March 2009 Saints and Heroes

Blessed Louis Martin (1823-1894) and Blessed Zelie Guerin (1831-1877)

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It takes a saintly family to raise a saint…

Louis Martin was born in Bordeaux, France on August 22, 1823. Everyone expected that after school he would have a a military career like his father. Louis wished to become a priest, instead. However, since he had trouble learning Latin, he determined perhaps God did not want him to be a priest after all. He went back home and became a watchmaker. He opened his own watch and jewelry store and was successful. Zelie Guerin was born at Gandelain, France, on December 23, 1831. Zelie received a very good education and training that made her a very skillful lacemaker. She attempted to enter the convent, but as she spoke with the nun in charge they concluded that it was not what God wanted for her. Zelie started her own lacemaking business, and she was very successful, too. Both Zelie and Martin each had good businesses and lived a comfortable life, making good money. But they still felt hungry inside for something more. They wanted to feel like they had found God’s plan for their lives. Until one day when they happened to pass each other on a bridge in town. As Zelie crossed, she passed a young man with a strong face, who carried himself with confidence and dignity. She felt like she heard a little voice in her heart say, “This is the one I have prepared for you.” Soon after, she found out who he was, and the two were introduced. The two young people quickly got to know each other. The common faith, values, and spirituality they shared allowed them to fall in love quickly. While many of their friends were marrying for social position, Louis and Zelie saw their marriage as a response to God’s will. Shortly after they got married, they took in a five-year-old boy whose mom had died and left his father with 11 children. They had thought they would live their lives like Mary and Joseph, being married but remaining virgins as a sacrifice to God. But now they learned how much joy they found in caring for this little boy. A priest friend talked to them about how married people can also practice chastity, by loving and being faithful to each other. They decided they would show their love for each other and for God by having as many children as they were able to care for. In the next several years, Zelie would give birth to 9 children. They wanted to have a boy so that he could become a priest. Sadly, 4 of their babies died as infants. But they never despaired, and were joyful and grateful to God for their 5 living daughters. Tragically, when their youngest daughter was only 4 and 1/2, Zelie died of breast cancer.
martinsMr. and Mrs. Martin passed on to their children their deep love for God. They taught them a simple way of prayer and offering your whole life to God. As a result, all 5 daughters decided to become nuns. One by one, Louis gave his daughters to God. The youngest, named Therese, not only became a nun, but a saint; St. Therese of Lisieux! After Therese entered the convent, Louis became very sick, and eventually was paralyzed. He offered his sufferings to God and inspired everyone around him. Just this past year, Pope Benedict XVI studied evidence that a boy was cured by praying for the Martin’s intercession, and declared them Blessed. They are only the second married couple to receive this honor together. Soon, they will hopefully be made full-fledged saints! Their feast day is July 12.

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