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Official Website of the
Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: January 14, 2016
By Father Erik Pohlmeier
God has high expectations for each of us baptized into his grace. With his help each of us is capable of greatness and heroic faith. To inspire us to strive for more we have the example of the saints. They are holy because they take advantage of this grace of God and remind us to find our strength in him as well.
God calls men and women into the vocation of marriage and gives children to be formed in life and love. Holiness is found in the daily effort to be open and generous, faithful to that remarkable vocation.
In October we were given the example of the first married couple canonized together. While there have been other spouses canonized they are primarily recognized for virtues such as the courage of martyrdom. With Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin we have the first couple held up precisely because of marriage and family life.
They are known in large part as the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux, but they are not saints simply for having a saintly daughter. In fact, while Therese never considered herself a saint, she wrote, “The Lord gave me a father and mother more worthy of heaven than earth.”
Their path to holiness was similar to their daughter’s by the fact that it was the path of ordinary life. They recognized the roles of spouse and parent as God’s call and lived both with openness and generosity.
They were married for 19 years and had nine children. Four of the children died while still very young and the other five all joined convents. Louis was a watchmaker and Zelie worked making lace. Their holiness was developed in the daily efforts to love each other and raise children in faith.
They faced the joys and sorrows of success in their work, celebrations with children and grief at their loss. They dealt with the challenges of a child with special needs and caring for their own aging parents.
Despite the challenges of normal life at home they were careful to support their church and meet the needs of the poor. They understood that part of giving the best to their children was forming them in the virtues of faith and charity and so they would not neglect that need even with other demands.
In addition, they faced the struggle of Zelie’s breast cancer and death at an early age. The challenge of saying goodbye and letting go came with the responsibility of continuing to care for the children as a single father.
It is clear that these are saints who would understand the challenges faced in marriage and family today. They were not always perfect and their holiness did not erase the pain of loss and sadness of separation.
They spent days in agony as they faced the reality of children who would not recover from illness. They questioned the way to handle children who didn’t cooperate or were defiant. But through it all they held fast to the motto they accepted as a couple, “God must be served first.”
It was living with this priority that kept them on the path to heaven. This commitment shaped their children in holiness. They were clear that when daily commitment to God comes first life is in order.
The needs of marriage and family are great in every age. In our day there are age-old struggles and new challenges, but the path forward remains the same. God calls men and women into the vocation of marriage and gives children to be formed in life and love. Holiness is found in the daily effort to be open and generous, faithful to that remarkable vocation.
May our new sainted couple pray for us and give us the example to make sure that God is served first.