translated by Michael J. Miller
for "Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin, the Parents of St. Therese of Lisieux"
Speech by the Vice-Postulator, Father Antonio Sangalli, O.C.D., at the conclusion of the diocesan phase of the canonical process concerning the allegedly miraculous healing of a little girl from Valencia by the intercession of Blessed Louis and Zélie Martin, the parents of Saint Thérèse.
May 21, 2013
On October 15, 2008, the feast of Saint Teresa of Avila, Carmen Perez Pons was born in “9 de Octubre” Hospital in Valencia (Spain). Four days later, on October 19, in Lisieux (France), Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, Delegate of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, proceeded solemnly to beatify Louis and Zélie Martin, who were husband and wife.
Apparently nothing seems to connect these two events: only later did faith enable us to discover the mysterious ties that unite us in the communion of saints, as we declare in our Profession of Faith.
Carmen, born prematurely after a very difficult pregnancy, suffered from very serious pathologies. Among other things, she contracted a double septicemia [blood infection] and a stage-IV left intraventricular cerebral hemorrhage, the most serious form. The situation looked very serious from the start. The parents of the newborn, Santos and Carmen, seeing that the child was in danger of death, turned immediately to God and to the Virgin Mary. They intended to ask for a miraculous cure of their second child through the intercession of Teresa of Avila. Providence willed that, thanks to the intervention of the Carmelite monastery in Serra, the parents began a novena of prayer to Blessed Louis and Zélie Martin at the suggestion of the Mother Prioress. This established within the family a communion of real and intense prayer by the parents, friends, the Monastery in Serra, and all those who had taken to heart the fate of little Carmen as she battled against death.
On January 17, 2009, I accompanied for the first time in Spain the traveling reliquary containing the relics of Blessed Louis and Zélie Martin. We returned to France after a stopover in Rome to deliver an important reliquary to Benedict XVI. The traveling reliquary had reached the Shrine in Lleida [also called Lérida] dedicated to Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus. That was the occasion on which I met Father José Castellá, Rector of the Shrine of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, who spoke to me about an alleged miracle. Therefore I listened to the father and the grandparents, who were there with Ismaël, the brother of little Carmen. They had come expressly from Valencia (a round trip of 650 kilometers [400 miles]) to thank Louis and Zélie for having saved Carmen from a certain death.
I immediately had the sense that I was dealing with a truly unusual event that deserved to be studied in greater depth. I then told Msgr. Bernard Lagoutte, leader in the cause of canonization for the Martins, and also told the Carmelites at the monastery in Lisieux. He asked me to do whatever was needed to verify the alleged cure and supported me in all the steps that I have taken to this day.
From November 6 to 11, 2009, I traveled for the first time to Valencia with a little team, including Msgr. Ennio Apeciti. From the beginning he has been an invaluable support because of his competence. We started a preliminary investigation to collect testimonies so as to establish a clear diagnosis about the alleged cure of Carmen.
Both by telephone and by mail I contacted the family of the girl who had been “allegedly cured.” I always remained optimistic, without any doubt or hesitation. Carmen’s dad and mom were always very cooperative and unstinting with their time and efforts. They were seeking only the glory of God so as to thank him for Carmen’s cure.
During a second mission, from November 8-12, 2010, I observed new and surprising progress made by Carmen. At that time it became clear that it would be necessary to examine the child in-depth at a center that specializes in evaluating the presence of possible abnormalities, which the physicians who followed Carmen’s case always feared.
In order to take advantage of a precise, scientific setting, Carmen’s family came to Italy from July 6 to 13, 2011. The child was subjected to a series of specialized examinations in the Association La Nostra Famiglia in Bosisio Parini (Lecco). The result was surprising: Carmen showed no ill effects from the stage-IV hemorrhage that she had suffered. This reassured me and prompted me to keep believing that the “alleged cure” had been sudden, complete, and lasting.
The conclusive phase of the investigation is a recent story. During my third visit, from September 16 to 18, 2012, I met Your Excellency to inform you directly about the alleged miraculous healing attributed to the Martins that occurred in your Diocese.
Like an accommodating, benevolent father, Your Excellency immediately offered me the best possible collaboration concerning the “alleged miracle,” with three families playing major roles: the Pérez Pons family, the family of the Carmelites in Serra, and the “holy family” of little Thérèse of the Child Jesus.
On December 8, 2012, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which was so dear to Blessed Louis and Zélie Martin, I sent you the Supplex libello [additional dossier], thereby asking you officially to open the diocesan investigation. After exactly one month, on January 7, 2013, the opening Session was held with the appointment of the Tribunal and the interrogation of the witnesses, which concluded between April 2 and 4. In all, 18 testimonies were heard: the parents and grandparents of Carmen, her teacher, a priest, four Carmelites from Serra, and eight physicians, two of whom were doctors ab inspectione appointed directly by the ecclesiastical Tribunal.
Today, on May 21, 2013, we find ourselves assembled for the conclusion of the Process and to send it to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints (i.e. to Rome). While waiting, in the school of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, we dare to express the bold wish that with her help, her Blessed Parents might, God willing, be canonized by the Successor of Peter, Pope Francis. During this Year of Faith, the Christian witness of this married couple who taught the faith and sanctity is clearly of current interest for the whole Church. They were an exceptional couple who educated not only the most famous of their five daughters, Thérèse, but also four others, in particular Léonie. Léonie was a complicated girl, who caused problems. Now, almost seventy-two years after her “entrance into eternal life,” she is surrounded by a true reputation for holiness. I hope that a Process of Beatification and Canonization can be opened without delay for Léonie Martin also: countless letters from all over the world, from the pilgrims who ceaselessly flock to the Monastery in Caen, ask us for it.
I repeat emphatically: the Martins are a special couple for our families today; they are masters in the realm of faith and of education for domestic, ecclesial, and social sanctity.
I assure you, Your Excellency, of my appreciation and gratitude for the great competence of the members of your [Diocesan] Curia. They welcomed us as brothers and placed themselves at our service, with genuine evangelical self-denial.
We all admire, first, Bishop Jacques Habert, Ordinary of the Diocese of Séez in which the Martins lived. There they grew up, accepted their vocation to marriage, and celebrated their wedding in the parish of Our Lady of Alençon. They stayed there for 19 years until the death of Madame Zélie.
Next, [we are grateful to] Bishop Jean-Claude Boulanger, Ordinary of the Diocese of Bayeux-Lisieux, where Louis Martin resettled and lived for seventeen years with his daughters and finished their education until the illness that brought on his death. The two bishops were anxious to be present today in order to show their gratitude for the work that has been done, under the direction and competence of the members of the Tribunal that Your Excellency appointed. They were joined gladly by Msgr. Bernard Lagoutte, Rector of the Basilica of Lisieux, and Father Thierry Hénault-Morel, who are present here. This is the only case like it the world: two shrines have been designated by Providence to proclaim and spread the message of holiness in the family.
I wish also to thank the Tribunal that you appointed:
Msgr. Ennio Apeciti, Delegated Judge,
Fr. José-Vicente Castillo Peiró, Promoter of Justice,
Dr. Giuseppe Paterlini, expert physician
Msgr. Ramón Fita Revert, notary actuary
Thanks to Sister Monique-Marie for her work as an intermediary and translator, and to Señora Asun Sotillos for her gracious assistance.
Together with the Order of Discalced Carmelites and with a multitude of the faithful throughout the world, we ask with all our hearts for the canonization of this couple, who were spouses and parents, and we pray incessantly for this intention.
Valencia, May 21, 2013, during the Year of Faith
[We thank the Shrine at Alençon for its generous permission to translate and publish the text of Father Sangalli's speech, and we thank Michael J. Miller for the gift of his translation. Please see the original French text. Father Sangalli delivered the dossier to Rome immediately, where Carmen's healing is now being examined by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome].
For more details of the story of little Carmen and of the diocesan process, see
- "The cure of Carmen: is this the miracle that will make Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin, the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux, canonized saints?" (Maureen O'Riordan's article about the opening of the diocesan process in January 2013) and
- "Vatican to investigate 'presumed miracle' attributed to Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin. Will the healing of little Carmen make them saints?" (Maureen O'Riordan's article about the closing of the diocesan process in May 2013)