News from the Irish Province and Beyond
Visit to Ireland of the Relics of
Saints Louis & Zélie Martin and Saint Thérèse of Lisieux
August 4 to September 9, 2018
As a Carmelite Family we are making our own preparations for the World Meeting of Families 2018. We are blessed to have a Family of Saints associated with the Carmelites: Saints Louis and Zélie Martin and their youngest daughter, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. The Martin Family embody what is best in family life and offer a wonderful example of what a family can become. Saints Louis and Zélie are two of the Patron Saints of this year’s World Meeting.
In conjunction with the organisers of the World Meeting of Families, we have arranged that Relics of Saints Louis, Zélie and Thérèse will come from Lisieux and be in Ireland for the World Meeting of Families. The organisers consider the presence of the Relics in the country to be an integral part of the Meeting. The Relics will be at the Opening Ceremony in the R.D.S., Dublin, on Tuesday, August 21, and they will also be in the sanctuary in the Phoenix Park for the Papal Mass on Sunday, August 26.
The Relics will also travel to several places across Ireland before and after the World Meeting and this gives a much wider group of people who cannot the Congress in the R.D.S. or the Festival of Families in Croke Park or the Papal Mass at the close of the World Meeting to participate in the Meeting in a different though tangible way. Given the short time the Relics will be in the country it is not possible to visit every diocese and every part of the island, but we hope that given the time we have, that as many people as possible will be able to spend time with the Relics and to consider the life of this saintly family. The journey of the Relics through Ireland is a form of pilgrimage leading up to the World Meeting itself and leading away from it afterwards.
Each place that will receive the Reliquaries will organise their own liturgical celebrations and times for veneration and these will be made known over the coming weeks. Information regarding the preparations in each place can be had direct from each place.
Saints Louis & Zélie Martin
Louis Martin was born in northern France in 1823 and Marie-Azélie (known as Zélie) Guerin was born in 1831. Both sought to join religious life but both were turned away. Louis became a watchmaker and set up his own business in Alençon at age 27. Zélie learned the famous Alençon lace art, in which she excelled and set up her own business at age 22. Louis and Zélie married on July 13, 1858. So successful was Zélie’s lace making craft that Louis gave up his full-time work to manage her order book, and so Zélie became the main breadwinner.
Saints Louis & Zélie Martin (www.lifesitenews.com)
Louis and Zélie were deeply devoted to one another and welcomed nine children – seven daughters and two sons – into the world, four of whom died young. While their home was a happy place it was not without its problems. Léonie – their third daughter – had poor health and learning difficulties. Bullied, she became disruptive at school. She would be for many years a source of concern for her parents. Léonie’s cause for beatification was introduced in 2015.
Louis and Zélie were deeply religious and went to daily Mass. Prayer formed an important part of family life, as did caring for the poor.
At the age of 45, Zélie developed breast cancer and died of it. Life without Zélie was very difficult for Louis and the girls. He moved to Lisieux to be near Zélie’s brother and sister-in-law.
Louis saw Marie, Pauline and Thérèse enter the Carmelite Monastery in Lisieux between 1882 and 1888. Léonie entered the Visitation Monastery in Caen in 1877, but returned after six months. While it broke Louis’ heart to see his daughters go, he gave them generously to God.
In 1899 Louis developed cerebral arteriosclerosis. Celine and Léonie became his principal carers until his death in 1894. Celine then entered the Carmelite Monastery and joined her sisters, and where the where youngest of the family – Thérèse – would be her novice mistress. Léonie, who had previously tried her vocation with the Visitation community, re-entered the community in Caen and lived a saintly life until her death in 1941.
Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face
More popularly known as ‘The Little Flower’, Marie Francoise-Thérèse was born in Alençon in France on January 2, 1873, and was the youngest child of Louis and Zélie, and was just 4 years old when her mother died. Whilst still young, and despite opposition, she entered the Carmelite Monastery of Lisieux at the age of 15, taking the name Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus, and later adding ‘and of the Holy Face’. By word and example she taught the novices the virtues of humility. Following a difficult illness she died on September 30, 1897, and was canonized in 1925 with successive popes referring to her as ‘the greatest saint of modern times’. She became famous for her ‘Little Way’ which is found in her remaining letters and her biography. She was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope John Paul II in 1999. She is co-patroness of the Missions and secondary patron of France.
St Thérèse of the Child Jesus (https://healwithgrace.blogspot.com)
Why Venerate Relics?
Relics are a key connection to the past, more importantly they are a connection to someone important from our past. When a loved one dies we instinctively hold on to something that connects us to them – a ring, a watch, a bracelet, a particular photo, a special book. These are all connections to the one who has died and they remind us not just of the person but of who they were, what they did and what they stood for. So too in religion, but in religion there is an added element to the relic of a saint. We believe that a saint lives in the very presence of God in the Kingdom and the ‘proof’ of that comes through the miracles that were worked through their intercession. We pray to saints for help, for a miracle, but it is not the saint who grants the miracle – not even our Blessed Lady does this. The miracle is God’s gift in answer to our prayers brought into his presence by the saint to whom we prayed. A relic, therefore, brings us very much into the presence of God in his Kingdom, where the saint intercedes on our behalf.
Yet, relics are not simply ways of having a momentary direct line to God. The relics, like the remembrance object of a loved one, reminds us of the life that this saint lived, it reminds us that they served God in this life and now enjoy the reward of that in the Kingdom. Relics raise us up, not just in terms of a comforting presence, but they remind us that the saints were human just like us, that, like us, they too had struggles. They remind us that we, like the saints, can overcome our struggles and be raised up to the Kingdom to live alongside them in God’s eternal life. They raise us up because they help to give us hope, they raise us up because they remind us that amid this world’s turmoil and difficulties, amid this world’s rejection of the faith, that there is still a better way to live, a way that is built on the Word of God, a way that brings a peace which this world cannot give.
We never worship the saints or their relics – we worship God alone – but we venerate them and are encouraged by them to live the kind of life God asks us to live. They remind us that where the saints have gone, we too can one day journey to join the Communion of Saints.