Louis and Zélie Martin: Patron Saints for the Domestic Church
This Sunday, October 18, 2015, Pope Francis canonized Louis and Zélie Martin, the parents of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. This is the first husband and wife to be canonized together, emphasizing their cooperation with the graces of the sacrament of matrimony. The Church will celebrate their feast as an Optional Memorial on July 12.
The Church in Her wisdom chooses to canonize saints that are relevant to our times. At first glance it seems so unlikely that a French couple from the late 19th century have anything that would applicable to modern society, but in fact, there is much richness to plumb from these new saints. Today I'm focusing on three main points:
1) Example of Matrimony:
In today's society marriage is constantly under attack. The latest assault has been the secular attempt to redefine marriage. Marriages are also crumbling from within.
Biographies of this saintly couple do not provide lists of worldly greatness or accomplishments, but give wonderful and rich examples of fulfilling the universal call to holiness. They learned how to live an ordinary life in a saintly way. Louis and Zélie lived the sacrament of Matrimony, striving for the mutual good of their spouse and helping each other reach heaven. Their life shows few worldly successes, but in God's eyes they attained the highest goal for any person.
Although there are only sparse biographies, we do have enough examples to imitate their married life: how they supported each other in work and home life; how they loved each other and put their spouse first before themselves; and especially how they prayed together.
2) Example as Parents:
Not only were they exemplary as husband and wife, they fulfilled the other purpose of marriage: procreation and education of children. Zélie bore nine children, but lost four as infants. They were able to raise and educate the five surviving daughters who all became religious, with one daughter who was canonized before them. This couple reached the ultimate goal of matrimony, sanctity for their spouse and holiness for their children.
Their lives as parents were not easy and had many trials. As parents they were united in how to raise their girls especially in the Catholic Faith. Here are models of holy motherhood and fatherhood.
3) Example for Life in Domestic Church:
Referring back to the Catechism of the Catholic Church for a description of the domestic church, it fits the family life of the Martin family perfectly:
1656 In our own time, in a world often alien and even hostile to faith, believing families are of primary importance as centers of living, radiant faith. For this reason the Second Vatican Council, using an ancient expression, calls the family the Ecclesia domestica. It is in the bosom of the family that parents are "by word and example . . . the first heralds of the faith with regard to their children. They should encourage them in the vocation which is proper to each child, fostering with special care any religious vocation."
1657 It is here that the father of the family, the mother, children, and all members of the family exercise the priesthood of the baptized in a privileged way "by the reception of the sacraments, prayer and thanksgiving, the witness of a holy life, and self-denial and active charity." Thus the home is the first school of Christian life and "a school for human enrichment." Here one learns endurance and the joy of work, fraternal love, generous - even repeated - forgiveness, and above all divine worship in prayer and the offering of one's life.
The Martin's family life was centered around their Catholic faith. The family prayer schedule included Mass, the Angelus, spiritual reading, the liturgy and the Liturgical Year with its fasts, feasts and seasons. Public prayer included the extra time in at church with Vespers, Compline, missions, and novenas. But their faith wasn't just about external and rote prayer but fostering a life of faith in the family, encouraging personal devotion, and especially igniting in each child that love of God so they would develop their own spiritual lives.
The fact that all five Martin girls chose to enter the convent, and one of the daughters even rose to sainthood speaks volumes that the Martin domestic church bore much fruit.
What a gift to now pray to Saints Louis and Zélie Martin for intercession and look to imitate them as husband and wife, as parents, and life in the domestic church. Although it is not an official patronage title, this couple is perfect for helping us in our own domestic churches!
Saints Louis and Zélie Martin, pray for us!
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