Soon we’ll have the intimate happiness of the family, and it’s this beauty that brings us closer to him.”st louis martin
Louis was born in 1823 in Bordeaux. When his hope of entering religious life disappeared, he became a watchmaker.
Louis met Zelie in Alencon, and they were married in 1858 after a three-month courtship. For almost a year, the couple lived as brother and sister, but the advice of a confessor changed their minds, and they decided to raise as many children as possible for the glory of God.
Zelie gave birth to nine children, five of whom entered religious life, and four they had to bury after birth. Their devotion never wavered, however. The couple lived modestly, reaching out to the poor and the needy, and led daily prayers in the household. St. Therese would later write: “God gave me a father and a mother who were more worthy of heaven than of earth.”
Louis was calm and thoughtful; he assumed the family’s responsibility and supported his wife with great tenderness. People often said that he was a gentleman, at times implying that he was a bit soft, but he was far from being soft, and he was just as hard-working as his wife. His extreme gentleness at the end of his life was so striking to those around him.
Louis was just as concerned for others as Zelie. He was above all a man of great uprightness, tolerating neither injustice nor hypocrisy. He had a determined temperament, which he often used in fighting for spiritual causes. At one time, despite not liking to write, he pestered officials with his letters to help a needy man gain admittance into a home for the elderly.
Zelie’s goodness softened his sharp edges, inspiring him by her example to have more mercy towards an undeserving worker or stopping him from getting too wrapped up in solitude. In addition to sharing similar social ideas, generous hearts, and energy put to good use, Louis and Zelie had a preference for work in common, and, above all, they both had a thirst for God.
In 1877, at age 45, Zelie Martin died of breast cancer. Louis and his daughters then moved to Lisieux. Gradually his daughters left to enter the convent. Despite his loneliness, he said: “It is a great, great honor for me that the Good Lord desires to take all of my children. If I had anything better, I would not hesitate to offer it to him.” Louis died in 1894 after suffering greatly, including a three-year stay in a psychiatric hospital.
Louis and Zelie Martin were beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in 2008 and canonized by Pope Francis in 2015. The Martin’s were canonized together and their feast day is July 12.
Last year I discovered St. Louis Martin and instantly he became my friend. Even though the Martin’s suffered child loss, Louis didn’t let that stop them from believing and living a faithful life. Louis was a faith-filled man and always put Christ first and at the center of his marriage. It’s no surprise 5 of his daughters entered into religious life.
I really admire his kind-heartedness and generosity while also being courageous when there were words that needed to be spoken, especially when it came to his faith. Above all his thirst for God was the driving force of the way both St. Zelie and St. Louis parented and lived their lives. I hope that the way I am living my life speaks to my daughter the same way that it spoke to St. Terese.
Ryan Breaux is from the small town of Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. He’s been married 18-years to his wife, Kelly. They have 4 children: 12-year-old Estelle Gabriella, and 3 Saints in heaven – twins Emma Grace & Talon Antoine would be turning 15 this year, and a baby they lost through miscarriage, Christian Ryan. Ryan works for Coca-Cola when he’s not doing Red Bird Ministries work with Kelly. Together they worship at St Bernard Church in their hometown, and serve the Diocese of Lafayette in grief support for parents of loss. Red Bird Ministries has carefully designed a system that anticipates the stages of grief and the challenges that will be encountered with a unique focus on how to keep marriages intact and preserve healthy family relationships after a loss.