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St Thérèse’s parents coped with ‘21st century problems’

Blessed Louis and Marie Zélie Guerin Martin, the parents of St Thérèse of Lisieux (CNS photo/courtesy of Sanctuary of Lisieux)

Blessed Louis and Zélie Martin, the parents of St Thérèse of Lisieux, faced 21st century problems and are an “inspiration to families of today”, according to Bishop Mark O’Toole of Plymouth.

He was speaking ahead of a tour of the Blesseds’ relics next month. The couple, beatified in 2008, are expected to be declared saints at the family synod in October.

Bishop O’Toole said: “In the 19th century this ‘two-career’ couple faced the challenges we face in the 21st: finding good child care, achieving professional excellence, caring for ageing parents, educating a special-needs child” and “finding time to pray and to be active in their parish”.

St Thérèse’s parents, who married in 1858, had nine children. The five who survived infancy entered religious life. Zélie Martin died of breast cancer in 1877 at the age of 45, leaving her husband to raise their daughters. “Like us, Louis and Zélie could not control their circumstances. Life came at them unexpectedly, just as it comes at us,” said Bishop O’Toole. “Their genius lay in how they accepted what happened to them.”

Louis and Zélie Martin were the first parents of a saint to be beatified, and the first spouses in the history of the Church to be proposed for canonisation together. It is thought that their joint canonisation may take place during the world synod of bishops on the family in October, following Francis’s recognition of a miracle last month.

The relics – the forearms of the Blesseds – will tour Plymouth and Portsmouth dioceses from May 15 to 22.