On Monday, February 23, 2015, I had the pleasure of talking with host Frances Harry about the lives of Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin, the parents of St. Therese, on the radio show "Carmelite Conversations." Among the topics we explored:
Why are people drawn to Louis and Zelie Martin today?
What can we learn from them?
What were they like as spouses, parents, business owners?
Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin have been chosen as "Married Saints of the Month" by "For Your Marriage," an initiative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in February 2015. The reflection remarks that "Louis and Zelie Martin show how a marriage not only benefits the couple, but their children, the Church and society."
The traveling reliquary of blessed louis and zelie martin exposed for veneraton in the church of st. mary major in rome during the first session of the synod on the family in October 2014. it is a smaller replica of their chief reliquary, which may be visited in the crypt of the basilica at lisieux which is dedicated to their youngest daughter, st. therese.
This May, to focus our prayers in the lead-up to the Synod, I have invited to the Diocese the relics of Blessed Louis and Blessed Zélie Martin, one of the first married couples ever to be beatified. Blessed Louis and Blessed Zélie are the parents of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. The two-day programme will begin on Wednesday 20th May with a Liturgy of Reception in Southampton atSt. Theresa’s, Totton, before a day of veneration at the Cathedral in Portsmouth. The visitation will conclude with Mass at Christ the King, Reading, on Friday 22nd for those in the north of the Diocese. May the prayers of this saintly married couple, along with those of Joseph the Just and Mary the Virgin, renew us with the joy of the Gospel.
This saintly married couple is a great model for all married couples. I hope their prayers will help us reflect on the joy of marriage and the family and enable us to praise God anew during this year between the two Synods.
The reliquary of Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin will also be venerated in the Diocese of Plymouth in May. Details for the diocese of Plymouth have not been announced. The Web site of the Shrine at Lisieux, however, states that the relics of Blessed Louis and Zelie will be in Great Britain from May 15 to May 23, so it is likely that the relics might be in Plymouth from May 15 to May 19, as they arrive in the Diocese of Portsmouth on May 20.
In June the relics of the Martin spouses will be venerated in the diocese of Evreux, in France, where Louis Martin died on July 29, 1894 at La Musse, the country estate inherited by his wife’s brother and sister-in-law, Isidore and Celine Guerin. From July 1 to September 30, 2015, the relics will be venerated in Madagascar. Next year they will be venerated in Poland, in Cracow. Since 2010 the "traveling reliquary" of the Martin spouses has made many pilgrimages to different parts of France and Italy and to Belgium.
In 2009 the relics of St. Therese made their first pilgrimage to Great Britain. The visit was a powerful experience of prayer which had a profound influence on the country, and the relics were venerated by record-breaking crowds.
The relics of Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin are especially linked with the Synod on the Family. Throughout the first session of the Synod on the Family in October 2014, they were venerated in the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome. See a rare video interview in English about the cause of Louis and Zelie Martin with Fr. Antonio Sangalli, the vice-postulator (the advocate appointed by the Church for their cause). See photos of the reliquary of Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin, together with the reliquary of St. Therese, exposed for veneration in the Church of Saint Mary Major in Rome during the first session of the synod on the family in October 2014.
In a time and a culture when the rapid evolution of technology often makes me feel distant from those of younger generations, I am happy to be reminded that Jesusbrings the generations together and happy to hear the Pope speaking of how important the grandparents and the elderly, and good relationships between the young and the old, are for families and for society. By learning wisdom from the experienced, the young are saved from making several lifetimes worth of mistakes; by finding that the young want to accompany them and learn from them, elders are saved from being discarded as useless.
Brother Mickey McGrath's icon above of the "Extended Holy Family" captures this truth in art; it is a beautiful way to honor one's own grandparents and to remember that Jesus, like us, was not the fruit solely of a nuclear family but of generations of life and faith.
Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin lived powerfully in the context of their extended family. Louis Martin's four siblings all died before his 30th birthday. Louis shared a home with his parents and, together with them, adopted his nephew, Adolphe Leriche, when Mme. Leriche, Louis's sister, died. From the day of their marriage in 1858 Louis and Zelie shared a home with Louis's parents on the Rue Pont-Neuf (each couple having their own space in the house). In 1865, Zelie's widowed father was living in a house near them. He thought of leaving that house to move back to Zelie's girlhood home on the rue Saint-Blaise (the house where Therese was later born), but Zelie, convinced that he needed her care, tactfully persuaded him to stay in the same neighborhood with her. "I pointed out that I couldn't do without him and that he was a great help to me. in other words, I begged him to stay. My husband joined me." Later, when she could no longer find him good servants, she asked her brother Isidore to help her persuade their father to move into the Martin home:
When, after Zelie's death, Louis moved with his daughters to Lisieux, his mother preferred not to leave Alencon, so he entrusted her to Rose Taille, the country woman who had been Therese's wet nurse, but he returned to Alencon to visit her every three months until her death in 1883. Zelie's letters also show the lifelong love she and Louis showed in word and in deed to her sister, a Visitation nun, and to her brother and sister-in-law, with whom they spent vacations. Without ever thinking themselves out of the ordinary, Louis and Zelie sustained their relationships with every member of their extended family. They offer us a powerful example of a life, a family, and a society enriched by taking personal responsibility for the extended family. May we be inspired by them not to allow our own society to degenerate into a mass of alienated individuals but to give ourselves generously to sustaining our families and, as Louis and Zelie did, to reach out to the members of the larger human family who surround us.
At Martha House this morning, Pope Francis spoke of the hidden holiness of the saints of daily life. In words that could have been written about Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin, he said:
Let us consider so many mothers and fathers of families, who, with so much effort, raise their families, educate their children, carry on their daily work, bear their problems, but always with hope in Jesus, who do not strut about, but do what they can. They are the saints of daily life.