Humble Servants: The Canonization of Louis and Zélie Martin

St. Peter’s Square
St. Peter’s Square at the canonization of Louis and Zelie Martin.

On Sunday, October 18, 2015, Pope Francis presided at Mass in St. Peter’s Square which included the Rite of Canonization.  Earlier this year, on June 27, 2015, at the Ordinary Consistory in the Vatican, the Pope approved the canonization of Louis Martin and his wife Zélie.  It was decided that the ceremony would take place during the Synod on the Family, and they would be canonized alongside two others:  Fr. Vincenzo Grossi, the Italian founder of the Institute of the Daughters of the Oratory, and Spanish Sister Maria of the Immaculate Conception, Superior General of the Sisters of the Company of the Cross.

It was a glorious day in St. Peter’s Square!  Directly after the entrance hymn and the greeting by the Pope, Cardinal Angelo Amato, S.D.B., prefect of the Congregation on the Causes of the Saints, requested that the Pope enroll these holy people among the Saints.  After the Litany of Saints was sung, the Pope declared the formula of Canonization:

For the honor of the Blessed Trinity, the exaltation of the Catholic faith and the increase of the Christian life, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and our own, after due deliberation and frequent prayer for divine assistance, and having sought the counsel of many of our brother Bishops, we declare and define Blessed, Vincenzo Grossi, Maria of the Immaculate Conception, and Louis Martin and Marie-Azélie Guérin, spouses, to be Saints and we enroll them among the Saints, decreeing that they are to be venerated as such by the whole Church.  In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

At that point, Louis Martin and Zélie Guérin were officially proclaimed saints!  Soon thereafter, members of the faithful brought up relics from each new saint and they were incensed to forever be venerated as Saints of the Church!

Married in 1858, Louis and Zélie had nine children.  Four died in infancy, while the remaining five entered religious life.  During their marriage, the couple was known to attend daily Mass, pray and fast, visit the elderly and the sick, and welcome the poor into their home.  The Pope stated in his homily, “The holy spouses Louis Martin and Marie-Azélie Guérin practiced Christian service in the family, creating day by day an environment of faith and love which nurtured the vocations of their daughters, among whom was Saint Therese of the Child Jesus.

Louis and Zélie did not do anything extraordinary during their lifetimes, but rather lived their faith in a very simple, humble way, teaching by example, knowing what is was like to mourn the loss of loved ones, nurturing the vocation of their children, and putting their faith into action by reaching out to others in need.  Louis and Zélie are excellent models for all Christian spouses.  They are the first-ever married couple with children to be canonized in the same ceremony.

Eight members of the Carmelite General Curia in Rome attended the Canonization.  It was an emotional moment when the Pope declared Louis and Zélie saints.  Being parents of Carmelite nuns, it brought to mind all parents everywhere, both living and deceased, and especially Carmelite parents, who instilled faith in each of us, taught us how to put our faith into practice, and modeled Christian life by reaching out to others in need.

In many ways, parents are saintly people, as they sacrifice for their children and live out their vocation with love.  We know they are not always perfect, but many live holy lives that are now be recognized more fully by the Church.  No one has ever said that the sacrament of matrimony is easy to live, but now that this married couple has been proclaimed saints by the Church, all couple can look to Louis and Zélie as humble servants and as models for Christian Life and Marriage.  May the Church continue to recognize and proclaim married couples as saints and inspire future generations to live their Christian lives as humble servants!

Submitted by Fr. Carl Markelz, O. Carm.  Photos by Fr. Raul Maravi, O. Carm.