders and joining religious life, is also a sacrament.
Hagiographers said there are more saints in religious communities, since theirs is a call to duties of perfection, holiness and sanctity. To pursue a God-centered life, self-denial is a must and worldly concerns are avoided.
Among married people, to nurture family life necessitates multitasking, besides economic concern for a comfortable family existence. So, attachment to worldly pursuits is a concern.
Saints Joachim and Anna, mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and Saints Zachary and Elizabeth, parents of Saint John the Baptizer, lived during the early Christian era.
Saints Herperius and Zoe were martyred during the reign of Emperor Hadrean in 135; Saints Basil the Elder (372) and Macrina (340) lived during the reigns of Saint Julius I to Saint Damscus I. Saints Gregory the Elder (374) and Saint Nonna (374) also lived during the reign of Saint Damascus I.
Two couple saints from royalties became saints: King Edwin of Northumbria, England (633), and his wife Saint Ethelburga (647), then Henry II Emperor of Germany (1024) and Saint Cunigunda (1040).
Saint Isidore, a farmer outside the city of Madrid, was canonized 492 years after his death on May 15, 1130. The reason it took this long was the scarcity of materials about him. Only 150 years after his death were information collated because many marvelous happenings were witnessed around his tomb, and his incorruptible body cannot be ignored by church authorities. His wife, Maria de Cabeza was canonized in 1697.
The most recent couple saints to be canonized were Saints Louis and Zelie Martin. They inspired and nurtured their five daughters who became nuns—four Carmelites and one Visitandine. The parents of Carmelite Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, they were canonized on the same ceremony on October 18, 2015.
Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of Congregation for the causes of saints, remarked that the Martin couple is “an extraordinary witness of conjugal and family solidarity.”
Even if there are many couples worthy to be canonized, the process of canonization is so tedious, according to Fr. Tim in Paths of Love.com.
“The logistical process for a person to be canonized is long. There should be someone or a team to follow it up, which can take even a thousand years. And if the candidate is a religious, how much more difficult do you suppose it to be with a layperson?”
Damo-Santiago is a former regional director of the Department of Education National Capital Region. She is currently a faculty member of Mater Redemptoris Collegium in Calauan, Laguna, and of Mater Redemptoris College in San Jose City, Nueva Ecija.
Image credits: Wikimedia Commons