St. Zelie Martin
“Saintly Mother of a Saint” Feast: July 12 Lifespan: 1831-1877 Patronage: Domestic Church
RECOLLECTION Zelie Martin, and her husband Louis, made history as the first married couple with children to be canonized together. They are also the parents of the "greatest saint of modern times,” Therese the Little Flower.
Zelie was born Marie-Azelie Guerin, but always went by Zelie. She described her child- hood as "dismal" and harbored an initial desire to enter the religious life but was turned away. After this, she went to live in Alencon, France, which was renowned throughout the country for its beautiful lace. To become a lace-maker was a very arduous and formidable task, but Zelie persevered in learning the painstaking art. She soon became an expert artisan and established a good rapport with customers.
She soon caught the eye of a handsome and successful watch-maker, Louis Martin. After a quick engagement, they were wed at midnight in the Church of Notre Dame of the Assumption. It was July 13, 1858.
Zelie and Louis began their married life together not knowing the sorrowful times that were to come. They had nine children, but four died very young. This was heart wrenching for the Martin couple, as Zelie described their children as "all their happiness." When she experienced the loss of child after child, people commented that it would have been better if they had never been born.
Zelie adamantly disagreed and said:
"My children were not lost forever; life is short and full of miseries, and we shall find our little ones again up above."
The Martins 5 surviving daughters were: Marie, Pauline, Leonie, Celine and Therese. Zelie dedicated her life to their education, both secular and spiritual. They had a happy family life. She taught her daughters what it meant to pray, and to offer things up to God in sacrifice. She infused in them what it meant to have spiritual beauty. As God would have it, the halcyon days for the Martin family were not to last. Zelie was found to have breast cancer. She bravely said, "If the Lord wants to cure me, I would be very happy, because deep down, I want to live; it would pain me to leave my husband and my children. But another of part of me says: if I am not cured, it is because I will perhaps be more useful if I go."
Sadly she was called to go. Zelie passed away with her husband by her side. St. Therese later wrote of her mother's feelings at the time of death,
"Eternity delights me and attracts me, I am going to the blue sky to see God!"
Zelie had written in a note to her husband years prior: ”Your wife loves you more than her life." She lived those words until her last. Her husband modeled the sacrificial love of his wife, taking care of his daughters and watching them one by one enter the con- vent. He was left alone in the world, but said, “It is a great, great honor for me that the Good Lord desires to take all of my children. If I had anything better, I would not hesitate to offer it to him.”
St. Therese wrote that she had a “father and a mother who were more worthy of heaven than of earth.”
The couple was canonized on October 18, 2015.