Blessed Zélie Guerin and Louis Martin:
Companions on our Journey
by Maureen O’Riordan
Maureen O’Riordan, a student of St. Thérèse, lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. To learn more about Blessed Zélie and Louis and about St. Thérèse, please visit her Web site, "St. Therese of Lisieux: A Gateway." You may reproduce this article for non-commercial purposes. Please credit the author and insert a live link to the Web site.
On July 13, 1858, Zélie Guérin, 27, a maker of Point d’Alençon lace, and Louis Martin, 35, a watchmaker, were married at midnight in the Church of Notre-Dame at Alençon in northern France.
This marriage nearly didn’t happen, for Louis had applied to be a monk at the Abbey of the Great St. Bernard in Switzerland, and Zélie had requested admittance to the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul at Alençon. The prior refused Louis because he knew no Latin, and the superior told Zélie that she had no vocation to the religious life. The couple had seen each other for the first time only three months before. Zélie was crossing St. Leonard’s Bridge when she saw Louis, and heard an interior voice say to her: “This is the one I have prepared for you.” Louis’s mother, who had noticed Zélie at the lacemaking class both women attended, probably introduced them. They fell in love and married very soon. For ten months they lived as sister and brother; then their confessor, perhaps urged by Zélie, intervened, and they began to live as husband and wife. They had nine children, of whom five survived to adulthood: Marie, who became Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart in the Carmelite monastery at Lisieux; Pauline, who became Mother Agnès of Jesus in the same monastery; Leonie, who became Sister Françoise-Trèse at the Visitation Convent in Caen; Céline, who became Sister Geneviève of the Holy Face at Lisieux Carmel; and the youngest, little Thérèse, who in 1888 joined her sisters at the Carmel. She died there in 1897, and, in 1925, was named Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus of the Holy Face, one of the most popular saints the Church has canonized.
Now, 150 years later, Louis and Zélie have joined their daughter on the path to canonizable sainthood. In 2008 Cardinal Saraiva Martins, former prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Causes of Saints, presided at the celebrations in Alençon and Lisieux (where the family moved after her mother’s death) of the 150th anniversary of their marriage. On July 12, 2008 he announced that Zélie and Louis would be beatified at Lisieux on Mission Sunday, October 19, 2008, eleven years to the day after Pope John Paul II declared their youngest daughter a Doctor of the Church.
The world knows Thérèse through the pictures and statues of a young Carmelite nun in a brown habit and white mantle, carrying a crucifix heaped with roses. But Therese did not fall out of heaven as a completed saint. Like all saints, she came from a