Witnesses of Conjugal
The Beatification of Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin
Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins
Basilica of Lisieux, France
October 19, 2008
bishops and priests, distinguished guests, dear pilgrims, my brothers
and sisters in Christ.
In 1897, Thérèse wrote
in Story of a Soul, Pardon me, Jesus, if I go too far in telling
you all my desires and my hopes that reach infinity, pardon me and
heal my soul by giving it what I hope for! (MS B2v ). Jesus
always listened to Thérèses desires, even that
which she confided in a letter to Father Belliere, and that many
people now know by heart; God gave me a father and a mother
who were more worthy of heaven than of earth (Lt 261).
I have just completed the Rite of
Beatification with which our Holy Father the Pope has inscribed
together the names of the two spouses in the Book of the Blessed.
This beatification of Louis Martin and Zelie Guerin, whom Thérèse
defined as parents without equal, worthy of heaven, holy ground
permeated with the perfume of purity (cf. Ms A), is very important
in the Church.
My heart is full of gratitude to
God for this exemplary witness of conjugal love, which is bound
to stimulate Christian couples in practicing virtue just as it stimulated
the desire for holiness in Thérèse.
While reading the Apostolic Letter
of the Holy Father, I thought of my father and mother, and now I
invite you to think of you parents that altogether we may thank
God for having created and made us Christians through the conjugal
love of our parents. The gift of life is a marvelous thing, but
even more wonderful for us is that our parents led us to the Church
which alone is capable of making us Christians. For no one becomes
a Christian by oneself.
of Normandy - A Gift To Us All
Among the vocations to which individuals
are called by Providence, marriage is one of the highest and most
noble. Louis and Zelie understood that they could become holy not
in spite of marriage, but through, in, and by marriage, and that
their becoming a couple was the beginning of an ascent together.
Today the Church celebrates not only the holiness of these children
of Normandy, a gift to us all, but admires, as well, in the Blessed
couple that which renders more splendid and beautiful the wedding
robe of the Church. The conjugal love of Louis and Zelie is a pure
reflection of Christs love for his Church, but it is also
a pure reflection of the resplendent love without stain or
wrinkle, but holy and immaculate (Ep 5, 27) as the Church
loves its Spouse, Christ. The Father chose us before the foundation
of the world, that we may be holy and without reproach in His sight,
in love (EP 1, 4).
the Violent Bear Heaven Away
Louis and Zelie were witnesses to
the radical gospel engagement of the vocation of marriage, to the
point of heroism for from the time of John the Baptist until
now, the kingdom of heaven suffer violence and the violent bear
it away (Mt 11,12). The Martins were not afraid to do violence
to themselves in order to possess this kingdom of heaven, and thus
they have become the light of the world that today the Church
places on a lamp stand so that it may shine on those in the household
[the Church]. They shine before men that those who see their good
works may glorify our Father who is in heaven. Their example of
the Christian life is like a city on a mountain top that cannot
be hidden (MT 5, 13-15).
Give Us Your Opinion
But what was the secret of their success
in living their life as Christians? It has been made know
to you, O man, that which his good and which God ask of you: to
seek justice, to practice mercy, and to walk humbly with God
(Mi 6,8). Louis and Zelie, a man and woman who walked humbly with
God in seeking the opinion of the Lord; Master, give us your opinion.
They sought the opinion of the Lord. They thirsted to know the opinion
of the Lord. They loved the opinion of the Lord. They accepted the
opinion of the Lord without recrimination, without discussion or
even worse objection. And in order to be certain that they were
following the true opinion of the Lord, they turned to the Church,
the expert teacher of humanity, and to its teachings. There wasnt
a single aspect of their private or public life which wasnt
in perfect harmony with the teachings of the Church, in their era
as well as in ours.
My heart is full of gratitude to God
for this exemplary witness of conjugal love, which is bound to stimulate
Christian couples in practicing virtue just as it stimulated the
desire for holiness in Thérèse.
For Mr. and Mrs. Martin, that which
was Caesars and that which was Gods was very clear.
My Lord God served first, said Joan of Arc. The Martins
made that the motto of their home. The complete submission of this
couple to the will of God was remarkable. When suffering touched
their lives, their spontaneous reaction was always to accept the
will of God. Mrs. Martin often said, God is the Master. He
does what He wishes. Mr. Martin echoed his wife in saying
God is served first. Husband and wife, they served God
in the poor, not because of bursts of generosity, not through a
sense of social justice, but simply because in the poor they recognized
Jesus. To serve the poor is to serve Jesus, it is to render to God
what is Gods, each time that you have done this to one of
the least of my brothers of mine, you did it to me. (Mt. 25,
Isnt Empty, Heaven is Full of Souls
In a few minutes we will express our
profession of faith with the Apostles Creed that Louis and Zelie
repeated so often during mass and, above all, taught to their children.
After we proclaim our faith in the holy Catholic Church, the Creed
adds the Communion of Saints.
I believed, said Thérèse,
I felt deep in my heart that there is a heaven and that heaven is
filled with souls who cherished me and who looked upon me as their
(Ms B 2v )
In this heavenly home full of souls,
as Thérèse tells us; today and from now on we can
call upon the Blessed Louis and Zelie, whom we invoke for the first
time, asking them to pray to God for us. Please, cherish us, look
upon us as your children. Cherish the whole Church.
Above all, cherish our homes and our
Louis and Zelie represent a gift for
spouses of every age by the respect, and the harmony which marked
their love during 19 years. Zelie expressed that when she wrote
to Louis: I could not live without you, my dear Louis.
The lived with heroism their marriage vows of fidelity to the bond
that united them, to the fruitfulness of their love, in good times
as in bad, in sickness, and in health.
Louis and Zelie represent a gift for
parents. Ministers of love and of life, they brought forth nine
children for the Lord. Among these children, we particularly admire
Louis and Zelie represent a gift
for all those who have lost their spouses, being widowed is always
difficult to accept. Louis faced the loss of his wife with faith
and generosity, choosing for the good of his children to move to
Lisieux, even though he would have preferred to stay in Alençon.
Louis and Zelie represent a gift for
all those who face illness and death. Zelie died of cancer. Louis´
life ended after a succession of incapacitating strokes. In our
modern world which seeks to hide from death, they teach us to look
it in the face and abandon ourselves to God.
Exemplary Model of a Missionary Household
Finally, I thank God, in this 82nd
World Mission Day, because Louis and Zelie give us an exemplary
model of a missionary household. This is the reason that the Holy
Father wanted the beatification to take placed on this day which
is precious to the universal Church, to unite the masters Louis
and Zelie to the disciple Thérèse, their daughter,
who is the Patron of the Missions and a Doctor of the Church. The
testimonies of the Martin children concerning the missionary spirit
which reigned in their household are striking and unanimous. "My
parents were very interested in the salvation of souls
the apostolic work which we knew the best was the Propagation of
the Faith to which, each year, our parents made a very generous
contribution. It was this same zeal for souls which made them want
so much a son who would become a missionary and daughters who would
become nuns."(Positio, Vol. II, p. 972)
Recently, Cardinal Ivan Dias, Prefect
of the Congregation for Evangelization (Propaganda Fide) wrote:
"For a disciple of Christ, to announce the Gospel isn´t
just an option, but a commandment of the Lord
must have as a mission to spread the Gospel in each heart, in each
house, in each culture" (Lambeth Conference, July 23, 2008).
My brothers and sisters, may your
families, your parishes, your religious communities and through
the whole world, also be households of saints and missionaries,
as was the household of the blessed spouses Louis and Zelie Martin.