Today’s Scripture readings all speak of God’s continuing and abiding presence with us. The first reading narrates how God remains with the people of Samaria as they receive the Holy Spirit. Next, the Apostle Peter speaks of Christ’s presence in people’s hearts. In the Gospel Jesus promises the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, assuring his followers: “I will not leave you orphans” (Jn 14:18). God’s loving presence has been shown to us in numerous ways. Personally, since today is Mother’s Day, I think of how we have experienced genuine love from our dear parents.
Two Saintly Parents. Since this year is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux (1873-2023), I recall how her parents filled her with overflowing love. Saints Louis and Zélie Martin were the first married couple canonized together in the history of the Church. This took place on October 19, 2015, which is the same date that their daughter Thérèse was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope John Paul II on October 19, 1997.
There are many interesting facts about the lives of Saints Louis and Zélie. Originally, both attempted to enter religious life, but both were rejected. Louis became a watchmaker and Zélie learned the trade of lacemaking. They would eventually meet and be married on July 13, 1858 in Alenḉon, France. They would have nine children, four of whom died as infants or small children. The five who survived to adulthood would all enter religious life.
Numerous Challenges. At the age of 45, when Thérèse was only four years old, Zélie died from breast cancer. The family then moved to Lisieux, France to be near Zélie’s family. After suffering from strokes and cerebral arteriosclerosis, Louis was placed in a mental hospital for three years. When he was able to return home, his daughter Céline (the only one to have not yet entered the convent) cared for him until he died at the age of 70.
Wonderful Lessons. These saints have much to teach us. First, God is to have priority of place in all things. Both Sunday and frequent daily Mass, as well as other religious practices, were essential parts of the Martin household. Louis and Zélie shared these religious values with their daughters; they put God first and chose to rely on God’s loving providence.
Secondly, this married couple exemplified that trusting in God and patiently enduring tragedies are not mutually exclusive. As mentioned earlier, four of their nine children died very young. Yet, they did not lose their profound faith. Thirdly, Saints Louis and Zélie created a home environment that was open to vocation, whether marriage, religious life, or priesthood. They lived their faith together as husband and wife and shared it with their children.
Our Prayer. Lord, on this Mother’s Day we pray for all mothers, fathers, and families. Thank you for our own families and your love and presence we have experienced through them. Saints Louis and Zélie, pray for us!
James H. Kroeger, M.M.
Sixth Sunday of Easter
Bless our families with your Presence,
Lord God, source of all grace and good.
You, who call all Christians to be
living witnesses to your love,
may our children find in our homes
sanctuaries of peace, happiness and love.
Through the intercession of Saints
Louis and Zélie Martin, parents of
St. Therese of Lisieux, let our families
nurture our children to answer
Your call to prayer and holiness.
Help parents to be examples of mercy,
children to be seekers of truth,
Brothers and sisters to find in each other
a source of help and mutual respect
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M.M.