St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus wrote, “God gave me a father and a mother more worthy of heaven than of earth,” and she called them “parents without equal.” Her saintly parents, Louis and Zélie Guérin Martin, were canonized in Rome on October 18, 2015, during the world Synod of Bishops on the Family—the first married couple with children to be canonized together. At a time in popular culture when the term “marriage” has been all but eviscerated by those denying its transcendent value or questioning its original purpose, the life of Louis and Zélie serves to prophetically illustrate marriage as a divine vocation and a true sacrament between man and woman, a means of growing in holiness.
Even while Louis and Zélie Martin were a nineteenth-century French couple, they are refreshingly contemporary in their experience of marriage and family life. Not unlike many couples today, they married later in life by the standards of that age, when she was 27 years old and he was 35. They were both “young professionals.” From the age of 20, Zélie had owned a lace making business (which she continued as a wife and mother within the family home), managing several employees and personally assembling their embroidered work into the final product. So fine and well regarded was Zélie’s intricate “Point d’Alençon” lace, her business served as the appointed supplier to the clothier Maison Pigache of Paris. For his part, Louis was a master watchmaker and had established his shop in Alençon where he repaired time-pieces and sold jewelry for some eight years before meeting Zélie.