It was not until the beginning of Pope John Paul II’s pontificate, that the Church became increasingly interested in promoting the causes of laypeople who lived their Christian faith by assuming all their temporal commitments in a heroic way. Until recently, the Church had raised only one married couple, Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi, together to the altar. However, in October this year, a second married couple Louis Martin and Marie-Zélie Guérin, joined them. They were the parents of St. Thérèse, but the basis of their beatification is not their daughter?s holiness but the heroic virtues they lived in their lives as spouses and parents.
Generally, blesseds and saints are remembered in the liturgy on the day of their death. With the beatification of the Martin spouses, as with the Quattrochi spouses, the Church has established that their commemoration will not be on the day of their death, but on the day of their wedding. This is to emphasise that marriage too, is a vocation to holiness.
Although the Martins lived in times and circumstances that are very different from our own, their experience is an example for us in many aspects. Through their great faith and love of God they experienced the happiness of profound and generous spousal and family self-giving love and had the fortitude necessary to face all the sacrifices that came their way. That they suffered the loss of four small children, the difficulties and demands of indispensable work to support the family, and serious illnesses – she died of cancer at 46 and her husband, then widowed, suffered from cerebral arteriosclerosis. However, they never lost their love, trust and gratitude toward God. They always managed to help and show love to all those who entered into contact with them, women who worked for the family business, the domestic servants, and the city’s poor. This was all this at the time of the difficult and harsh moments of the Franco-German war.
The example of Louis Martin and Marie-Zélie Guérin can give light and strength to Christian spouses and parents to make their marital life a source of joy and a way of holiness.