Process opens in Spain to examine a "presumed miracle" for the canonization of Blessed Louis and Zélie Martin, the parents of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux
by Maureen O'Riordan for www.thereseoflisieux.org
The cure of the baby Carmen in Valencia
On October 19, 2008, Louis and Zélie Martin, the parents of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, were beatified in France. Four days earlier, on the feast of St. Teresa of Avila, a little girl named Carmen was born in Valencia, Spain. Carmen’s parents prefer to remain anonymous. They had looked forward happily to the birth of their second child, but the pregnancy was a high-risk one, and Carmen was born most prematurely, after only six months, with grave complications. The midwife’s first words were “Expect the worst.” The baby had a grade 4 ventricular hemorrhage (severe bleeding in the brain). “It started with a brain hemorrhage but was complicated by the lungs, the heart . . ,” the parents recall. Carmen did not respond to treatment. The doctors could do nothing for her, and her parents prepared for her death.
Although there was no human hope, Carmen’s mother and father did not lose hope in God. Because his daughter was born on the feast of St. Teresa of Avila, her father decided to ask St. Teresa to intercede for her. On the Internet he found a nearby monastery of Discalced Carmelite nuns (the order St. Teresa reformed) and went to visit them. “I arrived at night. It was closed and I could only talk to the nuns by the intercom. But the next Sunday we went there to Mass,” says the father. That Sunday was probably October 26, the first Sunday after the beatification of Louis and Zélie. The parents came to trust the nuns, and “some days later, when things turned very bad for the baby, the nuns encouraged the family to seek the intercession of Louis and Zélie Martin,” said Sister Monique-Marie. Zélie and Louis had already obtained from God the cure of the newborn Pietro Schiliro near Milan in Italy, the miracle that led to their beatification. The Carmelites gave Carmen’s parents a card with a prayer to Louis and Zélie and promised to pray with them for the child’s cure.
"Because it was a crucial moment, we prayed with much faith” to the new blesseds, who had lost three of their own children as infants and one at the age of five. After several critical weeks, Carmen suddenly experienced a radical change. She was completely and inexplicably cured. Her physicians were stunned. Although they warned that Carmen would experience complications from her illness, she has not.
“She is perfectly well, speaks normally, attends school, and is in excellent health.” Her family cannot stop giving thanks for everything. In January 2009, when the relics of Louis and Zélie came to Spain, the family went gratefully to venerate them.
At left, the four-year-old Carmen on January 7, 2013.
The Church begins to examine the alleged miracle
When the Carmelite nuns learned of Carmen’s astounding cure, they communicated with the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. Information about Carmen’s case was collected and evaluated by a team at Lisieux and by the vice-postulator for the cause of the Martin spouses, Father Antonio Sangalli, O.C.D. Father Sangalli, a Carmelite friar, was a friend of the parents of Pietro Schiliro, and it was he who urged them to make a novena to Zélie and Louis for the cure of their baby. Father Sangalli was later appointed vice-postulator for the cause of Louis and Zélie, and Pietro’s cure was the miracle that led to their being named blessed a few days after Carmen was born.
Monsignor Lagoutte and Father Sangalli ask the Archbishop to open an inquiry into whether Carmen was miraculously cured at the intercession of Blessed Zélie and Louis
In September 2012, Monsignor Bernard Lagoutte, rector of the Basilica of St. Thérèse, traveled to Valencia to present the dossier about Carmen's cure to the Archbishop of Valencia, Carlos Osoro Serra. Sister Monique Marie of the Community of the Beatitudes, who often accompanies the reliquary of St. Thérèse in its travels and who is fluent in Spanish, went with him. She receives the testimonies of reported favors received at the intercession of Louis and Zélie, including the healing of the Italian child Pietro Schiliro; of an American child, now aged ten, who had suffered with leukemia; and of the little Carmen. A former nurse, Sister Monique Marie quickly became passionate about the cure of Carmen. As vice-postulator, Father Sangalli, who had shepherded the cause of Louis and Zélie to their beatification, joined them at Valencia. Father Raymond Fita was present as archdiocesan delegate for the Causes of Saints.
from left: Fr. Sangalli; Msgr. Lagoutte; Archbishop Osoro; Sister Monique Marie; Fr. Raymond Fita.
The Archbishop also received Carmen’s parents: they were “caring and concerned and recognized the investigative work our team had already done over the last three years,” said Sister Monique Marie. In October the Archbishop decided to open the process in early 2013.
The process opens
On Monday, January 7, 2013, in the Gothic Hall of the Archbishop’s Palace, Archbishop Osoro presided at the formal opening of the canonical process to inquire into whether Carmen’s cure was a miracle attributable to the intercession of Blessed Zélie and Louis Martin. Father Sangalli had prepared a document detailing the alleged miracle and asking the Archbishop to open the canonical cause; he submitted the list of witnesses and the documents received in the case. Jorge Miró, Chancellor of the Archdiocese, read the translation of this document.
Father Sangalli confirmed his request and gave the archbishop the mandate accrediting him as the postulator of the cause. The Archbishop then appointed a tribunal to examine the cause. The members of the tribunal accepted their offices and were sworn in. At the end of the opening session, little Carmen’s father read a brief sketch of the Martin couple.
“That this process is going to open parallels the desire of many bishops and faithful of France. Long live Spain, who cares about the sanctity of the two of France,” said Monsignor Lagoutte, smiling warmly.
Four-year-old Carmen at the ceremony
Carmen’s parents and grandparents witnessed all these formalities in the Gothic hall of the Archbishop’s palace. The little girl herself was there, unconscious of what a serious moment it was and of how important the grace she allegedly received was. She played with her brother, moved from the arms of her mother to those of her father, licked a big lollipop she had just received, and made faces at the photographer’s camera. Her innocent and playful presence added a touch of spontaneity to the solemn ceremony. In the 100-second video above, you may see Carmen at 1:01 and Father Sangalli signing the documents, with Sister Monique-Marie, at 1:19.
Witnesses and documentation
Now the court will collect documents and evidence from doctors and witnesses to examine and prove the existence of the miracle. When the diocesan tribunal finishes its review, the documents will be sent to the Holy See. “The record is very advanced, and we hope [the diocesan process] will go quickly, five or six months,” said Sister Monique Marie. In Rome, the evidence will be examined first by the medical conference of the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints, then by the commission of theologians, and finally by the bishops and cardinals, who will present the documentation to the Pope. Pope Benedict may promulgate the "decree miracle,” the second miracle attributed to the intercession of the Martin spouses. If he does, the way will be open for Blessed Louis and Zélie Martin to be canonized as a couple.
How long might the process take? From the end of the diocesan process for the healing of Pietro Schiliro, it was more than five years before Zélie and Louis were beatified.
Comments on the cure
“For medicine, this is something extraordinary.” - Giuseppe Paterlini, medical court expert.
“You see more and more the intercession of the blessed spouses.”- Monsignor Bernard Lagoutte. Rector of the Basilica of St. Thérèse of Lisieux
“If it is confirmed, this is all an act of God.” - Archbishop Ennio Apeciti, the overseeing court judge
“Science is not everything, we are in the hands of theOther.” - Father Antonio of the Mother of God (Father Antonio Sangalli), Discalced Carmelite friar and vice-postulator of the process.
Will the Church certify this cure as miraculous? Without anticipating the judgment of the Church, if the miracle is accepted, we might consider:
- Carmen was born on the feast of St. Teresa of Avila, who reformed the branch of the Carmelite Order to which Thérèse and her three sisters belonged. October 15 was Thérèse’s feast day during her lifetime. If God sent the miraculous cure in Spain, the land from which the French Carmels were founded, and healed the child after the Carmelite nuns suggested invoking Zélie and Louis, does God want to emphasize the union between the sanctity of Louis and Zélie and that of their Carmelite daughter Thérèse?
- The Church accepts for canonization only miracles worked after the intercessors were beatified. When Zélie and Louis were beatified, Carmen was four days old; she was cured very soon after that. Might God want Louis and Zélie to be canonized without delay?
written by Maureen O'Riordan for www.louisandzeliemartin.org
Update: Please see Part II of this story: "Vatican to investigate 'presumed miracle' of Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin. Will the healing of little Carmen make them saints? Eight doctors testify to the 'astonishing recovery, without any medical explanation,' of a little girl born prematurely in Spain." May 28, 2013
“L'histoire Il y a une quinzaine de jours, Mgr Bernard Lagoutte s'est rendu en Espagne,... – Lisieux,” by Anne Blanchard-Laizé. Quest-France, October 16, 2012.
“El Arzobispado estudia un posible milagro en una niña valenciana atribuido a los padres de santa Teresita de Lisieux,” written by the agency AVAN and published on the Web site of the Archdiocese of Valencia, January 7, 2013.
"Un milagro en Valencia," January 8, 2013, by Laura Garcés for lasprovincias.es
Expectación en Francia y en toda la Iglesia ante el posible milagro en una niña valenciana de 4 años signed by L. B. in the January 9, 2013 edition of Paraula (Iglesia en Valencia).
I gratefully acknowledge the generous collaboration of Teodolinda Garcia of Panama in translating the sources.