Pray in the presence of the reliquary of Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin and St. Therese in Philadelphia six days a week - July 12, 2015

The "martin family reliquary," which contains significant relics of blessed Louis and zelie martin and of st. therese, enshrined in the chapel of the monastery of the discalced carmelite nuns in the oak lane neighborhood of philadelphia

The Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Philadelphia happily announce that the reliquary of Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin and of St. Therese is again enshrined in their chapel.  The nuns now invite you to pray in the presence of the reliquary six days a week:  

  • every Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noonand 
  • every Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Visit the Web site of the Carmelite Monastery in Philadelphia for directions.  

Blessed Zelie Martin's miracle namesake, by Maria Celia Frias for the Shrine at Alencon

little maria celia frias, now aged five and a half years

In honor of the feast of Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin on July 12, 2015, and thanks to the Shrine at Alencon, we have the joy of publishing in English the story of little Maria Celia Frias.  We thank Juan Marrero for the translation of this happy story.

On July 10, 2009, I was 16 weeks pregnant.  I went to have an echogram done, and my unborn child was diagnosed with a fetal congenital malformation of the abdominal wall (a condition called “gastrochisis”).  It’s worth mentioning that, in 2003, I had had my first daughter Maria Joaquina, who suffered from the same malformation, but she died after two surgeries; she was only 14 days old.  Given all that had happened, my anguish at that moment was indescribable.  When my aunt, who lives in Toulouise, in France, found out what had occurred , she suggested that I begin a novena to the parents of St. Therese, Louis and Zelie Martin, because they had already cured an Italian baby.  I began the novena on July 13, 2009, and, from that time on, prayed to them and to the Blessed Virgin Mary with much faith.

I continued having echograms performed at a hospital with sophisticated technological resources.  I went there regularly to determine the appropriate moment for a delivery by Caesarean section, to be followed by urgent surgery on the baby in order to save her.  Everything went so well that the the radiologist was able to give us a range of dates for the Cesarean: from October 1 (the feast of St. Therese) until October 19 (the anniversary of the beatification of Louis and Zelie).  This range gave me a sense of the sense of the presence of the Saints and the Virgin accompanying me, so that I could withstand the great sorrow and uncertainty and continue a normal life with my family and my other daughter, Maria Dolores, who was then 4 years old.

My daughter, Maria Celia (named after Marie Zelie Guerin), was born on November 16, 2009 at 34 weeks of gestation.  She weighed 2.220 kg.  She was operated on immediately.  At first, all seemed to go well, and the baby improved daily.  The doctors agreed that, instead of continuing the tube feeding, I could start to breasfeed Maria Celia.  But one day, to give her more nourishment, the doctors put a catheter throug her neck vein.  Then everything started to go wrong.  It began with a grave infection, and then a dangerous clot that did great harm to her little organism, so premature and defenseless.  The baby was again taken to intensive care.  She began to swell up and to turn blue.  She was growing worse by the day, worse even than when she was born.  This was very sad for the family.  I was desperate, and I couldn’t understand what was happening.

But the last thing I would lose was faith in the Blesseds and in Our Holy Virgin Mary of Lourdes.  I began the novena to the little Virgin, and another mother who was in the neonatal area gave me a bottle of holy water from the grotto of Lourdes in France.  While I made the sign of the cross on the baby’s forehead with the Lourdes water, I prayed fervently.  I also made my “claim” to the Blesseds feeling in a way that they had forsaken me.  Why had things turned seemingly for the worse when all was beginning to improve?  Why would I be losing a daughter again?  I should note that the doctors, once so optimistic, were very worried now for my daughter, who grew worse by the day.  Until, miraculously (and to the surprise of all, including the doctors), the baby began to improve, the infection was controlled, and the clot dissolved without residuals.

On December 8, 2009 (the day of the Immaculate Conception, a great sign for me at that moment), I was able to lift and carry my daughter Maria Celia, who was still very weak, and feed her.  This was the second miracle.  Each day she improved more and more.  On the tenth day, now weighing 2 kg., she was discharged from the hospital.  I brought her home, where her grandmothers and sister waited for her.  My daughter has had no more problems.  Her father, who is a surgeon, examines her umbilicus for a hernia, and even that has not appeared.  Thank you, Louis and Zelie and Virgin of Lourdes!!!!

by MARIA CELIA FRIAS (it’s worth mentioning “casually” that I have the same name as Blessed Zelie, but my mother chose this name in 1975 when I was born).

Editor's’ note:  Note that this child’s diagnosis took place near the first feast of Louis and Zelie.  They were married at midnight during the night between July 12 and July 13; their feast is celebrated on July 12, but the Catholic marriage ceremony must actually have taken place on July 13, the date on which Maria Celia began her novena.  Louis and Zelie both made pilgrimages (separately) to Lourdes, and Therese herself used Lourdes water in her last illness.  Finally, December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, was a day on which Zelie several times received important graces.  

"To become saints in their daily lives: reflections on the canonization of Louis and Zelie Martin by Laurence de Valbray of Alencon. June 27, 2015

Laurence de valbray

Laurence de valbray

When I learned the joyful news of Louis and Zelie Martin's canonization, I reached out to Laurence de Valbray, who until recently was responsible for receiving the pilgrims who come to Alencon in the footsteps of the Martin family.  Laurence is very knowledgeable about Louis and Zelie, and she was enthusiastic about them long before they were even as well known as they now are.  Knowing that she has listened to the hopes and prayers of many pilgrims, I asked her to share with you her thoughts about the canonization and her reflections about what the pilgrims who come to Alencon are seeking and what they find.

Louis and Zelie did not want to be “canonized” . . . they simply desired in their daily lives to become saints!

     On the day that we learn that Louis and Zelie are to be canonized, I smile at the thought that they certainly would not have been in agreement with this great honor, and, if not for their great love of the Church, would have wondered if the Pope were in his right mind in raising them to the altars!  Zelie once sent a letter to her family, saying that many couples had lived a more exemplary life than theirs, and that if her husband had not been a holy man, she would have struggled greatly to live a good life.

I am always most happy with Louis”, she wrote, “he makes my life sweet. He is a saintly man, my husband, and I wish all women could have the same. This is my New Year’s wish.” (letter to Isidore Guerin, 1 Jan, 1863)

     No doubt this is one of the reasons for the news that we learned with such joy today: Louis and Zelie did not want to be "canonized"...they simply wanted in their daily lives to become saints.

     They shared this desire with their children, their friends and with their professional circle.  They concealed from no one, not even from those who did not share their faith, that their only object in life was to serve God, and their trials and troubles never caused them to change their way of life.  Although they came from Normandy, the traditional Norman way of saying "maybe yes or maybe no" was not their way, but instead a total and definitive “Yes” to the will of God - like that pronounced at their wedding in Notre Dame d'Alencon on July 12, 1858!

     Many places in Alencon evoke the memory of this couple and their family. But in visiting these places, the pilgrim sees more than history; one undertakes a veritable spiritual journey.

     One can understand that couples today, when they come to Alencon, seek not so much a model as an example.  What they find is two hearts in one, welded together by conjugal love: the heart of a man and wife, of a father and mother. They come to Alencon from all over the world, from all walks of life and from all generations, to speak to Louis and Zelie and leave here their daily joys and cares: children, work, illness, birth and death, the afflictions of love, the welfare of their souls. These pilgrims are not looking for complicated dialogue.  They confide their souls; it is a very simple heart-to-heart. Often they speak to Louis and Zelie of their daughter Therese. Often it is she who has led them to their house at 50 rue St. Blaise.

“The good Lord has given me a father and a mother more worthy of heaven than of earth.” St. Therese

     If the example of the Martins draws many pilgrims to the shrine at Alencon it is because, as Mgr. Habert, bishop of Seez, puts it:

     The lives of Louis and Zelie were lives given.
     Given to God
     Given to each other
     Given to their children
     Given to the Church and to the society of their day."

“It is best to leave all things in the hands of God and to await events calmly, abandoning oneself to his will.” - Zelie Martin

    We at Alencon are humble witnesses of the burdens left and the graces received here by all those who come to follow in the footsteps of Louis and Zelie.  Don't put it off! Come! We are waiting for you!

Laurence de Valbray

My thanks to Gordon Davis of Vancouver for the translation.

Notes:

  • For information about going to Alencon on pilgrimage, please visit the English Web site of the Shrine at Alencon.
  • About Louis and Zelie's wedding date, note that they were married at midnight on the night between July 12 and July 13.  For this reason, their feast day is on July 12.
  • Please see Laurence de Valbray and Fr. Thierry Henault-Morel, former rector of the Shrine at Alencon, in the eight-minute video 'Louis and Zelie Martin: Un foyer d'Amour" ("A House of Love").  Both, of course, speak in French. Even if you do not understand French, this film is a chance to see what the birthplace of St. Therese looked like before its restoration about 2008.

"A marriage is as much a road to holiness as a monastery" - Fr. James Martin, S.J. on the canonization of Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin

fr. James Martin, S.J.

fr. James Martin, S.J.

"The canonization of Louis and Zelie Martin is a reminder from the Vatican that married people are just as holy as--and often holier than--priests, sisters, brothers, bishops, cardinals and popes.  And that a marriage is as much a road to holiness as a monastery."

James Martin, Jesuit priest and author of My Life with the Saints.  June 27, 2015

When Louis and Zelie were beatified in 2008, Fr. Martin wrote "His Wife's a Saint; So Is Her Husband" for the Wall Street Journal, an article worth reading or re-reading.

My Life with the Saints has a chapter about his favorite saint, Therese of Lisieux.

Below, in the five-minute video "In Praise of Lay Saints," he speaks engagingly of the universal call to holiness and the need for the Church to recognize saints to whom lay people can relate.  He mentions Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin and displays their portrait.  

Why the Vatican needs to recognize ordinary men and women who have lead extraordinary lives of holiness. A commentary by James Martin, S.J.