On May 21st the tribunal in Valencia completed a pivotal stage in the process of canonization for Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin. This couple, the parents of the “greatest Saint of modern times” Therese of Lisieux, needs one more miracle to confirm their union with their daughter in the company of canonized Saints. That miracle appears to have already taken place. A baby girl, doomed to die on account of numerous maladies, was miraculously healed through their intercession in 2008 in Valencia.
Inspired and assisted by local Carmelite nuns, the parents of little baby Carmen started a novena to the parents of the Little Flower while preparing for the worst. Miraculously the child turned for the better and was completely cured of the multiple ailments that threatened her life.
Currently, the tribunal of the Diocese of Valencia has determined that the miracle is serious enough to send to Rome for final judgement. If accepted as an authentic miracle by the Vatican (after further investigation by doctors, theologians and others), it will be possible for Louis and Zelie to be officially raised to the altars for public veneration of the faithful. [For more information about the case, click here]
Light in the Darkness
Their example of sanctity could not have come at a better time. We are immersed in an age where marriage is fiercely under attack and is threatened on every side. Presently it is not so much the acceptance of divorce that is assaulting the wonderful mystery of matrimony as is the normalization of cohabitation. Simply put, couples are not getting married in the first place. Instead they are deciding to live in a quasi-married state that is “free” of a formal commitment. This is why the divorce rate has actually gone down in recent years. Fewer people are professing public vows to one another and so fewer people are breaking those vows.
Why has this happened? It appears that one of the causes of cohabitation is a general distrust of marriage itself. Numerous young people have been negatively affected by the divorce of their own parents, thus making them hesitant to commit to an institution that has fallen apart before their eyes.
This is why the example of Louis and Zelie Martin is so important in our world. We need examples of sanctity to show us that it is possible to experience true and lasting joy amidst the struggles of marriage and family life. Unfortunately, even in our Catholic culture there are very few shining examples of marital sanctity.
Elevating the Mundane
Too often in our Catholic history did we focus almost entirely on the holiness of consecrated men and women. It was and still is the desire of devout Catholic parents that their children would become priests or nuns. As a result, married life can be looked down upon as something “necessary” but not “ideal.” Even Louis and Zelie desired to live out this vocation of complete dedication to our Lord, yet both were sent away from the convent and monastery.
Consequently, their “failed” vocations turned out to be one of the greatest moments in history. Instead of being called to a life of holiness behind the walls of a monastery, they were called to be “in the world, but not of the world.” They were called, as Lumen Gentium would say, to “follow their own proper path (to holiness)” and to “offer all men the example of unwearying and generous love.” It was in the “sanctification of the ordinary” that Louis and Zelie were to participate.
Thus, by their faithful adherence to Christ in following His mysterious plan Louis and Zelie Martin would become the parents of nine children; five being called to consecrated life and four being called home to God in their first years of life. Among them would be the “greatest Saint of modern times” and it is possible that many of their children will be raised to the altars for veneration (for example, Leonie’s cause for canonization is in its initial stages).
Intercessors for All Married Couples
Yet, this does not mean that they lived an otherworldly life that we cannot imitate. In fact, they had many struggles that they had to pass through to attain sanctity.
Among them were the deaths of four of their children. A person could easily lose his or her faith through such trials, but Louis and Zelie were able to persevere and keep their eyes on Heaven.
Not only did they have to witness child after child die in their arms, Zelie in particular experienced much stress in trying to raise Leonie, the “problem child.” The situation proved to be such a great cross that Zelie would write, “Well, I have no longer any hope of changing her nature save by a miracle.” The fact that Leonie’s cause for canonization has begun shows that even amidst the trials of disciplining an obstinate child, Louis and Zelie succeeded in training a household of saints.
As a result, Louis and Zelie Martin are great intercessors and examples for all families. Whether a couple struggles with raising a difficult child, mourns the loss of their own children, desires to raise their children to be Christ-like, or wants to know how to be a good spouse, the parents of the Little Flower are powerful heavenly companions.
In the end, it is important to recognize that we do need many more holy priests and consecrated religious. However, the most sure way to secure and foster vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life is through holy families. Consequently, if we want to change the world we must start first with the family.
Blessed Louis & Zelie Martin, pray for us!
For more information on the cause for canonization of Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin, please visit: http://www.thereseoflisieux.org/
Their feast day is celebrated on July 12th.