By Sarah Mac Donald - 19 October, 2015
The importance of marriage and the family in the life of the Church was underlined by the canonisation of the first married couple to have had children on Sunday in Rome.
Against the backdrop of the three-week Synod on the family underway, Pope Francis elevated Louis and Zélie Martin to sainthood.
The parents of St Thérèse of Lisieux – the Little Flower – were described by the Pontiff in his homily as holy spouses who practised Christian service in the family, creating day by day an environment of faith and love which nurtured the vocations of their daughters, among whom was St Therese of the Child Jesus.
“The radiant witness of these new saints inspires us to persevere in joyful service to our brothers and sisters, trusting in the help of God and the maternal protection of Mary,” the Pope said.
On Saturday, the President of Accord, the Catholic marriage care agency, Bishop Denis Nulty said that although Louis and Zèile Martin lived one hundred and fifty years ago, in many ways they exemplify a contemporary couple.
“Louis (22 August 1823 – 29 July 1894) was a watchmaker and a socially committed Catholic. He was one of the earliest members of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul.”
“Zèile (23 December 1831 – 28 August 1877) as well as being a homemaker, had her own lace-making business. They experienced many of the difficulties that married couples face. They had nine children, some of whom died during childhood. Zèile herself died of breast cancer after only nineteen years of marriage.”
He said they were being canonised as saints because, through their married life, they grew together in love and holiness.
“While living a normal life, they showed their children what it is to be selfless and gave them space to become what God was calling them to be.”
Bishop Nulty said that today, more than ever, people need role models in family life.
He urged the faithful to pray the following prayer together:
God of love you called Louis and Zèile Martin to holiness through their married life.
Through their intercession we ask you to bless family life in Ireland.
Show us our place in this world as channels of your love.
Bless and strengthen our love for each other.
Give to us the gifts of respect, empathy and understanding.
Help us to appreciate the value of family life and to live in harmony with all whom we come in contact.
Encourage us, we pray, to act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with the Lord always. Amen.”