The Canonization of the Martin spouses, parents of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face — and of her four sisters –, might well take place at the heart of the Synod on the Family next October. The date of the canonization will be announced on Saturday, June 27. A little girl was cured in Valencia, in Spain, after invoking their intercession: the “miracle” has been reserved for their process of Canonization.
In this interview, the Rector of the Shrine of Alençon, Father Jean-Marie Simar, explains how the city of Alençon, where they met, married lived, and where their children were born, enables one to discover this amazing couple and to be inspired by their example.
For instance, on July 11th – feast day of the Martin spouses, the Shrine is organizing for couples a “walk of husbands and wives,” who will meet symbolically on the bridge where Louis and Zelie met.
ZENIT: Father Simar, you are Rector of the Shrine of Alençon and, among others, of the church where the Martin spouses were married. With their Canonization, will this Shrine become a place par excellence of healing for couples and families?
Father Simar: Indeed. Louis and Zelie Martin were married on July 13, 1858 in the church of Notre Dame of Alençon. They also lived all their years of marriage at Alençon, until Zelie’s death in 1877. It is there, also, where their daughter Saint Therese was born. With their Canonization, they are given as an example to the universal Church and especially to couples and families. Our Shrine of Alençon, place of their life as a couple, will become in fact, the center of healing par excellence for couples and families where, following the example of Louis and Zelie, they will be able to reflect further on the beauty of the vocation of marriage and rediscover that holiness as a couple is possible.
ZENIT: What place did this church have in the life of the Martin family?
Father Simar: This church of Notre Dame had a very important place in their life. It was the parish of the Martin family from 1871 to 1877, after they moved to rue Saint Blaise. It was there also that their last child, little Therese, was baptized. The took part daily at Mass and went there regularly for times of prayer proposed by the parish, as for instance, Vespers, Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Confession, evening adoration or also for Lenten spiritual exercises.
Their marriage was celebrated there at midnight, strange for our present society, but common at that time, undoubtedly to be in intimacy and be able to go to Communion. In fact, before the reform of the Second Vatican Council, one could not go to Communion unless one had fasted from midnight.
ZENIT: And since the Beatification?
Father Simar: After the Beatification, in honor of the Blesseds Louis and Zelie and of their marriage, the church of Notre Dame was elevated to the rank of a Minor Basilica by Pope Benedict XVI on August 10, 2009.
ZENIT: What else can one discover about the Martin spouses at Alençon?
Father Simar: Above all, the increasingly numerous pilgrims who come to Alençon, can discover their place of life, their house – restored some years ago – where they lived from 1871 to 1877 (50, rue Saint Blaise). This house is a perfect echo of the House of Nazareth. It was there that, day after day, they sanctified themselves. It was there where they lived in a hidden way their ordinary life extraordinarily, putting God in the first place, with their joys and sorrows, exactly as the Holy Family at Nazareth. And it is truly of that Saint Therese was permeated, to develop later her “Little Way.”
Also at Alençon is the bridge of Sarthe, where Louis and Zelie met, and also the pavilion where the family lived moments of relaxation and many other places …
ZENIT: What are you planning for couples this year?
Father Simar: On July 11, the feast of the Blesseds will take place at Alençon. We are organizing for couples a walk of husbands and wives, who will meet symbolically on the bridge where Louis and Zelie first met. In the afternoon, there will be the possibility to visit places, a conference by Archbishop Pierre d’Ornellas of Rennes, and a Solemn Mass with renewal of the marital vows. During the whole day, activities are planned for the children.
In preparation for the Canonization, we will also have an evening of prayer with our Bishop Jacques Havert, Bishop of Seez – where the Shrine of Alençon is located –, on September 12.
To support the Synod on the Family with prayer, from October 4-8 there will be a walk from Solesmes to Alençon. All can join us thereon October 7 to entrust to Louis and Zelie the important intention that is the family.
We will, of course, have different events in connection with the Canonization.
Finally, from next year, we will propose to couples and families different week-ends of conferences and retreats.
We expect you all in great numbers!
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