Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin

Text by Monseigneur Pierre PICAN, Bishop of Bayeux and Lisieux

150 years ago, Louis and Zélie Martin, parents of Thérèse, were married in Alençon and intended fulfilling their lives with a big family.

To live their love, they had to renounce their previous vocational callings to religious life. They integrated in their lives, like many couples of their time, an intense, active, regular and ardent participation in the life of the Church. They lived for the sacraments ; they gave of their time to the parish and shared daily a time for prayer, for meditation with mutual respect and discretion for each other. They always remembered the sacrament of reconciliation as advised by the church and lived in the received grace. Engaged in the confidence of the ordinary way of the sanctification of their life as a couple, they gave life to nine children, while conserving, each of them, their professions.

Family difficulties were going to happen in their lives and call on their faith, intensifying their confidence in the Lord. They lived difficult lives of intense labor, confronted with sickness and the death of four children and had to overcome the deaths of their little ones at early ages. They only had five children left, including Thérèse, the youngest, who is known world-wide or her evangelical and missionary accomplishment.

Five years after their wedding, in 1858, Louis and Zélie started their own sewing company in Alençon. Louis worked with his wife. He did his utmost to create new models. The results were conclusive. They needed to find a market. He frequently went from Alençon to Paris to develop their clientele, and to ensure the sales of Zélie’s production. It was during this period that his nephew Adolphe Leriche took over the clock-making shop. Louis and Zélie left the Pont-Neuf street in Alençon to set up in Saint Blaise street.

During this period Zélie assured with extraordinary courage her maternal responsibilities, her professional engagements and her painful battle with cancer that she lost on 28th August 1877. She was 46 years old and left her husband - whose fragility she could sense - and her five daughters. The eldest, Pauline, was only 17 years old and the little Thérèse was gently going towards her fifth birthday. For her, life in Alençon was to end without her Mummy. Her life in Lisieux was beginning.

In this ordinary family, enlightened by faith, they confronted the hazards of life, undermined in sickness, but emerged and asserted itself, and gave vocations to the five daughters. Four of them chose Carmel, in Lisieux. Léonie chose the Visitation in Caen.

The beatification of the parents high-lighted the humble response of this couple who was attentive in inscribing in their daily engagement for their children and for the spiritual development of each of them. They were confronted with the most painful events of their lives. Their peaceful faith, humble, ardent and deeply rooted in the life of the Church helped them to survive. In her passionate enthusiasm Thérèse does not hesitate to write to Fr. Rouland, two months before her death, at the end of July 1897 : « The good Lord gave me parents who deserved heaven more than earth, they asked God to give them many children and to take them for Himself. This wish was granted : four little angels flew to heaven and the five children who lived took Jesus as a spouse. » We are in good company.