Louis Martin (1823-1894) and Marie Zelie Guerin Martin (1831-1877) will be the first married couple with children to be canonized in the same ceremony.

Pope Francis issued the decree approving their canonization during the public consistory on canonizations at the Vatican; attended by more than 40 cardinals.

During the consistory, Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, said the couple lived an "exemplary life of faith, dedication to ideal values, united to a constant realism, and persistent attention to the poor," according to Vatican Radio.

The cardinal said the French couples serves as an "extraordinary witness of conjugal and family spirituality."

The Watchmaker - Louis Martin

Louis Martin (1823 - 1894) was a watchmaker by trade, and quite a successful one. He also skillfully managed his wife's lace business. But, as with so many men, Louis' life had not turned out at all the way he had planned.

Born into a family of soldiers, Louis spent his early years at various French military posts. He absorbed the sense of order and discipline that army life engenders. His temperament, deeply influenced by the peculiar French connection between the mystical and the military, tended toward things of the spirit.

At twenty-two, young Louis sought to enter religious life at the monastery of the Augustinian Canons of the Great St. Bernard Hospice in the Alps. The blend of courage and charity the monks and their famous dogs manifested in rescuing travelers in Alpine snows appealed powerfully to Louis Martin. Unfortunately, the Abbot insisted the young candidate learn Latin. Louis, whose bravery would have carried him to the heights of the Alps in search of a lost pilgrim, got himself lost among the peaks and valleys of Latin syntax and grammar. His most determined efforts failed. He became ill and dispirited, and abandoned his hopes for the monastic life.

Eventually, Louis settled down in Alençon, a small city in France, and pursued his watchmaking trade. He loved Alençon. It was a quiet place and he was a quiet man. It even had a lovely trout stream nearby, offering him the opportunity to pursue his favorite recreation.

The Lace Maker - Zélie Guerin


Most famous of Alençon's thirteen thousand inhabitants were its lace makers. French people greatly admired the skill and talent required to produce the exquisite lace known throughout the nation as Point d' Alençon.

Zélie Guerin (1831 - 1877) was one of Alençon's more talented lace makers. Born into a military family, Zélie described her childhood and youth as "dismal." Her mother and father showed her little affection. As a young lady, she sought unsuccessfully to enter the religious order of the sisters of the Hotel-Dieu. Zélie then learned the Alençon lace-making technique and soon mastered this painstaking craft. Richly talented, creative, eager, and endowed with common sense, she started her own business and became quite successful. Notable as these achievements were, Zélie was yet to reveal the depths of the strength, faith, and courage she possessed.

The Martins

Louis Martin and Zélie Guerin eventually met in Alençon, and on July 13, 1858, Louis, 34, and Zélie, 26, married and began their remarkable voyage through life. Within the next fifteen years, Zélie bore nine children, seven girls and two boys. "We lived only for them," Zélie wrote; "they were all our happiness."

The Martins' delight in their children turned to shock and sorrow as tragedy relentlessly and mercilessly stalked their little ones. Within three years, Zélie's two baby boys, a five year old girl, and a six-and-a-half week old infant girl all died.

Zélie was left numb with sadness. "I haven't a penny's worth of courage," she lamented. But her faith sustained her through these terrible ordeals. In a letter to her sister-in-law who had lost an infant son, Zélie remembered: "When I closed the eyes of my dear little children and buried them, I felt sorrow through and through....People said to me, 'It would have been better never to have had them.' I couldn't stand such language. 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' last child was born January 2, 1873. She was weak and frail, and doctors feared for the infant's life. The family, so used to death, was preparing for yet another blow. Zélie wrote of her three month old girl: "I have no hope of saving her. The poor little thing suffers horribly....It breaks your heart to see her." But the baby girl proved to be much tougher than anyone realized. She survived the illness. A year later she was a "big baby, browned by the sun." "The baby," Zélie noted, "is full of life, giggles a lot, and is sheer joy to everyone." Death seemed to grant a reprieve to the Martin household. Although suffering had left its mark on mother and father, it was not the scar of bitterness. Louis and Zélie had already found relief and support in their faith.

The series of tragedies had intensified the love of Louis and Zélie Martin for each other. They poured out their affection on their five surviving daughters; Marie, 12, Pauline, 11, Leonie 9, Celine, 3, and their newborn. Louis and Zélie named their newborn; Marie-Francoise-Thérèse Martin. A century later people would know her as St. Thérèse, and call her the "Little Flower."

 
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