One of the things I love about the Catholic Church is that she is both old and new at the same time. The tradition of the Church is 2,000 years old, and yet it’s still relevant and still being expanded upon today. That means we celebrate saints like Augustine, who died in the fourth century, as well as ones like Louis and Zélie Martin (St. Thérèse of Lisieux’s parents), who died in the late nineteenth century and were canonized—together, as a married couple—in 2015.
The Special Feast Day of Louis and Zélie Martin
Most Saints’ feasts are celebrated on the day on which they died and entered into Heaven. The feast of Sts. Louis and Zélie Martin is an exception to the rule. Their feast is celebrated on July 12, because it is the day on which they were civilly married, with a religious ceremony taking place at midnight on July 13, as was common for couples who wanted a quiet service where they could receive Communion.
The Martins were holy people who lived with true and contagious devotion for the Lord. But while today we can see that marriage and family life were certainly their vocation, the path to their Sainthood wasn’t as linear as you might think.
Following the Spirit
Zélie Guerin and Louis Martin both initially wanted to become religious, but were denied by the communities they approached. Zélie began to make lace, and Louis, watches. They married just three months after they met, intending to stay celibate.
However, guidance from a spiritual director encouraged them to enter fully into married life—and thank goodness they did! Of the nine children they had, five grew to adulthood and entered convents. Their youngest, of course, is St. Thérèse of Lisieux. Their third child, Marie Léonie, is also a candidate for Sainthood.
Obviously, Sts. Louis and Zélie are prime intercessors for concerns with marriage or family life. But as beautifully as they lived their marriage and made themselves open to receiving the graces of the sacrament, what we can learn from them goes beyond the vows of matrimony.
Trusting No Matter the Cost
Imagine feeling called to the religious life, being ready to make an enormous sacrifice of your independence, your will, your body and soul, only to be told, “No, thanks.” Can you fathom the emotions Louis and Zélie must have experienced when this happened for each of them? Perhaps they doubted that they were really hearing the voice of God. Maybe they wondered where they’d gone wrong in their discernment. I imagine, at least for a moment, they were each at a loss for what the rest of their lives held. How would they serve the Lord they loved so dearly, if not in this way that seemed so clearly set out for them?
Time passed and a closed door became the means to an open window, as they say. It’s been recorded that when Zélie first saw Louis, she heard our Blessed Mother tell her that this was the man she was to marry. I wonder, was she utterly joyful at this revelation, or was she still a little uncertain of her calling? Whatever her first impression, she quickly found courage and responded to God’s grace to follow a path she hadn’t expected for herself. First by marrying, and then again by having children.
It’s Not Easy Being Holy!
Zélie’s letters reveal that daily life was challenging for her. She was raising young children, mourning the losses of her four children who died young, running a business, all while trying to care for her marriage and stay close to the Lord. To some of us, this sounds very familiar! But even if this isn’t your experience, the trust and hope that Zélie in particular exhibited can be encouraging.
Following the Lord will always require sacrifice. Loving will always mean giving something up. But no matter where your path leads you in this world, when Christ is your guiding light, you can trust that there is great joy and an eternal reward awaiting you.
Honoring Sts. Louis and Zélie Martin
Feast days are something to celebrate! Here are some ideas to make the most of their feast day tomorrow:
To Eat and Wear
The Martins were French, so start the day with a croissant or crepes. Add a touch of lace to your outfit today to recall the business by which Louis and Zélie eventually supported their family (her business was more profitable than his).
If you are artistically inclined, as lacemaker Zélie was, devote some time today to creating something beautiful for your own home or to gift to someone you love.
Parents and spouses, especially, offer this prayer to these great saints:
Blessed Louis and Zélie Martin,
today we turn to you in prayer.
By fulfilling the duties of your state in life
and practicing the evangelical virtues
as spouses and as parents,
you have modeled for us
an exemplary Christian life.
May the example
of your unwavering trust in God
and your constant willingness to surrender
all the joys, the trials,
the sorrows and the sufferings
that filled your life
encourage us to persevere
in our daily challenges
and to remain in joy and Christian hope.
If you’re single, ask God, through the intercession of Sts. Louis and Zélie, to continue to guide you toward Him, whether you are called to the single life or marriage is farther down the line for you.
If you’re married, hug your spouse (and child/children) a little more tightly tonight. Make an effort to express your love in words or actions. Let your husband know you’re grateful for who he is and that you have been called to this life together.
Sts. Louis and Zélie Martin, pray for us!The Holiness and Example of Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin #BISblog // Click To Tweet
Lindsay Schlegel is a daughter of God, wife, mother, writer, and editor. She lives in New Jersey with her high-school-sweetheart-turned-husband and their kids. You can find out more about her here.