We are happy to announce a very exciting event: the beatification of the parents of St. Therese, Louis and Zelie Martin, in the Basilica of Lisieux, France on Mission Sunday, October 19, 2008. This year is the 150th anniversary of their marriage which was on July 13, 1858. Read the Press Release.
Louis and Zelie raised their five daughters while being fully engaged in the Church, business, social and family life. While surrounding their children with love, tenderness and good times, these parents carefully formed each from childhood in the spiritual life.
Zelie and Louis were devoted to each other and to their children. They reached out lovingly to support their extended families, often at a personal sacrifice. They suffered much hardship and acute grief, having lost four of their nine children in early childhood, but they continued to surrender all to God’s will and trusted in His providential care and love for them. After leading heroic lives, Louis and Zelie surrendered themselves to long and painful illnesses and, in Zelie’s case, to a premature death from cancer. This holy couple is a wonderful role model for parents today.
We look forward to celebrating this significant event with you because so many of you, our dear friends, are married and have families of your own. Like the Martins, you also give generously of your energy and means to help others. Without you we could not meet our monthly ordinary expenses and live our life of intercessory prayer. May God reward you!
We pray to God, through the intercession of Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin, for abundant blessings on you and all of your loved ones. May their example inspire you with courage and wisdom to face the challenges of your own call to reach the heights of sanctity in your vocation to marriage or a single life in the world. We give constant thanks and praise to God for your friendship, prayers and love.
Zelie Guerin was born in December 1831. As a young woman she wanted to become a Sister of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul but her health was not strong enough. Zelie never lost her longing for the cloister yet she loved her husband and children, and totally fulfilled her role as both wife and mother. She had a tremendous enthusiasm for life and was a highly skilled lace maker (at twenty she went to school and started her own business, employing about 60 lace makers); yet her sights were firmly set on Heaven. She was a great letter writer and she comes across as a vivacious and witty woman who is not only deeply perceptive, but also critical of the society in which she lived and, by her own admission, impatient.
She was nearly 27 when an interior voice told her she was to marry Louis Martin. Her first child was born two years later. After the birth of her fourth child she became aware of a glandular swelling in the breast, which had become painful. She did not trust the surgeons of her day and this tumor was ignored for the next eleven years. Her character was largely formed by suffering but in her life she also knew much love. The death of her father-in-law was a great sorrow. She wrote, “He had a very holy death and died as he had lived. I should never have believed it could have affected me so much. I am overwhelmed.” Little did she know that she would lose five more loved ones in as many years. She nursed her own father, who lived with them for a year before he died. Her second son, only eight months old, had just died two weeks earlier.
Zelie gave birth to her last child, Therese in 1873, who was destined to become a saint and the co-patron of the Missions. Zelie died four years later after a very painful struggle with cancer. After her pilgrimage to Lourdes to seek a cure, she wrote her last letter to her brother: “If the Blessed Virgin does not cure me, it is that my time has come and that God wishes me to find my rest elsewhere than on earth.”
Louis Martin was born in August, 1823 in Bordeaux, in southern France. His father was an army captain. At the age of nineteen Louis was apprenticed to a watchmaker.
After two years he sought entrance into the Augustinian Monastery of St. Bernard in the Swiss Alps. He was refused entrance because he did not know Latin so he returned home to study. When illness forced him to give it up he never returned to it. Eventually he became a master watchmaker and established a thriving business, bought a house for his parents, and a Pavillion, small property on the outskirts of the town and added a jewelers shop to his business. His great loves were his faith, his work and the countryside.
Louis had no desire to marry until he met Zelie Guerin when he was thirty five. They chose to continue their dedication to God through chastity after their marriage. After ten months a confessor suggested that they should consider the vocation of parenthood. They had nine children, one of them described as the greatest saint in the modern Church, St. Therese.
Louis sold his business in order to assist Zelie with her lacemaking business. He did the book-keeping, marketing, traveled to Paris to secure the best prices, supervised the deliveries of particularly valuable pieces of work and even chose patterns and drew out designs himself.
He loved to spend time with his five daughters and he delighted them with the toys he made. He told stories, did imitations and sang to them. He was firm with them too, expecting obedience and they obeyed him out of love. At the end of 1876 when he realized that his wife was fatally ill he became inconsolable. On the first Friday of August he went to Mass with Zelie for the last time. After that he hardly ever left her side until the 26th when he went to fetch the priest for the Last Rites.