The parents of St. Therese, “The Little Flower,” will become the first married couple to be jointly canonized as saints. Pope Francis has announced that he will canonize them during the World Synod of Bishops on the Family in October. Louis and Zelie Martin will be canonized not because they raised a saint, but because they lived their married lives for God first, and in doing so, happened to give the Church one of her greatest saints. (There is a movement for the causes of St. Therese’s sisters for beatification, as well.) Their feast day is the day of the marriage, July 12.
Sainthood is not limited to the religious or to a certain age group or to any demographic. We are all called to become saints, to live out our state in life, with all its trials and tribulations, with the grace that only God can provide, in holiness and service. It is said that to love is to desire the highest good for the loved one. That highest good is eternity with God. Louis and Zelie Martin entered into matrimony with the desire to serve God and to offer themselves and each other to God. They originally planned to live in total continence, imitating the Holy Family, but were counseled that the Holy Family were a very unique exception to the usual norms of marriage. They went on to have nine children (four died in early childhood) whom they wished to raise for eternity in Heaven. The family practices of joyful faithfulness, regular prayer and charitable service streamed from the holiness of the parents. St. Therese once wrote that her parents seemed “more worthy of heaven than of earth.”
For all who are married, the vocational state of married life is their road to Heaven. Opportunities abound in the matrimonial relationship to practice all the virtues and it is in practicing virtue that we approach the perfection to which we are called to aspire. We are living today in a culture that does not recognize the true value of indissoluble, lifelong, committed marriage. Marriage involves responsibility to serve another, and to be a channel of grace in their road to heaven, not license to be served, nor a channel for happiness.
At the opening of the first Synod on the Family, Pope Francis venerated the Martins as well as another beatified couple, Blessed Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi, who are also held up as beacons of married sanctity. These couples remind us of the rich beauty of the Sacrament of Matrimony, and the path to Heaven that it should be. We can ask their intercession for our own families and for the protection of true marriage in a culture which so gravely devalues it.
July 15, 2015