The Ignatius series of saint biographies are always enjoyable and informative. The newest book on the lives of Saints Louis and Zélie Martin by GinaMarie Tennant continues that tradition.
The Martins are best known as the parents of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, a doctor of the Church known for her Little Way of holiness, but Louis and Zélie are saints in their own right. They were canonized in 2015 by Pope Francis, the first married couple to be canonized together.
This biography includes a few chapters on the individual childhood and young adult years of the two saints. Both Louis and Zélie dreamed of entering religious life, but God had other plans for them. Louis Martin became a watchmaker and Zélie Guérin learned the art of making Alençon lace. In 1858, when Zélie was twenty-six years old, she was crossing the Bridge of St. Leonard. As Louis passed her on the bridge, Zélie heard an interior voice say to her, “This is the one that I have prepared for you.” The couple married in July of that year.
Over the course of their married life, they had nine children, but they faced great heartache as four of those children died in childhood. The five daughters who lived to adulthood all entered religious life, including their youngest daughter who would become the famous St. Thérèse.
Zélie died at age forty-five of breast cancer, and Louis was left to raise his daughters on his own. He moved the family to Lisieux to be close to Zélie’s brother and sister-in-law who could help him in that task. He was the one who made the great sacrifice of giving his daughters to God one by one (one daughter, Céline, would care for her father until his death and then enter religious life). As the girls grew older, his health failed as well. He suffered from strokes and dementia before his death in 1894.
Throughout their lives, both Louis and Zélie trusted in God even when it was hard. They are role models for holiness in married life. While their lives may not be as exciting as some other saint biographies, theirs is a story of faithfulness to God in ordinary circumstances. Louis and Zélie: The Holy Parents of Saint Thérèse would make a great family read-aloud or could be included as part of a homeschool religion curriculum.
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