Zelie: A Call to Bear Roses


I was in Starbucks, drinking a medium iced coffee—a small would have sufficed—completely engrossed in The Mother of the Little Flower by Celine Martin, St. Therese’s sister, TAN Books, distracted only by my occasional annoyance at the super-efficient air conditioning.

I couldn’t put down the biography of Blessed Zelie Martin, mother of St. Therese, which was full of vignettes from the saint’s mother’s life.  Every section of the book drew me further into the heart of Zelie, a most beautiful woman inside and out; a kind, devoted wife and mother who wanted nothing else except sainthood for her family; a mother I so wanted to become.  As I sped through the pages, I felt in turns both deeply inspired to multiply my efforts of guiding my family back to its heavenly home, as well as completely depressed as my life began to stand in stark contrast to Zelie’s with each page.  And yet, as I read, I felt Zelie and Therese’s encouragement, as if they were right next to me in Starbucks—what would they order, I wonder—insisting that holiness was within my reach as well, if I only gave myself to Christ as they had.

And I wanted to.  I wanted their holiness.  I wanted a heart like Zelie’s.  I wanted the kind of interior freedom that she had—the space she had to do good all hours of the day, her constant attachment to the Eucharist, the energy God gave her, her single-mindedness, her conviction of God’s constant care and attention, and the loving guidance she had given to all her children.  So apparent to me was that Zelie had the room to bring so many into her heart because she had emptied her own desires from it.  Also apparent was that her fuel to do so came from her daily attendance of 5:30 a.m. Mass and her unshakable confidence in the goodness and providence of God.

My original plan for this post was to give one broad overview of the biography, but upon finishing it, I found my notes were too numerous to do justice to it in just one post.  Perhaps St. Therese herself suggested that I spend more time on it, knowing how shining an example her own beloved mother is to us moms.  Therefore, I will devote one week to each chapter of this incredible woman’s life, to better honor the brilliant example of motherhood that God’s given us in her.  Next week I will start at the beginning, with Zelie’s youth.

In the meantime, I will with God’s grace begin the very painful process of removing my own selfish desires from my heart so that I might be able to more clearly hear my beloved God in it and give Him the space to love others in it.  A first step: leaving Starbucks, as I hear the siren’s call of lemon poppy seed pound cake grow louder.

“Who shall find a valiant woman?  Far and from the uttermost coasts is the price of her.  The heart of her husband trusteth in her, and he shall have no need of spoils…Her children rose up, and called her blessed…” (Proverbs 31:10, 28-30)

Copyright 2011 Meg Matenaer 


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  1. It is wonderful that in the weeks to come Lisa H. will be providing more history, reflection and insight on the life of Blessed Zelie Martin. For Catholic moms in these modern high-tech times, such insight and reflection is truly needed in raising faith-minded children and teens. All os us mothers are called to greater holiness and perfect guidance of our children. The culture for raising youth is so very different now and distractions are great. I am sure many will look forward to the future blog posts concerning Blessed Zelie Martin. With a new school year, the timing is perfect! Leslie Lenko

  2. I agree. Blessed Zelie is such a great example for us moms. Our Christian Mothers’ group at church is reading her book this year.

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