Zélie Martin

Zélie, a woman from the XIX century a woman of her time

Azélie-Marie Guérin (only ever called Zélie) was the second child to Isidore Guérin and Louise-Jeanne Guérin and was born on 23rd December 1831, in Gandelain, which is a town in Saint-Denis sur Sarthon where her father who had once been soldier then worked as a Gendarme.

She was baptized the day after her birth in the church in Saint-Denis sur Sarthon. She had a sister who was two years older and she became Sister Marie-Dosithée in the Visitation Convent in Le Mans. A brother called Isidore was born ten years later and he was to become the spoilt child of the family.

She described herself in a letter to her brother and considered childhood and youth as “sad as a shroud, because, if mother spoiled you, you know that with me she was too severe: she, who was so good, didn’t know how to take me and I suffered in my heart because of it”.

Zélie, active woman, company director, fighting for justice…

Following her studies at the Adoration Perpétuelle,(rue Lancrel)  in Alençon, she felt a calling to religious life but having been refused by the Mother superior, she followed professional training and began with success the production of the famous Alençon stitch. Towards the end of 1853, she set up her business as “Alençon Stitch” at 36 rue Saint-Blaise and gave work to women who worked from their homes. The quality of her workshop was renowned. The relationship she had with her workers, whom she said one should love like members of their family, showed us that she was always ready to help those in need. The Bible guided her every move.

Zélie, loving wife

In April 1858, Zélie Guérin met a young man on Saint Leonard bridge. She was impressed by his appearance….It was Louis Martin, a clockmaker. The love she felt for her husband can be read in her letters: ‘Your wife who loves you more than life itself”, “I embrace you and how I love you”….

Zélie, a fulfilled and afflicted mother

Between 1860 and 1873, nine children were born into the Martin household, four of whom died at an early age.

Zélie experienced joy and grief with the births and deaths of these children; as we can read in her correspondence: “I love children so much, I was born to have them…”Then, after the birth of Thérèse, her last daughter: “I have already suffered so much in my life”. Educating her daughters mobilized all of the energy within her heart. Confidence was at the soul of this education. For her children, she wanted what was best…to become saints!

Zélie, ill and still confident

From 1865 cancer in the breast caused Zélie a lot of suffering. “If the Good Lord wants to cure me, I would be very happy, because I truly want to live: it is really hard for me to leave my husband and my children. But another part of me says : If I don’t heal, it is maybe because it is better for them that I go”.

On 28th August 1877, Zélie died, surrounded by her husband and brother.

Lets leave the final words to Thérèse: “I loved maman’s smile, her deep expression seemed to say: Eternity delights and attracts me, I am going to the blue sky to see God!”

(Saints Louis et Zélie Martin in Thérèse de Lisieux n°968 – septembre 2015 – p. 19rav-20-21)