Relics of Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin, the Parents of St. Therese of Lisieux, to Be Venerated in Great Britain in May 2015

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.

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.

The Catholic Diocese of Portsmouth in Great Britain announced today that the relics of Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin, the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux, will be venerated in that diocese from May 20-22, 2015 to focus the prayers of the people of Portsmouth in the months leading up to the Synod on “The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and in the Modern World” in Rome in October.  Bishop Philip Egan wrote, in a pastoral letter to be read at the parishes this weekend:

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 at St. 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.

(See the full text of Bishop Egan’s pastoral letter , “Mary’s Husband”).

When he addressed the annual conference of deacons on November 30, 2014, Bishop Egan said of Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin:

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 Lois 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

See “Ahead of Synod, UK Catholics to Venerate Relics of St.Therese’s Parents,” by the Catholic News Agency, January 16, 2015 

"Jesus is the One who brings the generations together . . . ." - The Angelus Address of Pope Francis on the Feast of the Holy Family, December 28, 2014

The extended holy family, an icon by brother michael o'neill mcgrath, osfs.  available from trinity icons

The extended holy family, an icon by brother michael o'neill mcgrath, osfs.  available from trinity icons

Jesus brings them together, the youth and the elderly. Jesus is the One who brings the generations together. He is the source of that love that unites families and people, overcoming all mistrust, all isolation, every distance.

In his Angelus address on Sunday, December 28, 2014, the Feast of the Holy Family, Pope Francis spoke of how, when Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus to the Temple, Jesus brought them together with the elderly Simeon and Anna, both of whom had the prophetic gift of recognizing Jesus as Messiah.  He continued:

He is the source of that love that unites families and people, overcoming all mistrust, all isolation, every distance. This makes us reflect on grandparents: how important is their presence, the presence of grandparents! How precious is their role within the family and society! The good relation between youth and the elderly is decisive for the path of the civil and ecclesial community. And looking at these two elderly people, Simeon and Anna, we greet with applause all the grandparents of the world!

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:

Suggest to him not to take on a servant and to come live with us, because you wouldn’t believe the problems I’m having in finding him reliable and devoted people. My husband supports this arrangement. You wouldn’t find one in a hundred so good as he is toward a father-in-law.

You know him, our father is a very good man, but he’s developed certain little habits of old age. His children must put up with them, and I’m completely determined to do so.

A Call to a Deeper Love: The Family Correspondence of the Parents of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, 1863-1885.  Staten Island, New York: Society of St. Paul, pp. 24-25.

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. 

Pope Francis preaches about the "hidden holiness of the saints of daily life," December 4. 2014

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.

Read the full story or listen to it:  "Pope: the hidden holiness of the saints of everyday life," Vatican Radio, 12-4-14.


Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin and the Year for Consecrated Life: How Can Laypersons Support Religious?


Paradoxically, Louis and Zelie Martin each at first believed themselves called to the consecrated life, then entered into a marriage that was extraordinarily fruitful for souls, next gave birth to five daughters, all of whom embraced the consecrated life, and finally, thanks be to God, gave the world their youngest daughter, St. Therese of Lisieux, the consecrated virgin who has inspired countless women and men in every state of life "to love Jesus and to make Him loved."  

As the Year for Consecrated Life begins today, note that, while Louis and Zelie entered wholeheartedly into their lives as lay persons, they continued to esteem the religious life highly.  Zelie retained a keen affection for her sister Marie-Louise, a nun of the Visitation, and had a close friendship with the Poor Clares in Alencon.  She belonged to an association of Christian mothers that met at their monastery, met with the secular Franciscans there, and confided in the nuns when she and her family needed prayers for a special intention: when her brother needed to pass the test for his pharmacist's license, or when one of her children was ill.  Zelie also worked closely with the nuns of the Refuge and the local priests to free little Armandine V. from an abusive situation.

Louis held priests in such high regard that he would not presume to socialize with them casually, but he entertained his parish priest formally once a year and gave a dinner for the clergy when one of his daughters received the habit or made her religious vows.  Priests were often his companions when he went on pilgrimage, and, when he went fishing, he usually gave his catch to one of the local communities of nuns.  

In addition to showing their respect for religious and offering their friendship, Louis and Zelie supported various congregations generously.  Louis (followed later by his brother-in-law, Isidore Guerin) was the chief benefactor of the Lisieux Carmel, offering his daughters with generous dowries, giving large sums of money at other times, giving food, flowers, fish, religious artefacts . . . It is evident that the life of the Martin family was enriched by the relationships Louis and Zelie maintained with priests and religious, and that the  religious communities, too, were enriched.  Pope Francis's Letter for the Year of Consecrated Life makes an appeal to the whole church that reminds me of the gift Louis and Zelie were to religious:

So I invite every Christian community to experience this Year above all as a moment of thanksgiving to the Lord and grateful remembrance for all the gifts we continue to receive, thanks to the sanctity of founders and foundresses, and from the fidelity to their charism shown by so many consecrated men and women.  I ask all of you to draw close to these men and women, to rejoice with them, to share their difficulties and to assist them, to whatever degree possible, in their ministries and works, for the latter are, in the end, those of the entire Church.  Let them know the affection and the warmth which the entire Christian people feels for them.

In the Western world especially, where the numbers of women and men in religious life have diminished and the population of religious is aging, religious communities are in speical need of the partnership of the lay persons they have served.  Thinking, on the First Sunday of Advent, of how we can imitate Blessed Louis and Zelie in the friendship, confidence, and generosity they showed to the religious of their time, it struck me that, when purchasing gifts (and items for ourselves), we can select items that support religious communities in the contemplative witness of their lives of prayer and in their service to the poor.  If the Spirit leads you to explore that option, please see my page of gifts that support religious communities.

Please also see "How Can Louis and Zelie Martin Help Us in Our Prayer for Vocations Today?" - a conference by Mgr Jacques Habert, bishop of Seez, the diocese in which Louis and Zelie spent their marriage.

A big step forward for the canonization of Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin: November 4, 2014

                                                                                         Blessed Zelie and Louis Martin

                                                                                         Blessed Zelie and Louis Martin

The doctors of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints have declared that the healing of little Carmen (the child whose cure from a cerebral hemorrhage soon after she was born in 2008 is being examined as the "presumed miracle" for the canonization of Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin, the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux) cannot be explained by medical intervention.  The announcement appeared today on the Facebook page of the "Bookstore of Therese of Lisieux" in Lisieux.  I hope details of the announcement will be available soon.  It is the first public announcement of progress in the cause of Blessed Louis and Zelie since the miracle was approved by the diocese in which it happened and submitted to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in May 2013.  Little Carmen celebrated her sixth birthday on October 15, 2014. 

The diocesan inquiry in Valencia, Spain (Carmen's home diocese) closed in May 2013, and the file was immediately brought to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome, where it was to be examined first by a panel of physicians, then by a group of theologians, and finally by a group of cardinals.  The successful completion of this first phase of the Congregation's examination is an important step toward the possible canonization of Louis and Zelie.  Although I have no other information about today's announcement yet, to learn more about the "presumed miracle,"  please see:

lick here to learn how to contribute to the expenses of the cause for canonization.  Your gift must be sent to France by mail. 

Please continue to pray for the progress of the cause and that Louis and Zelie will help many souls. Thank you.