Have you ever used idioms around your house? These are words and phrases that say one thing but mean something entirely different, and are often used figuratively. These sayings are common in our English language and I find myself using them all the time and not realizing it.
For instance, how often have you heard someone say, “A cat’s got your tongue,” or “Don’t spill the beans.” Several idioms came to mind when I was talking to someone the other day about the married saints: Louis and Zelie Martin. Even though the life of this saintly married couple wasn’t always a piece of cake, there are a lot of lessons that married couples can learn from them today so that we are all able to go the extra mile.
If there could be a phrase that sums up the life of this beautiful couple, it is that they “kept the main thing, the main thing.” What this means is that Louis and Zelie Martin were an amazing example of keeping their lives and their marriage centered on God, even in the midst of many struggles. This couple, most notably famous for being the parents of St. Therese of Liseux, (the Little Flower), were canonized in 2015 by Pope Francis. They are the first to be declared saints in modern times as a married couple. Cardinal Angelo Amato stated at the time of their canonization: “Saints are not only priests and nuns, but also lay people.” Their lives of daily holiness are something that all married people can wrap their minds around today.
Sometimes it’s easy to think that a saint has a life different from our own, not full of the same trials that modern families go through. But this could not be further from the truth with this couple. They were married for only 19 years and decided to get married after a three-month courtship. During their marriage, Zelie gave birth to nine children: seven daughters and two sons. Four of their children (two sons and two daughters) died either as infants or as small children.
Zelie herself passed away at the age of 45 after battling breast cancer for many years. She even went on pilgrimage to Lourdes, France, to pray for a healing, always continuing to resign herself to God’s will. Their remaining children were all daughters who each decided to enter the convent. Upon asking Louis how he dealt with the loneliness of his wife’s passing and his daughters being gone he replied: “It is a great, great honor for me that the good Lord desires to take all of my children. If I had anything better, I would not hesitate to offer it to him.” (See foryourmarriage.org) It was said of this couple that they definitely drew their strength from prayer.
Even though they had a large family, both Zelie and Louis operated their own businesses and would be classified today as a dual-career family. Louis was a master watchmaker and Zelie was very skilled at her lace-making business, which she ran out of her home. A passage taken from www.archives-carmel-lisieux.fr/english states: “They were complementary and united. Each one approved and gave a helping hand to their charitable commitments. The same for work: it wasn’t so common that a father helped his spouse as M. Martin did with the children and even less so that he left his own work (that he loved so much) to help her work with her (and not in her place), to spend more time with her and lighten her labors.”
What does it take to have a happy and holy marriage? The ball is now in your court to take some time to study the lives of this holy couple. Their daughter Therese, who is most notable for doing small things with great love, was the apple who did not fall far from the tree. Clearly, the holy example of Louis and Zelie Martin can teach us a lot about loving our spouses and families in hundreds of small, but Christ-centered ways. They show us that it is possible to have everyday holiness in our marriage and that saintliness isn’t out of reach.
Tremblay is Marriage and Life Ministries director for the Diocese of Green Bay.