As these holy men and women attest, there's still time for plans to change.
There’s a tendency to think that once you’re engaged, the relationship will all be smooth sailing from there—or at least that engagement always leads to marriage. But engagement is a period of discernment just as much as dating is. As hard as it is to break an engagement (with all the attendant heartbreak, the barrage of questions, and the lost deposits), sometimes that’s what the Lord asks. Other times, one has no choice in the matter. If you’ve experienced the pain of a broken engagement (or if you’re looking for the courage to call off your wedding), these saints can commiserate—and intercede.
Ven. Gertrude van Oosten (d. 1358) was a poor Dutch servant girl who was engaged to be married when her fiancé jilted her, leaving her for another woman. Though Gertrude was heartbroken, she ultimately found peace with her circumstances and even became friends with her former fiancé’s wife. She ultimately became a beguine (similar to a nun but with no permanent vows) and was given the stigmata and the gift of prophecy. Though local devotion to her remains strong, she has never been officially beatified and is called Venerable in the Catholic Encyclopedia.
St. Barbara Yi Chong-hui (1799-1839) was the daughter of St. Magdalena Ho Kye-im, the sister of St. Magdalena Yi Yong-hui, the aunt of St. Barbara Yi, and the niece of St. Teresa Yi Mae-im. But as holy as the women in her family were, her father was a pagan. His wife and daughters were devoted to their faith, but he had no respect for that and arranged a marriage for Barbara with a pagan man. Though distraught, Barbara knew that refusal would avail her nothing. Instead, she pretended to have a disease that robbed her legs of strength. She spent three years either sitting or lying down until her betrothed gave up on her and married another woman. After this, Barbara married a Catholic man and was widowed two years later. She was martyred some years later, along with many family members.
Bl. John Joseph Lataste (1832-1869) felt called to the priesthood from a young age but fell in with rather a frivolous set in high school and stopped praying or seeking God’s will. For a time he wasn’t even sure if he could remain a Christian, though he ultimately overcame his doubts. Still, priesthood was no longer on the table, and the beautiful Cecile very much was. Lataste fell wildly in love and soon proposed, but his family’s opposition ended their engagement. Distraught, Lataste asked the Blessed Mother to make God’s will clear to him. He waited in agony for two years—until the sudden death of his beloved. This was his answer, though not the gentle direction he had hoped for. Lataste mourned for two years, then entered the Dominicans, where he worked tirelessly in service to prisoners and ultimately founded a religious order for ex-convicts: the Dominican Sisters of Bethany.
Ven. Margaret Sinclair (1900-1925) was a factory worker and union representative in Edinburgh. After she helped a young man return to the faith, he fancied himself in love with her and proposed. When she hesitated, he told her that he would kill himself if she didn’t marry him. Margaret acquiesced. “I thought it was the will of God, and that I might grow to like him,” she confessed, but she knew her vocation lay elsewhere. Finally, she managed to break up with her fiancé (who did not kill himself) and entered the Poor Clares. Margaret died of tuberculosis at 25.
Bl. Natalia Tulasiewicz (1906-1945) was a poet, a violinist, and a teacher with dreams of a Ph.D. She was also a faithful Catholic deeply in love with a brilliant man who was an atheist and a communist. Natalia wouldn’t marry an unbeliever, and so for eight years the two wrestled with this division. She finally broke off her tumultuous engagement when she was 27, but her letters and diaries indicate that she never stopped loving Janek. Though she knew she couldn’t have married him and had no regrets about ending their relationship, Natalia mourned the loss of that love. She became a member of the Polish Resistance during World War II, secretly teaching Polish culture before sneaking off to a German factory to bring faith and hope to the Polish women forced to work there. After being apprehended, Natalia continued to serve as a beacon of hope and an apostle to Ravensbrück until she was killed in a gas chamber.
St. Maria Guadalupe García Zavala (1878-1963) was a young Mexican woman who longed for marriage and even became engaged to a handsome young man named Gustavo. But shortly before her marriage, she realized that God was calling her to religious life and called off the wedding. Together with her spiritual director, she founded the Handmaids of Santa Margherita and the Poor; with them Mother Maria nursed the poor through the Mexican Revolution and the Cristero War, during which time she risked her life to hide priests and bishops who were in danger.