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Humble Servants: The Canonization of Louis and Zélie Martin

Fr. Carl Markelz, O.Carm.

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! Thanks to our Discalced Carmelite brothers in Rome, eight Carmelites from our General Curia were able to attend the ceremony. 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, 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! I could not help but think about my own parents, along with all parents, who are the first teachers of our faith and instilled in each of us a spirit of service and discipleship. The church has canonized many popes, bishops, priests, along with women and men religious, but this was the first time that a married couple with children was canonized in the same ceremony. It was an emotional moment! Soon thereafter, members of the faithful brought up relics from each new saint and these were incensed to forever be venerated as relics of 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 it 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.

 Many 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 they 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 day after day, but now that this married couple has been proclaimed saints by the Church, all couples can look to Louis and Zélie as humble servants and as models for Christian Life and Marriage. All of us can learn much by being inspired by married couples who choose to live out their vocations together and are disciples in love on this journey to God. May the Church continue to recognize and proclaim married couples as saints and inspire future generations of parents to live their Christian lives as humble servants!

As Carmelites We live our life of allegiance to Jesus Christ and to serve Him faithfully with a pure heart and a clear conscience through a commitment to seek the face of the living God (the contemplative dimension of life), through prayer, through fraternity, and through service (diakonia). These three fundamental elements of the charism are not distinct and unrelated values, but closely interwoven. 

All of these we live under the protection, inspiration and guidance of Mary, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, whom we honor as "our Mother and sister."