Holy Parents, Holy Children

Posted on July 13, 2023 in: General News

Holy Parents, Holy Children

The witness of Sts. Louis and Zélie Martin offers valuable lessons for parents today

By Philip Kosloski



Just a decade after her death in 1897, St. Thérèse of Lisieux was called “the greatest saint of modern times” by Pope Pius X. Canonized in 1925 and declared a doctor of the Church in 1997, “the Little Flower” has captivated millions of Catholics with her autobiography, Story of a Soul, and her promise to spend her heaven doing good on earth.

Yet there would be no St. Thérèse without her holy parents, who planted the seed of faith in her heart and in the hearts of her four sisters, all of whom entered religious life. Theirs was a vibrant Catholic home, marked by love, joy and devotion, as well as by suffering and early death. In recognition of their holiness of life and the role they played in building this domestic church, Louis and Zélie Martin were canonized together Oct. 18, 2015, by Pope Francis.

Sts. Louis and Zélie never expected to get married. In fact, they had both planned to become consecrated religious. Then one encounter changed their lives forever. As Zélie was walking across a narrow medieval bridge in her hometown of Alençon, France, she noticed a tall, handsome man walking toward her. As they were about to brush by each other, Zélie heard within her soul, “This is he whom I have prepared for you.”

Louis also felt drawn to the beautiful young woman he passed on the bridge and began to inquire about her in town. They didn’t waste any time; after an engagement of three months, the two were united in marriage July 13, 1858, when Zélie was 27 years old and Louis 35.

After initially thinking that God was calling them to live a spiritual, or “Josephite,” marriage, they embraced their marital life together. While they were blessed with nine children, only five daughters survived past childhood. Burying two sons and two daughters was a heavy, grief-laden cross to bear.

Though Louis and Zélie Martin lived more than a century ago, they have much to teach Knights and their spouses today about the vocation of marriage and family — the importance of modeling prayer and the pursuit of holiness; showing love and affection to their children; and fostering a culture of vocations and openness to God’s call.

Above all things, Louis and Zélie wanted their children to love Christ and his Church. This meant that they modeled for their children what it means to live according to the Gospel. In addition to praying as a family and attending daily Mass, the couple frequently gave to the poor and cared for any homeless people they encountered.

Louis and Zélie also openly showed affection for their children, making sure that they felt loved. Louis developed nicknames for each of them that expressed their unique character. Marie he called “the diamond,” Pauline “the fine pearl,” and Céline “the dauntless one.” Léonie was “good-hearted Léonie,” and Thérèse “the little queen” or “bouquet.” They frequently played with their children, and Louis even made little toys for his daughters to play with when they were young.

Tragedy struck the family when Zélie died of breast cancer at the age of 45. This was a huge blow to Louis and the five daughters he now had to raise on his own. Thérèse was only 4 years old when she lost her mother, and it had a lasting effect on her. Yet she was not without maternal care, as her older sister Pauline became her “mother” and cared for her during the next several years.

Naturally, both Louis and Zélie supported their children’s attraction to religious life. After Zélie’s death, four of the daughters joined a Carmelite monastery not far from the Martin home in Lisieux. The fifth, Léonie, entered the Monastery of the Visitation in Caen. It certainly wasn’t easy to see them all leave home, but Louis was at peace knowing they were pursuing a life consecrated to God.

Sts. Louis and Zélie Martin, patron saints of marriage and parenting, pray for us!


PHILIP KOSLOSKI, a member of Msgr. Reding Council 1558 in Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., writes for and is the founder of Voyage Comics.