Today is a joyful day for the friends of Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin. In 2013 Andrea Barra, who teaches in a Catholic school in Leawood, Kansas, wrote to me to share the story of her family's encounter with Blessed Louis and Zelie and their intercession for her mother, Ivonne. Ivonne. Andrea and Ivonne tell their story below.
Testimony of Andrea Barra
of Kansas City, Kansas. June 17, 2014
My family has a tradition. As each of the children reached the age of 12, my parents began to pray with our family for that child’s future spouse. As a little girl, I often prayed to my favorite saints that they would serve as an extra protection shield for my future spouse, protect his purity, and lead him closer to Christ. I had always considered St. Therese of Lisieux a childhood friend, and I had prayed to her often. I had often read that her parents were very holy people who inspired religious vocations in their daughters. But that was the extent of my knowledge of her parents. I had “liked” the Facebook page of the Web site “Saint Therese of Lisieux: A Gateway” when it was sharing the novena for the parents of St.Therese of Lisieux in honor of their 150th wedding anniversary. Unknown to me, they had already been beatified!
I shared the novena with my family, and we prayed that through their intercession, God would lead to us to God-loving husbands who were noble of character. I also had this persistent need to pray for the protection of our family in our intentions, and that remained with me the entire summer. As my prayer life intensified, I wanted to find out more about this couple, so I Googled Zelie and Louis Martin. “Blessed Zelie and Louis Martin, the Parents of St. Therese of Lisieux,” Maureen O’Riordan’s Web site about Bl. Zelie and Louis Martin, came up, and I just fell in love with them. Right away I started making heart connections with them.
I loved how Louis Martin gives Zelie a medallion with Sarah and Tobit and what it represented to their marriage. I had recently encountered the book of Tobit through daily Mass and lectio divina. When my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, I remembered that Zelie had succumbed to breast cancer and was around my mom’s age. So we began to research as a family about them. Maureen’s Web site was a godsend; it had books that one could read, information about them in English and Spanish. It had pictures and videos, and information on the Carmelite monastery in Philadelphia that has custody of the reliquary of the Martin family.
So we began our Calvary, and the more we would read about the lives of Zelie and Louis Martin, the less we felt alone, the closer we felt they were accompanying us on our journey. It was hard to see my mom in pain, constantly sick, and, as the treatments intensified, so did the side effects. My mom’s nausea got worse: the headaches, the dizziness, and then the recovery from the surgery was painful, as she worked at regaining the full mobility of her arm. Then radiation began, and it’s so hard to see the third degree burns in her chest. Yet throughout it all she remained joyful and filled with complete trust in God. We were consistent in our prayers day and night, with spending hours at Eucharistic Adoration, mortifications, fasting, and with a constant knocking on heaven’s door, looking for Zelie and Louis Martin’s intercession. God granted us the miracle when, against all odds, the oncologist declared my mom cancer-free.
Testimony of Ivonne Barra
of Kansas City, Kansas: June 17, 2014
On the date of September 18, 2013, I was diagnosed with stage II aggressive breast cancer. The ailment that I feared the most because of my mother’s death was the challenge I was facing. My oncologist explained to me that, to treat my cancer, I would have to endure chemotherapy, surgery, and seven weeks of radiation. Furthermore, I had two tumors. One tumor was spreading into the surrounding lymph nodes. Those were the main reasons for radiation after chemo and surgery. My chemotherapy consisted of two drugs. The chemo side effects were the worse because they were notorious for severe nausea, vomiting, and dizziness.
As the days progressed, my treatment was difficult, not only physically but emotionally and spiritually. It was during this trying time that I began my devotion to the Martin Spouses because my daughter Andrea did a novena to them, and she introduced me to these new friends. Both, along with St. Therese, became my companions in a time when Faith, hope and love were my only fuel to keep fighting. My family and I prayed so intensely as the weeks progressed. As the treatments continued, I constantly had to battle the side effects (constant nausea, pain, headaches). I would hold on to my Catholic faith and my saint friends, who would intercede for me.
At the end of my chemotherapy treatment one of my tumors disappeared, one significantly shrank, and I started the treatment with three to seven cancerous lymph nodes that were decreased to only one, which was later removed in surgery. Then around the middle of May, 2014, when I felt that the obstacles were insurmountable, I had a dream. In this dream, I opened my eyes, and I saw St. Therese of Lisieux with a lady who was dressed in an old-fashioned white dress with white shoes. Behind my visitors was a bright blinding light that prevented me from seeing this lady’s face. I knew that this visit came at the right time, which gave me a push to keep hope alive. My friends came when I needed their encouragement the most. The Martin family was a family that I would read about and pray with. Through their example, I prayed to Mary and Jesus. My Martin friends always pointed to Our Lady and Jesus. I would pray that the Martin Spouses would adopt me as their spiritual daughter. I prayed for their intercession so that I could be healthy again. Once I read that Louis had wanted to name a daughter Yvonne after the region where he had come from. They felt so close to me as we had so many things in common. They raised all daughters like I have done, and even their fishing pastime was like our family.
On June 5th, 2014 I met with my oncologist after going through chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, and radiation. She told me I was cancer-free. My heart was overjoyed at the mercy and love Jesus bestowed upon my family and me. I have been blessed to continue to be a witness to my husband and my children’s lives. My saint friends never left me and I am grateful to them for their prayers and love.
A note from Maureen O'Riordan:
The novena through which Andrea Barra discovered Louis and Zelie appeared originally in French on the Web site of Sainte-Therese parish in Metz, France. The first visit of the relics of Louis and Zelie to that parish accomplished a profound spiritual renewal there, the story of which is told on the parish Web site. The pastor, Father Jean-Claude Lange, generously allowed me to reproduce that story in English, including the novena. Mary Davidson of North Carolina (who, with her husband, Jim, sponsors this Web site) translated the novena. Gordon Henry of Vancouver worked with Mary and me to translate the Metz site. I thank Father Lange, Mary and Gordon for creating the space which led to Andrea's encounter with Louis and Zelie. Please join us in thanking God for Ivonne's healing and for the depth of her family's encounter in faith with the Martin family and with the God they served first.