Twice now, I’ve addressed The Daughters of Mary at St. Ignatius Church in Mobile, Alabama. This group of beautiful women, founded by my longtime friend, Deborah Madonia, is special. Their purpose is a renewal of faith and family. Believe me–they do it well!
This post, about the first married couple to be proposed for canonization, is written by Mary Ann McConnell, one of the members of The Daughters of Mary, and was sent out in a newsletter to its members. I think it’s wonderful, very interesting, and I know you will, too. So, here it is. Thank you, Mary Ann!
…. ….. ….. ….. …..
Zélie and Louis Martin: These are the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux or St. Therese of the Little Flower of Jesus. This couple were the first parents of a saint to be beatified and the first married couple to be proposed for canonization. The canonization should take place during the world synod of bishops on the family in October 2015. I was amazed when I heard Father announce this in church a few weeks ago. My thoughts were “They raised a saint and now they are going to be canonized saints too!” What role models for us! Isn’t that what we want to do – raise our children to be holy – but to be saints? Wow! What did they do? I wanted to know.
I researched the web and one article stated, “They were not saintly because they raised a saint; they raised a saint because they were saintly.” What do married saints look or act like?
Both Zélie Guerin and Louis Martin came from prosperous French families. They each were masters of crafts: Zélie was a maker of point d’Alencon lace and started her own business. Louis learned clock making and eventually opened his own watch-making and jewelry business. As each were growing up they were blessed with a strong faith. Each hoped to become a religious and had very close relationships with religious but this was not to be. Zélie and Louis met in Alencon and were married in 1858. Each of their businesses prospered and attained financial stability. Within the next 15 years they had nine children – two boys and seven girls. Zelie wrote; “We lived for them, they were all our happiness.” Within three years the two baby boys, a five-year-old girl and and a six-and-a half-week-old infant girl died. Zelie and Louis were numb with sadness but their faith sustained them through these tragedies. Their last daughter was born weak and frail. They feared she too would die but she survived the illness and became strong. This was daughter was Marie Francois Therese, later known as St. Therese of the Little Flower.
Zélie died of breast cancer in 1877 at the age of 45, when Therese was only 4 years old, leaving Louis to raise their five daughters. The first three daughters entered the convent before Louis’ death in 1894 and the other two joined after his death. What qualities of saintliness did Zélie and Louis Martin possess? Fr. Antonio Sangalli, vice-postulator of the cause for canonization of the Martins, on the significance of their lives, miracles and canonization states, “They give witness that the conjugal and marital experience is not an obstacle to holiness, but rather that two spouses who love each other can become saints….”
The example they show us today is: the Martin family has faced all under God’s gaze, placing Jesus Christ in the first place of every situation, both of joy and anguish, always certain of this great embrace of the Lord and with His help they would be able to do anything and overcome any difficulty. Bishop O’Toole stated, “Life came at them unexpectedly, just as it comes at us. Their genius lay in how they accepted what happened to them.” In her autobiography, Therese conveyed the goodness of her parents and the sense of prayerfulness and care for others which was instilled in her home. She wrote God gave me a father and mother more worthy of Heaven than of earth.
Pope Francis has a special devotion to St. Therese. The pope used to keep a photo of her on his library shelf when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires. He has said that when he has a problem, he asks St. Therese “not to solve it, but to take it in her hands and help me accept it.” As a sign that she’s heard his request, he said, “I almost always receive a white rose.”
May God bless you,
Mary Ann McConnell
The following is a video by my friend, Fr. James Kubicki, Director of The Apostleship of Prayer
Copyright Kaye Hinckley and Mary Ann McConnell, 2015
“Louis Martin 1” by unidentified photographer – http://www.devinrose.heroicvirtuecreations.com/blog/2008/07/04/blessed-louis-and-zelie-martin-and-saint-damien/. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.
“Zélie Martin 1” by unidentified photographer – http://www.ouest-france.fr/actu/actuDet_-Les-parents-de-Therese-de-Lisieux-beatifies-_3636-725020_actu.Htm. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Featured Image source: Catholic Herald, UK.