Louis and Zelie Martin – The Parents of St Therese
On Sunday, October 18, 2015, Zelie and Louis Martin were the first-ever married couple with children to be canonized in the same ceremony. During his homily Pope Francis said, “The holy spouses Louis Martin and Marie-Azelie Guerin practiced Christian service in the family, creating day by day an environment of faith and love which nurtured the vocations of their daughters, among whom was Saint Therese of the Child Jesus.”
As a young lady, Zelie Guerin (1831 – 1877) sought unsuccessfully to enter the religious order of the sisters of the Hotel-Dieu. Zelie, a talented lacemaker, then learned the Alencon lace-making technique and soon mastered this painstaking craft, starting her own successful lacemaking business.
Louis Martin (1823 – 1894) was born into a military family, spending his early years at various French military posts. At twenty-two, Louis sought to enter religious life at the monastery of the Augustinian Canons of the Great St Bernard Hospice in the Alps. Unfortunately, the Abbot insisted he learn Latin but despite his best efforts Louis could not master it. Louis eventually settled down in Alencon, a small city in France, and became a successful watchmaker.
Meeting in Alencon, Louis Martin and Zelie Guerin were married on July 13 1858. Within fifteen years, Zelie bore nine children, seven girls and two boys. Sadly, two baby boys, a five-year-old girl, and a six-and-a-half week old infant girl all died within three years.
When the Martins’ last child, Therese was born on January 2, 1873 she was very weak and doctors feared for the infant’s life. She was much tougher than anyone realized and survived.
The series of tragedies intensified the faith and love of Louis and Zelie Martin. They poured out their affection on their five surviving daughters – Marie, 12, Pauline, 11, Leonie 9, Celine, 3, and infant Therese – raising them in a home where prayer, the liturgy, and practical good works saw all five dedicate their lives to Christ.
After an illness of 12 years, Zelie died of breast cancer in August, 1877 when Therese was only four years old. A short time later, Louis moved his family of five girls (ranging in ages from four to seventeen) to Lisieux.
During their time as Lisieux the bond between Therese and her father grew stronger. Each day would visit a different church each day and pray before the Blessed Sacrament.
Later, Louis developed cerebral arteriosclerosis. Daughter, Celine, remained at home to care for their father during his illness. In August 1888, Louis became paralysed after a series of strokes.
Despite his failing health, Louis rallied his strength and managed to attend the ceremonies of Therese’s clothing in the Carmelite habit on January 10, 1889. Five years later, in 1894 he died peacefully.
Source: The Society of the Little Flower https://www.littleflower.org/therese/life-story/