St. Therese of Lisieux said, “God gave me a mother and a father more worthy of heaven than of earth. I have had the happiness of belonging to parents who have no equal.” Just four years ago, Pope Francis made history when he canonized a married couple together at the same Mass, the parents of St. Therese: Louis and Zelie Martin.
Prior to their marriage to each other, both Louis and Zelie tried unsuccessfully to enter religious life. Instead, Louis became a watchmaker and Zelie was a lace maker. The two met and fell in love, and they were wed on July 12, which is now celebrated as their feast day in the Roman Catholic Church.
Dr. Matthew Bunson, Catholic professor, theologian, and author of over fifty books, said, “For those two, the theological virtues, particularly faith and love really shine forward. Not only are they the first married couple to be canonized but they are vital role models for lay saints, parents, married couples, and for families.”
The Martins also knew loss – though they had five daughters who survived childhood, they lost four other children who died very young. Saint Zelie had amazing perspective on the pain of losing her children as witnessed in a letter to her sister-in-law who experienced a miscarriage: “I do not think that the sorrows and the troubles endured could possibly be compared with the eternal happiness of my children with God. Besides, they are not lost to me forever; life is short and filled with crosses, and we shall find them again in Heaven,” she wrote. “Above all, it was on the death of my first child that I felt more deeply the happiness of having a child in Heaven, for God showed me in a noticeable way that He accepted my sacrifice. Through the intercession of my little angel, I received a very extraordinary grace.”
Louis and Zelie were shining examples of faith for their family. Of their five daughters who lived into adulthood, all five entered religious life. During their Canonization Mass in 2015, Pope Francis said, “The holy spouses Louis Martin and Marie-Azelie Guerin practiced Christian service in the family, creating day by day an environment of faith and love which nurtured the vocations of their daughters, among whom was Saint Therese of the Child Jesus.” In addition to St. Therese, their daughter Leonie also has her cause for sainthood open.
If you’re a layperson, especially a spouse and parent, look to Sts. Louis and Zelie for guidance and intercession. Raising a holy family isn’t easy, but they are excellent models of faith. To find out more about this amazing couple from the perspective of their daughter, St. Therese, read her autobiography, Story of a Soul.
Saints Louis and Zelie Martin, pray for us!