Saints Louis Martin and Marie-Azélie Guérin

Louis Joseph Aloys Stanislaus Martin was the third of five children of Pierre-François Martin and Marie-Anne-Fanny Boureau. All his siblings died before reaching age 30. Although Louis intended to become a monk, wishing to enter the Augustinian Great St. Bernard Monastery, he was rejected because he did not succeed at learning Latin. Later he decided to become a watchmaker and studied his craft in Rennes and in Strasbourg.

Azélie-Marie Guérin was born in Gandelain, near Saint-Denis-sur-Sarthon, Orne, France. She was the second daughter of Isidore Guérin and Louise-Jeanne Macé.Zélie wanted to become a nun, but was turned away by the Sisters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul due to respiratory difficulties and recurrent headaches. She then prayed for God to give her many children and that they would be consecrated to God.

She later decided to become a lacemaker, manufacturing Alençon lace. She fell in love with the watchmaker Louis Martin in 1858 and married him, only three months later, on 12 July 1858, at the Basilica of Notre-Dame in Alençon. Zélie’s business became so successful that, in 1870, Louis sold his watchmaking business to go into partnership with her.

Although the couple lived chastely for ten months after their wedding, they decided to consummate their marriage after a spiritual director encouraged them to do so. Like all married couples, they sometimes faced disappointments and sadness; four of their nine children died at a young age. They turned to God in difficult times and grew more deeply in love as they shared their sorrows and joys with one another.

In 1877, when Thérèse, the Martin’s youngest daughter, was only four years old, Zélie became very ill and died of breast cancer on 28 August 1877 in Alençon, aged 45, leaving her husband and 5 daughters. The family was brokenhearted, but they remembered that Zélie prayed with them to help them understand that her illness and death was part of God’s plan.

Louis lovingly raised his daughters. He generously gave his permission as each one asked to join the convent. He saw this as a sign that God was pleased that he and Zélie had shared their faith and love with their children. A few weeks later, Louis sold her lacemaking business and their house along Rue St. Blaise, and moved to Lisieux, Normandy, where Zélie’s brother Isidore Guérin, a pharmacist, lived with his wife and two daughters.

In 1889 Louis suffered two paralyzing strokes followed by cerebral arteriosclerosis, and was hospitalised for three years at the Bon Sauveur Asylum in Caen. In 1892 he returned to Lisieux, where two of his daughters looked after him until his death on 29 July 1894 at Chateau La Musse near Évreux.

Zélie and Louis Martin’s lives show us that when we live with love, we grow in holiness. The Martins are such a wonderful example of holiness that Pope Benedict named them “Blessed” in 2008 and Pope Francis officially recognized them both as saints. They are the first married couple to ever be canonized together.

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