Bienheureux Monsieur et Madame
This morning, for the first time in the history of the Church: a married couple, the parents of a daughter who is a saint and a Doctor of the Church, were beatified in Lisieux, France. 15000 faithful attended the celebration. Louis and Zélie Martin were not beatified because of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face. They were beatified in recognition of the virtue and holiness displayed, by the grace of Christ, in their own life. Two months before her death, Saint Thérèse wrote to the Abbé Bellière: "God gave me a father and a mother more worthy of heaven than of earth; they asked the Lord to give them many children and to let them all be consecrated to Him." (July 26th, 1897).
The Challenges of Life
The Martins had nine children, four of whom died in infancy. Of their five daughters, one of them -- Léonie -- was a very difficult child, furrowed by the emotional complexities that would follow her even into adulthood.
Louis, a watch and clock maker and Zélie, an expert artisan of lace, operated their own businesses. They were familiar with the challenges inherent in dealing justly and patiently with employees and with customers. In the Martin household the needs of the poor were never forgotten.
Both Louis and Zélie were stricken by disease. Zélie died of breast cancer on August 28, 1877. Louis, a widower with five dependent children, was afflicted with a humiliating brain disease and confined in a psychiatric hospital. During occasional periods of remission, he devoted himself to his fellow patients. He died at home in 1894 at the age of 71.
Les Bienheureux Monsieur et Madame Martin prove to married couples that a great holiness is possible, even in the midst of a family life marked by difficulties and sorrows.