Saints Louis and Zélie,
after having had the desire for religious life,
you heard the Lord's call to the vocation of marriage.
You are the "incomparable parents"
of whom your daughter St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus speaks.
You love us as your own children, with the heart of a father and the heart of a mother, because you are the friends of God, and the parents of our sister, St. Therese.
Listen to our prayer and our requests...
and intercede for us with God our Heavenly Father,
through Little Jesus,
in the grace of the Holy Spirit who is Love!
Somehow I find myself short on words, but with the assurance that a picture is worth a thousand words, I'm counting the four pictures above as the main content of this feast day treasure trove!
The top picture is of little Pietro Schiliro, whose miraculous cure at six months old paved the way for the beatification of Sts. Louis and Zelie. Isn't he one of the cutest babies ever? His story begins well before he was even a twinkle in his mama Adele's eye, when she read Story of a Soul and it made her furious! She didn't understand how God could allow such terrible suffering to afflict one who'd give up all for Him (in this case, St. Therese).
A good Father Antonio later helped Adele understand and enter the Little Way, but I love that she was so honest with God and demanded Love from Him - which she later understood to be present in suffering, but like the rest of us normal folk she didn't immediately see there.
Fast forward and Adele and her husband Valter welcomed their sixth child, Pietro, in May 2002. Pietro was born unable to breathe due to a pulmonary malformation, so he was put on all sorts of artificial respiration, but even this was not fully effective.
Valter and Adele explain:
"The trial of Pietro's mortal illness was a grace to us. What we had lived only in words we were now asked to prove in the flesh. Let us never doubt the benevolent presence of the Lord in our suffering, but we wanted to understand the feeling of this trial.
The key was given to us by little Therese. My [Adele's] sister, who could not help us, had asked St. Therese to help us. Opening the book of the letters of Therese, she found it fell open at letters 194 and 195, which speak of the missionary vocation of a very small child.
So we understood that Pietro, lying on his bed, motionless, his arms crossed, supported by eighteen tubes (drains, perfusions, catheters, etc.) participated in the great saving mission of Jesus and that "when the Lamb will open the book of life, what a surprise for the Heavenly Court to hear proclaimed with the names of missionaries and martyrs those of poor little children who never performed dazzling actions."
Father Antonio talked to us about Louis and Zelie Martin, the parents of St. Therese, and we decided to make a novena asking their intercession for the cure of Pietro and to hasten their beatification. We distributed more than 500 pictures to our family, our friends, our parish, and our co-workers; we made several novenas with the conviction that we would be answered, without any merit on our part, by the pure goodness of the Lord. And the improvement came abruptly: on the 26th and 27th of June, Pietro had such crises of insufficient breathing that, on arriving at the hospital in the morning, we wondered if we would find him still alive. The nurse reassured us at once and talked of a miracle. The improvement continued, so much that on July 3 Pietro was taken off artificial respiration.
When we left the hospital definitively, after returning home, we took a bouquet of flowers to the altar of the church. But our way of giving thanks is especially to witness to make known the parents of Therese Martin."
Their witness was carefully reviewed and scrutinized by the Church and led to the beatification of Louis and Zelie on World Mission Sunday, October 19, 2008 - exactly 11 years after their most famous daughter was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope Saint John Paul II.
I'm sure I've mentioned before in this blog the wonderful way that God sped up the canonization of St. Therese. In order for a Blessed to be named a Saint, the Church requires a miracle (or in Therese's day two miracles) after the beatification, in order to show that the holy one is not only in Heaven, but that God wants the whole world to know it! The miracle for beatification shows that this person has God's ear in Heaven - hence the miracle in response to the clear request for this person's intercession for a cure . . . And then the miracle for canonization further shows God's desire to use this saint to help everyone know more of His awesome love and mercy. Only after canonization, an infallible act, is the entire Church (not just those with some special connection to the saintly one) encouraged to venerate, imitate, and ask for help from the new saint.
In St. Therese's case, on the day of her beatification thirty miracles occurred and were reported to her Lisieux Carmel for investigation! God was in a hurry to make Therese even more known and loved, though it can be argued that He was bowing to her hurry to fulfill her mission to make Him even more known and loved!
Well the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, as they say, and our incomparable St. Therese merely foreshadowed her incomparable parents! Our proof is in that second photo above, a picture of four year old Carmen Perez Pons, the little girl whose miraculous healing through the intercession of Louis and Zelie Martin eventually led to their canonization on October 18, 2015.
We know that Louis and Zelie were beatified on October 19, 2008, so we might ask what took so long!? Okay, granted the stage between beatification and canonization can take centuries in the case of normal saints and normal eras, still, we're living in an age of instant gratification, so are getting used to speedy causes and processes. Moreover, we're not talking about any normal saints, but the parents of St. Therese, who is always in a hurry to make Love loved, and I'm claiming she resembles her parents in that . . .
I'm happy to assure you that the delay was simply a matter of red-tape - or simply the need for the passage of some time while doctors and theologians do that reviewing and scrutinizing thing. This is how we know the process is real and the Church authentic! Reason must aid faith, and it surely does in these cases . . . But here's the very fun part: Little Carmen was born on the feast of St. Teresa of Avila, October 15, 2008 - and if you've been paying close attention (haha, no worries - I'm going to explain it all!) you may realize that her birth was just four days before Louis and Zelie were beatified...
Which means that when Carmen was born very prematurely at just 28 weeks, and when consequently it looked like there was no way she could survive (the mid-wife's first words were, "Expect the worst"), her parents went to a nearby Carmelite monastery of nuns to ask for prayers.
From an article by Maureen O'Riordan (to whom I am indebted for the info on Pietro as well), we can read the rest:
Although there was no human hope, Carmen’s mother and father did not lose hope in God. Because his daughter was born on the feast of St. Teresa of Avila, her father decided to ask St. Teresa to intercede for her. On the Internet he found a nearby monastery of Discalced Carmelite nuns (the order St. Teresa reformed) and went to visit them. “I arrived at night. It was closed and I could only talk to the nuns by the intercom. But the next Sunday we went there to Mass,” says the father. That Sunday was probably October 26, the first Sunday after the beatification of Louis and Zélie. The parents came to trust the nuns, and “some days later, when things turned very bad for the baby, the nuns encouraged the family to seek the intercession of Louis and Zélie Martin,” said Sister Monique-Marie. Zélie and Louis had already obtained from God the cure of the newborn Pietro Schiliro near Milan in Italy, the miracle that led to their beatification. The Carmelites gave Carmen’s parents a card with a prayer to Louis and Zélie and promised to pray with them for the child’s cure.
"Because it was a crucial moment, we prayed with much faith” to the new blesseds, who had lost three of their own children as infants and one at the age of five. After several critical weeks, Carmen suddenly experienced a radical change. She was completely and inexplicably cured. Her physicians were stunned. Although they warned that Carmen would experience complications from her illness, she has not.
* * *
What can we conclude?
God loves us so much! He is constantly pouring love out upon us and frequently in the form of miracles - often enough even verifiable, instantaneous, saint-making miracles!
Therese's sister Celine (later Sister Genevieve of the Holy Face in the Carmel of Lisieux) wrote biographies of their parents, now Saints Louis and Zelie. Here is a lovely passage from The Mother of the Little Flower, in which we see Zelie's commentary on God's love and miracles. The quote within this passage is from a letter Zelie wrote to her daughter Pauline, Therese's older sister who later became Mother Agnes of Jesus in the Lisieux Carmel.
"Referring to excellent friends of hers, who were very charitable, but who considered God as being too mighty and distant to take a particular interest in our little lives, she wrote:
'It makes me sad that such good people should have such thoughts. I believe that the good Lord takes an active interest in us. I have experienced it many times in my life, and how many proofs I have of His watchfulness, which I can never forget.'"
As for their wonderful father, Celine wrote in The Father of the Little Flower:
"Everything which referred to Our Lord touched him deeply. One Christmas Day towards the end of his life he said to Sister Agnes at the Carmel parlor: 'A little Child! A Babe! Ah! How can a person not be drawn to love the good God who so annihilated Himself! A babe is so lovely!'"
We can see the appreciation, or really the exultation that Louis and Zelie had in children. They knew the worth of an immortal soul and were eternally - even while on this earth! - grateful for those nine which had been given to them, although four were taken away far too quickly. They never ceased praising God for these children, and it is no surprise, and yet a delightful and magnificent gift, that they are exceedingly interested in us and our children. So let's turn to them for all our needs - for those children big and small among us and our dear ones - and ask for their intercession especially on this their feast.
I know of a mom having brain surgery today - she could use their intercession for herself and her husband and children! And I know you know so many more who need our prayers! Let's join together with this glorious Communion of Saints, our family of Saints, and pray for them all:
who gave to Saint Louis and Marie Zelie
the grace to lead a life of holiness
as Christian spouses and parents,
grant that, through their intercession and example,
we may be able to love and serve you faithfully,,
living worthily our own vocation.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever.
And dear Saints Louis and Zelie, please hear our particular prayers and obtain from the good God all that we and those we pray for need! Amen!
Draw me, we will run!
P.S. For more photos and words about Saints Louis and Zelie, visit the magnificent website created for them by the above-mentioned (and also incomparable) Maureen Riordan HERE...
And for the liturgical texts of the feast of Saints Louis and Zelie, you can go HERE...
Blessed be God in His angels and in His saints!
I've written books and articles and even a novel. Now it's time to try a blog! For more about me personally, go to the home page and you'll get the whole scoop! If you want to send me an email, feel free to click "Contact Me" below. To receive new posts, enter your email and click "Subscribe" below.