With the exception of Jesus’ mother Mary and St. John the Baptist, it is hard to say that any one saint is greater than any other saint. However, if you look at the Martin family, it’s hard not to consider them sainthood celebrities. The two parents, Zélie and Louis, were canonized by Pope Francis. All five of their daughters that survived past early childhood went on to become nuns. Thérèse became a saint and Doctor of the Church. Of the five daughters, Léonie has been unfairly described as a “lame duck,” and the least impressive of the sisters. However, her cause for beatification was permitted in 2015 and she is currently granted the title “Servant of God.” Ignatius Press recently published a book by Marie Baudouin-Croix, titled Léonie Martin: A Difficult Life.
The book is divided into five chapters, with the first four chapters arranged by different places important to her life. The first chapter begins with Léonie’s place of birth, Alençon. We see her parents worry over Léonie, her learning difficulties, and the general unattractive nature of the girl. (Yes, this is covered extensively in the first chapter.) We also see how difficult her childhood was with the death of several siblings and death of her mother as well.
The second chapter focuses on the family’s time in Lisieux. This was a hard time for Léonie, because the two youngest daughters chose the two oldest daughters to be like mothers to them, and Léonie was left alone. However, Léonie was not the jealous type and bore this loneliness well. We also learn of the two setbacks Léonie had trying to enter the religious life and not finding an order she could stay in.
The third chapter involves another failed attempt at the religious life for Léonie, her younger sister Celine being accepted into an order, and the death of Louis and Thérèse.
The final chapters finally involve some joy for Léonie, as her fourth attempt at religious life was successful. We also see what it was like for her to be the sister of a saint, and Léonie’s ultimate health deterioration and death.
Reading through this book was hard at times, because it was hard to see someone suffer and go through so much hardship in their life. Léonie proved that despite there being trials and difficulties, if you live a life dedicated to God, you will be rewarded in this life or the next. Let her life of perseverance serve as an example for all of us, and pray for her sainthood.
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Copyright 2018 Stuart Dunn
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