Saints Louis and Zélie Martin, a family of faith
TOMORROW, July 12, marks the feast day of Louis and Zélie Martin, the parents of St Thérèse of Lisieux and the first married couple to be made saints together by the Catholic Church.
Pope Francis canonised the couple at a ceremony in Rome in October 2015 during a Vatican synod of bishops which was focusing on pastoral challenges to the family.
Though they are best known as the devout parents of St Thérèse of Lisieux, the 'Little Flower', Saints Louis and Zélie have come to be regarded as exemplars of the vocations of parenting and family life, introducing their children to a life of holiness and God's call in their lives.
Louis, a watchmaker, and Zélie, who made lace, married on July 13 1858 at the Church of the Notre Dame in Alençon, Normandy.
They had nine children, three of whom died in infancy and another at the age of five.
Five daughters survived, and although the family had financial problems, their home was said to be happy and welcoming to all and the Martins would share their table with the destitute and homeless.
Zélie died at the age of 45 in August 1877 from breast cancer, after facing her illness with faith and courage; Louis moved with his daughters to Lisieux.
Later, each of them entered religious life - Pauline, Marie, Thérèse and Céline as Carmelites, and Léonie, who was troubled and fragile, as a Visitation Sister.
By 1889 Louis was living with serious health issues and became completely dependent on his youngest daughter Céline for his care until his death in July 1894.
Saints Louis and Zélie are remembered for their unwavering faith even as they encountered many of the struggles families and parents will be familiar with, including cancer, death, financial worries, depression and worry.
The miracle that led to their canonisation was the curing of a girl called Carmen, who was born prematurely and with multiple life-threatening complications in Valencia, Spain four days before the Martins were beatified in 2008.
Her parents prayed for the help of Louis and Zélie Martin and she recovered completely.