The Parents of the Little Flower





Beatified Couple Called a Gift to Spouses



Father Linus Ryan, O. Carm., is a Carmelite priest in Ireland who is promoting the sainthood cause of Louis and Zélie Martin, the parents of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. The couple was beatified in a ceremony in Lisieux on World Mission Sunday, October 19, 2008.

In this Q&A, Father Ryan explains how the Martins can serve as models for parents and families today.

Fathers for Good: Focusing on Louis as a husband and father, what is the single most important thing that his life can teach men today?

Father J. Linus Ryan: The path which Louis followed is that which most Christians are also called to follow – the vocation of Christian, the vocation of spouse, father and home maker – a thorough understanding of all those roles has evolved over the last two-thousand years. The vocation of the layperson is to holiness in the ordinary circumstances of life. As Our Lord said, “Be you, therefore, perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48).

Louis’ own family background gave him a very refined sense of what the Christian vocation and the Christian marriage vocation are all about. While growing, he learned that everything in life must be lived out under the influence of the eternal verities - which place God first in all things.

His devotion to the Mass, the sacraments and various form of prayer ensured that everything in his life was guided by the Holy Spirit. Indeed, his fidelity to the promptings of the Spirit ensured his well- balanced decisions in all circumstances. Having a total supernatural outlook on everything, he identified the priorities in his life: God, our Blessed Lady and the Saints, the living out of the Gospel in all the details of life, especially his devotion to and love for his wife, Zélie, and to the nine children with which God blessed their union.

The Church has accepted that he lived out the virtues of prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude, to a heroic degree. This implies that he allowed nothing, absolutely nothing, to come between him and his love of God and love and care of his wife, Zélie, and his children.

What will their beatification do to highlight the vocation to marriage and the universal call to holiness?

Father Ryan:
One would hope that the beatification and ultimately, their canonization, would bring the details of their married lives to an ever greater number of people. At no time in the Church’s history has marriage been devalued to the extent that it is now. Media pressure against Christian marriage is relentless, as efforts to normalize the abnormal gain momentum, as we see in the push for same-sex unions. The Church has a mountain to climb, and the example of the beautiful married life of Louis and Zélie will be a treasure.

When Louis and Zelie were apart, they wrote letters to each other. In one, Louis signs himself, “Your husband and true friend, who loves you for life.”

Zélie writes, “I follow you in spirit throughout the day…I am so impatient to be with you, my dear Louis.”

How did Louis and Zélie maintain their strong and affectionate attachment to each other, even during absence and in the midst of daily struggles that came with their children and their business?

Father Ryan:
Modern marriage counselors would describe the Louis and Zélie marriage as being 100% successful in the realm of communication. Also, they both looked on the smallest detail of their daily married life in a supernatural way.

As I mentioned earlier, both entered into marriage with a very deep sense of vocation. They were determined that their love of God and for one another would increase apace.

The burden of much of their prayer was to that effect. Their supernatural outlook on every aspect of their lives was continually nourished by their prayer life, particularly by the Eucharist. A number of scholarly works on their letters and home life document the ease with which the members of this family openly declared their loyalty and deep affection for one another.

What did Louis and Zélie do to make their home a place where their children could grow in the Catholic faith and love of God?

Father Ryan:
In a household where a father and mother displayed such affection for one another and where everything was viewed in a supernatural way, one has to find the perfect setting for the nurturing of their children. St. Thérèse in her letters (#261) to Father Belliere, the missionary, summed it all up when she said, “God gave me a father and mother more worthy of heaven than of earth.”

Louis and Zélie had nine children, four of whom died as infants or young children. What can they show to parents today who grieve the loss of a child about living with this sorrow?

Father Ryan:
Louis and Zélie lost four children in less than five years. Again, as in everything else, they met this unspeakable sorrow with intrepid Christian faith. They saw it as the permissive will of God – which it was.

A lifetime of solid prayer and devotion to the sacraments had given them both the spiritual reserve which, allied with their natural fortitude, helped them to weather these four storms. Not every mother is ready to accept this attitude, but it is the only way.

Father Ryan may be contacted through the website,