Born in Bordeaux in 1823, Louis Martin grew up in the context of his military father's constant movement. His family finally settled in Alençon, where he spent his schooling. Early on, he felt the desire to consecrate himself to God in the monastery of the Great Saint Bernard. He was forced to give up this plan and began watchmaking training. In 1850 he opened his own watchmaking and jewelry shop in Alençon. Louis Martin was a hard-working man, committed to a social work with the Saint Vincent de Paul conference. Before his marriage, Louis spent his free time fishing and meditating.
Azélie-Marie Guérin was born on December 23, 1831 in Gandelain (Orne) where her father was a policeman. Zélie studied at the convent of Perpetual Adoration and soon had the desire to become a nun, but the mother superior did not accept. The young woman therefore turned to vocational training and began to work on the famous point of Alençon. Zélie proved very gifted at this, and opened her own factory at the point of Alençon, hiring female workers. They were treated as members of the family by Zélie, who practiced all the virtues of the Gospel. The quality of her work was remarkable and the workshop was renowned.
Louis and Zélie first met in Alençon on the Saint-Léonard bridge, and married a few months later, on July 13, 1858. The Martin couple was united by a deep affection and a strong desire to please God, especially through continence in marriage. Zélie's letters reveal the great love that she bore for her husband from the beginning: "Your wife who loves you more than her life." Louis and Zélie Martin would have nine children, four of whom would die in infancy. The couple lived to the rhythm of these births and deaths, joys and suffering, as Zélie writes in a letter: "I love children madly, I was born to have them."
Martin parents were good educators and strive to raise their children to holiness. The daily Eucharist and prayer are the pillars of their lives. They have a living faith that they bear witness to in and around their families by engaging in social work. Both hardworking and courageous, they united to run the lace factory founded by Zélie. In 1865 Zélie developed breast cancer. She went through it with confidence, saying: “If God wants to heal me, I will be very happy, because deep down, I want to live; it costs me much to leave my husband and my children. But on the other hand, I think to myself: if I do not heal, it is because it may be more useful for them if I leave. " The couple were marked by the long ordeal of illness and then the death of Zélie on August 28, 1877. After 19 years as a couple, Louis Martin moved with his five daughters to Lisieux with his in-laws, the Guérins. He was attentive to each of his daughters and open to their plans for religious life. After Thérèse entered Carmel, Louis became ill and in 1888, he was treated at the hospital of the Good Saviour in Caen but remained paralyzed. He died on July 29, 1894.
In 1946 the bishop of Lisieux wished to initiate the causes of beatification of Louis and Zélie Martin, known to be the parents of Saint Therese of Lisieux. The trials of both of the Martin spouses were conducted in parallel in two dioceses. It is Pope Paul VI who wanted to bring the two causes together in one, a first in the history of the Church.
In 1994, the year of the family, John Paul II recognized the heroic virtues of Louis and Zélie Martin and declared them Venerable. After Pope Benedict XVI recognized a first miracle: the healing of little Pietro Schilirò, born in Milan. The beatification ceremony took place in Lisieux in 2008. In 2015, a second miracle: healing of little Carmen in Valencia, was recognized by Pope Francis.
The canonization of the couple (a first in history) was proclaimed by Pope Francis on October 18, 2015 in Rome. This canonization, which takes place during the Synod of Bishops on the mission of the family in the Church and in the world, makes it possible to highlight marriage as a way of holiness.
Louis and Zélie Martin give an example of life lived in the footsteps of Christ. They are a model of holiness lived as lay people even though they each wished to join the clergy. Louis and Zélie have been exemplary in different aspects of their lives. They worked courageously, shared their income with the poor, overcame trials, put the Lord first, courageously accepted illness, and offered their children to God. Their canonization is a reminder to all Christians today that holiness is for all, it is matrimony, it is family, it is lived daily through trials and joys. Thousands of couples would find support and a model to imitate in them.
Louis and Zélie Martin's relics have traveled the world since 2015. They allow all who welcome them to present their relationships, families and all difficult situations. The book Louis et Zélie Martin, la sainteté à portée de main (Holiness at Hand) written by Odile and Sylvain Delye speaks of the life of this extraordinary couple.
God of eternal love, you give us in the holy husbands Louis and Zélie Martin an example of holiness lived in marriage.
They have kept faith and hope in the midst of the duties and difficulties of life.
They raised their children to become saints.
May their prayer and example support families in their Christian life and help us all to walk towards holiness.
If this is your will, deign to grant us the grace that we now ask for through their intercession.
Through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Louis and Zélie,
Today we come to you, as your children did, to be taught by your love for God in all circumstances, your trust in the Church and your great love for all.
We especially do this for our relationships and our family.
Teach us to love each other faithfully and deeply.
Help us raise each of our children with tenderness, wisdom and patience so that they may live as Christians and fulfill their personal vocation.
Strengthen us so that we may carry out our professional work according to the values and requirements of the Gospel.
Intercede for us, so that, at your example, we may always remain united through the joys and trials of life and grow every day in faith and trust in God.
Keep us in the hope of Heaven that never left you.
Louis and Zélie, pray for us.