Archive for the ‘Blessed Zelie and Louis Martin’ Category

Saints in the family

October 22, 2008

This weekend’s beatification of Zelie and Louis Martin provided a beautiful opportunity to reflect on the important ways that a Christian family can and should be a school of faith and holiness.  Fr. Thomas Rosica offers still another insight into this with this reflection on his relationship and familiarity with the family of St. Gianna Molla.

A few years ago, Fr. Rosica was responsible for the production of a beautiful video about St. Gianna, which we have in our home.  (We love St. Gianna around here, and one of our daughters is named after her, though she was “only” a blessed at the time our Gianna was born in 2000.  Her canonization in 2004 provided a wonderful opportunity for a St. Gianna party in our home.)

Rosica writes of his close relationship with the Molla family.  St. Gianna’s husband is still alive and 96 years old now.  (He and his children, Gianna’s siblings, were all present at her beatification and canonization masses, in 1994 and 2004 respectively.)  Can you imagine being aware that your spouse was, literally, a saint?  (“Well, I guess that settles one question … we know those arguments we used to have about such-and-such were all my fault!”)

(Yes yes, I know saints aren’t without fault.  It was a joke.)

But I especially appreciated Fr. Rosica’s comments about Pietro Molla himself, as well as Gianna’s extended family. 

“Pietro Molla is a pillar and rock — a man of extraordinary faith, simplicity and holiness. I am certain that the story of holiness did not end with Gianna, who died in 1962 at the age of 39. In fact, the cause for the beatification and canonization for St. Gianna’s brother, Frei Alberto Beretta, a Capuchin missionary in Brazil, was opened last year in Bergamo, Italy…. 

“We may speak of the communion of saints in theological terms, but today I experienced it very much in flesh and blood terms — this group of people was and is for me the reality of communion of saints in real time: a husband of a saint, children of a saint, nieces and nephews of a saint. They are like us. Their love of God and neighbor, their fire and dynamism will indeed burn away the sadness and evil in the world today, not with harshness but with fiery love and ordinary kindness.”

Isn’t it true that many of us can think of members of our own families who are made of the stuff of saints, people who might well be considered for canonization, if only they were more widely known, if only the stories of their love and faith and courage were told in books or documentaries?  St. Gianna, and Blessed Zelie and Louis, stand for them.  Particularly until the Church’s roll of the saints is as evenly populated by laypeople as it is by religious and priests, that will be the case. 

St. Gianna, Blessed Louis, Blessed Zelie, pray for us!


Blessed Zelie and Louis Martin! [updated]

October 19, 2008

Zelie and Louis Martin became the Church’s newest beati earlier today! 

The parents of one of the most extraordinary saints in the history of the Church, St. Therese of Lisieux, were beatified together today at 10:00 am local time by Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins at the Basilica of St. Therese in Lisieux, France

(Fireworks are scheduled for 8:30 pm!  Party time in Lisieux!) 

The very helpful website,, offers a boatload of information, including a press kit with a nice list of “talking points” by the director of the site, Maureen O’Riordan.  Ms. O’Riordan’s talking points on the Martins include:

–Fully engaged in business, social, family, and ecclesial life, Louis and Zelie were constantly oriented to eternity.

–Overwhelmed with responsibilities, each was faithful to the contemplative life, the family life of prayer, and the liturgical life of the Church, and they created a family similarly faithful.

–Surrounding their daughters with love, tenderness, and good times, the parents formed each carefully from childhood in the spiritual life.

–Devoted to each other and to their children, Zelie and Louis reached out lovingly to support their extended families at a personal sacrifice.

–Suffering acute grief in many trials, they continued to trust in God’s love for them.

–While supporting a large family, they gave generously of their energy and money to the poor, to the Church, and to causing charity and justice in their society.
–After leading heroic lives, Louis and Zelie surrendered themselves to long and painful illnesses and, in Zelie’s case, to a premature death.

I also like very much a comment that Ms. O’Riordan included in a biographical article about the couple: “Zélie and Louis were not declared “blessed” because of Thérèse. She became a saint because of them. They created an environment that invited her to holiness, and she responded freely to the invitation they offered her.” 

That, I believe, is the key message of the day, especially for parents of children.  And it’s a vitally impotant one.  Fr. Martin is right when he says, in his excellent Wall Street Journal piece yesterday, that the lack of lay and married people honored by the Church as saints is “somewhat embarrassing.”  I think we can say with certainty that being a good parent demands at least as much of all the virtues that are crucial in making the case for anyone’s cause for canonization (prudence, justice, temperance, fortitude, faith, hope, and love) as being a good priest, bishop, or sister.  And when it’s done well, as Blessed Louis and Zelie’s witness shows us, it can yield wonderful fruit. 

Parents of the world, we have some new patrons.

We should note, finally, that the Martins were the second, not the first married couple to be beatified together by the Church.  The honor of being first went to Blessed Luigi and Maria Quattrocci, beatified by Pope John Paul II in October 2001.  Interestingly, the Quattrocci’s lived out their marriage celibately. (With this as an element of their marriage, were they a wise choice as the first married couple to present together as models by beatification?)  The Martins, on the other hand, considered this for their marriage at the beginning, and tried it for a few months.  They soon decided it wasn’t for them.  And thank heavens they did, because their conjugal lives bore wonderful fruit, including of course St. Therese!

There’s not much on the web yet (as of 6:30 this morning, EST, though the Mass in France is over already) about today’s event.  When I find Cardinal Martins’ homily, or anything else especially interesting, I’ll add it to this post.  (Not sure how much time for that there’ll be today, though.  CROP Walk in Syracuse is this afternoon.  Anyone else CROP walking today?)

UPDATE: Aliens in This World was doing some helpful live-blogging during the beatification Mass, which was aired live on EWTN.

UPDATE 2: Comments from Pope Benedict yesterday, who was visiting the Italian Shrine of Our Lady of Pompei:

“These new blesseds accompanied and shared, in their prayer and evangelical witness, the way of their daughter, called by the Lord and consecrated to Him without reserve behind the walls of the Carmelite monastery,” said Pope Benedict XVI following his Mass at a shrine in Pompeii yesterday. “It was there, hidden in the cloister, that St. Thérèse realized her vocation: ‘In the heart of the Church, my Mother, I shall be love.

 “Thinking of the beatification of the Martin couple, I am urged to recall another intention so close to my heart,” the pope said. “The family, the role of which is fundamental in raising up children in a universal spirit of openness and responsibility toward the world and its problems, as also in the formation of vocations to the missionary life.”

UPDATE 3: Here’s the Zenit article on the beatification.  I especially liked this comment from Cardinal Martins:

“I thought of my father and my mother, and in this moment, I would like you to also think in your fathers and mothers, and that together, we give thanks to God for having created us and made us Christians, thanks to the conjugal love of our parents.”

A Blessed Couple

October 17, 2008

Up this weekend: the beatification of Louis and Zelie Martin, the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux!

Fr. James Martin, SJ, author of the excellent book My Life with the Saints, has a fine piece about them and the significance of their beatification in today’s Wall Street Journal.   A clip:

The two traditional roles of the saints are the patron (who intercedes on behalf of those on earth) and the companion (who provides believers with an example of Christian life). And the paucity of lay saints — more specifically, married ones — in the roster is somewhat embarrassing.

Two reasons underlie this anomaly: the outmoded belief, almost as old as the church, that the celibate life was “better” than married life, and the fact that the church’s canonization process is an arduous one, requiring someone to gather paperwork, interview contemporaries if that is still possible and present the case to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Certainly there have been as many saintly wives and husbands as there have been holy priests and nuns. But religious orders and dioceses know how to navigate the canonization procedures on behalf of bishops, priests, brothers and sisters. By contrast, how many families have the resources to embark on the decades-long process on behalf of even the holiest mother or father? As a result, married Catholics have few exemplars other than Mary and Joseph, whose situation was hardly replicable.

Soon-to-Be Saints

September 2, 2008

Welcome to any visitors who have found their way here today through Sacred Heart Radio or its blog. This morning, I talked with Brian Patrick on his Son Rise morning show about developments in the canonization causes of three important figures in Church history. (As I noted last week here, I’ll be chatting with Brian once a month on the topic of up-and-coming-saints’ causes.) 

Here’s a summary, with some additional resources for you:

1. The remains of Cardinal John Henry Newman (that’s him in the photo) will soon be moved from its cemetery plot to a special tomb inside Birmingham Oratory, a strong indicator of Vatican interest in a beatification that happens sooner rather than later.  My most personal connection to him is that his The Idea of a University was required reading in one of my college courses.  It was tough-going, but taught me a lot about thinking, learning, education, and being a person in society.

WordPress is being cranky, not letting me embed the video here, but there’s a news clip on Newman from a British station here.

2. In just over a month (on October 12, 2008), Pope Benedict will canonize Sr. Alphonsa Muttathupadathu (also known, thankfully!, as Sr. Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception) along with three other blesseds.  She is especially noteworthy because most reports are identifying her as the first saint of India.  (On the other hand, St. Gonsalo Garcia was the son of an Indian mother and Portugese father, born in India in 1556 and canonized with 25 other martyrs by Pope Pius IX in 1862.)  Sr. Alphonsa, a Poor Clare nun who lived most of her life in a sickbed, died at age 36 in 1946.  Her tomb is already a well-established pilgrimage site in India. 

There’s a news clip on her from an Indian tv station here.

3. The beatification of Louis and Zelie Martin is set for one week later (October 19).  Their biggest claim to fame is only that they’re the parents of the one of the most famous and well-loved saints in the entire history of the Church.  As a parent of 7, I’ll take this one as, at least implicitly, recognition of the important role of parents in their children’s moral and spiritual formation. 

I posted a little video on them about two weeks ago, here.

New Blesseds Coming

August 19, 2008

including the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux!  They’ll be beatified on October 19 in Lisieux.

This is exciting news.  (Probably especially gratifying for parents who work so hard on a daily basis to try to steer their kids along the right path!)

The others who are soon to be beatified are 3 priests (two founders of religious orders and a martyr) and a nun (who also founded an order), who will be beatified in their own home dioceses on chosen days in September or October.