Homely of the Beatification

By his Eminence the Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins
Former Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints
Representing His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
on the occasion of the beatification of the Venerable Servants of God
Louis Martin and Zelie Guerin, Spouses and Parents

Basilica of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus,
Lisieux October 19, 2008, 29th
Sunday after Pentecost World Mission Day

Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins
Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins

Witnesses of Conjugal Love

“… shine like the stars of the universe, holding firmly to the words of life” Ph 2, 15d-16a

Brother Bishops and Priests,
Distinguished Guests,
Dear Pilgrims, my brothers and sisters in Christ.

“Worthy of Heaven”

In 1897, Therese wrote in Story of a Soul : “Pardon me, Jesus, if I go too far in telling you all my desires and my hopes that reach infinity, pardon me and heal my soul by giving it what I hope far !…(Ms B 2v°). Jesus always listened to Therese’s desires, even that which she confided in a letter to Father Belliere, and that many people now know by heart:God gave me a father and a mother who were more worthy of heaven than of earth (Lt 261).

I have just completed the Rite of Beatification with which our Holy Father the Pope has inscribed together the names of the two spouses in the Book of the Blessed. This Beatification of Louis Martin and Zelie Guerin, whom Therese defined as parents without equals, worthy of heaven, holy ground permeated with the perfume of purity (cf.Ms A), is very important in the Church.

My heart is full of gratitude to God for this exemplary witness of conjugal love, which is bound to stimulate Christian couples in practicing virtue just as it stimulated the desire for holiness in Therese.

While reading the Apostolic Letter of the Holy Father, I thought of my father and mother, and now I invite you to think of your parents that altogether we may thank God for having created and made us christians through the conjugal love of our parents. The gift of life is a marvellous thing, but even more wonderful for us is that our parents led us to the Church which alone is capable of making us Christians. For no one becomes a Christian by oneself.

Natives of Normandy, a gift to us all

Among the vocations to which individuals are called by Providence, marrage is one of the highest and most noble. Louis and Zelie understood that they could become holy, not in spite of marriage, but through, in, and by marriage, and that their becoming a couple was the beginning of an ascent together. Today the Church celebrates not only the holiness of these children of Normandy, a gift to us all, but admires,as well, in this Blessed couple that which renders more splendid and beautiful the wedding robe of the Church.

The conjugal love of Louis and Zelie is a pure reflection of Christ’s love for his Church, but it is also a pure reflection of the resplendent love without stain or wrinkle, but holy and immaculate (Ep 5,27) as the Church loves its Spouse, Christ. The Father chose us before the foundation of the world, that we may be holy and without reproach in His sight, in love (Ep 1,4).

“Only the violent bear heaven away”

Louis and Zelie were witnesses to the radical gospel engagement of the vocation of marriage, to the point of heroism for from the time of John the Baptist until now , the kingdom of heaven suffer violence and the violent bear it away (Mt 11,12) The Martins were not afraid to do violence to themselves in order to possess this kingdom of heaven, and thus they have become the light of the world that today the Church places on a lampstand so that it may shine on all those in the household (the Church). They shine before men that those wo ss their good works may glorify our Father who is in heaven. Their example of the Christian life is like a city on a mountain top that cannot be hidden.( Mt 5, 13-15).

“Master, give us your opinion”

But what was the secret of their success in living their life as Christians ? It has been made known to you, O man, that which is good and which God asks of you : to seek justice, to practice mercy, and to walk humbly with God (Mi 6,8). Louis and Zelie, a man and a woman who walked humbly with God in seeking the opinion of the Lord ; Master, give us your opinion. They sought the opinion of the Lord. They thirsted to know the opinion of the Lord They loved the opinion of the lord They accepted the opinion of the Lord without recrimination, without discussion or even worse objection. And in order to be certain that they were following the true opinion of the Lord , they turned to the Church, the expert teacher of humanity, and to its teachings. There wasn’t a single aspect of their private or public life which wasn’t in perfect harmony with the teachings of the Church, in their era as well as in ours.

“Serving God first”

For Mr. And Mrs. Martin that which was Caesar’s and that which was God’s was very clear. “My Lord God served first,” said Joan of Arc. The Martins made that the motto of their home. The complete submission of this couple to the will of God was remarkable. When suffering touched their lives, their spontaneous reaction was always to accept the will of God. Mrs. Martin often said, “God is the Master. He does what He wishes.” Mr. Martin echoed his wife in saying : “God is served first.” Husband and wife, they served God in the poor, not because of bursts of generosity, not through a sense of social justice, but simply because in the poor they recognized Jesus. To serve the poor is to serve Jesus, it is to render to “God what is God’s : each time that you have done this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.” (Mt 25, 34-40)

Heaven isn’t empty ; “Heaven is full of souls”

In a few minutes we will express our profession of faith with the Apostles’ Creed. that Louis and Zelie repeated so often during Mass and, above all, taught to their children. After we proclaim our faith in the holy Catholic Church, the Creed adds the Communion of Saints.

I believed, said Therese, I felt deep in my heart that there is a heaven and that Heaven is filled with souls who cherished me and who looked upon me as their child… (Ms B 2v°). In this heavenly home full of souls, as Therese tells us – today and from now on we can call upon the Blessed Louis and Zelie, whom we invoke for the first time, asking them to pray to God for us. Please, cherish us, look upon us as your children. Cherish the whole Church. Above all, cherish our homes and our children. […]

–*Louis and Zelie represent a gift for spouses of every age by the respect, and the harmony which marked their love during 19 years. Zelie expressed that when she wrote to Louis : “I could not live without you, my dear Louis.” He responded, “I am your husband and your friend whose love is yours for a lifetime.” They lived with heroism their marriage vows of fidelity to the bond that united them, to the fruitfulness of their love, in good times as in bad, in sickness and in health.

–*Louis and Zelie represent a gift for parents : Ministers of love and of life, they brought forth nine children for the Lord. Among these children, we particularly admire Therese. […]

–*Louis and Zelie represent a gift for all those who have lost their spouses : Being widowed is always difficult to accept. Louis faced the loss of his wife with faith and generosity, choosing for the good of his children to move to Lisieux, even though he would have preferred to stay in Alençon.

–*Louis and Zelie represent a gift for all those who face illness and death : Zelie died of cancer. Louis’ life ended after a succession of incapacitating strokes. In our modern world which seeks to hide from death, they teach us to look it in the face and abandon ourselves to God.

An Exemplary Model of a Missionary Household

Finally, I thank God, in this 82nd World Mission Day, because Louis and Zelie give us an exemplary model of a missionary household. This is the reason that the Holy Father wanted the beatification to take place on this day which is precious to the Universal Church, to unit the masters Louis and Zelie to the disciple Therese, their daughter, who is the Patron of the Missions and a Doctor of the Church.

The testimonies of the Martin children concerning the missionary spirit which reigned in their household are striking and unanimous : “My parents were very interested in the salvation of souls… But the apostolic work which we knew the best was the Propogation of the Faith to which, each year, our parents made a very generous contribution. It was this same zeal for souls which made them want so much a son who would become a missionary and daughters who would become nuns.” (Positio, Vol.II, p.972)

Recently, Cardinal Dias, Prefect of the Congregation for Evangelization (Propaganda Fide) wrote : “For a disciple of Christ, to announce the Gospel isn’t just an option, but a commandment of the Lord… A Christian must have as a mission to spread the Gospel in each heart, in each house, in each culture” (Lambeth Conference, July 23, 2008).

My Brothers and Sisters, may your families, your parishes, your religious communities here and through the whole world, also be households of saints and missionaries, as was the household of the Blessed spouses Louis and Zelie Martin.

Amen