Finding an Ideal
Louis Martin was born in Bordeaux in 1823. As he was the son of a military he moved house a lot in his early years. The family then settled in Alençon where Louis went to school.
He learned about clockmaking in Rennes, Strasbourg and Paris. These years were decisive in his life when he discovered his desire to devote his life to God in the Saint Bernard monastery. He had to give up on this project due to his problems learning Latin. And so he opened a shop selling jewelry and clocks in Pont Neuf Street in Alençon.
Until his marriage in 1858, he spent his time between work, pastimes (in particular fishing), meditation and meeting others. He took part in a circle (Vital Romet) of about twelve young Christian adults with Fr. Hurel and he took a deep interest in social working with the Saint Vincent de Paul.
A time for marriage
His mother, who could not bear to see him single, talked to him about Zélie Guérin, with whom she was learning the art of lacework. Their first meeting on the Saint Léonard bridge was to be a decisive moment.
They married a few months later on 12th July 1853 and 10pm in the Hotel de Ville in Alençon and at midnight on the 13th July in Notre-Dame church.
Their married life lasted 19 years. They decided on a marriage of continence and had nine children, five of whom survived. The correspondence from Madame Martin revealed the deep affection that united the couple.
Their married life allows us more insight into their daily lives:
- Louis participation in the education of the children…
- His choice to renounce his own profession to help his wife directing the Lacework factory that she founded
- The deep faith that the family had that made them attentive to those around them
- The repercussions of the social and religious life of the time (end of the Second Empire and the creation of the III Republic)
- And finally, the long ordeal of cancer that took Madame Martin at 46 years old, on 28th August 1877.
An attentive father
Life as a widower so began for Louis which he decided – on Zélie’s instructions – to live in Lisieux close to his in-laws, the Guérin family.
Some of the letters from this time showed him to be attentive to each one of his daughters and ready to accept their lives in the orders.
In 1888, after Thérèse entered Carmel, he had to face the ordeal of sickness that brought him to Bon Sauveur in Caen.
He came home paralyzed and died close to his family on 29th July 1894 aged 71 years.
Louis Martin’s illness
The sickness and death of Louis Martin were part of a 73-page study in 2 volumes that was carried out by the Historical Office of the Congregation for the Cause of Saints. There are reports from psychiatrists, general practitioners, two doctors from the psychiatric hospital Bon Sauveur in Caen and one from a neuropsychiatrist. He died from progressive vascular encephalopathy by diffused cerebral arteriosclerosis which evolved over a period of ten years.
Thérèse never spoke about her father’s illness but rather about “his passion” (Ms A, 73 r°). She knew that her “Dear King” not only gave all of his daughters to God but he himself on the alter that he had given to the Cathedral of Saint Pierre in Lisieux, the parish attended by the Martin family.