Monday, July 12, 2010

Memorial of Bls Louis and Zélie

"Louis and Zélie were luminous examples of married life lived in faithfulness, in welcoming life and in the education of their children.  A Christian marriage lived in an absolute confidence in God that could be proposed to families today.  Their marriage was exemplary, full of Christian virtues and human wisdom.  Exemplary does not mean that we should copy, photocopy their life reproducing all of their doings and gestures, but that we should use, like they did, the supernatural means that the Church offers to each Christian to carry out his vocation to saintliness.  Providence wanted their Beatification to be announced during the celebrations of the 150th anniversary of their marriage, 13th July 2008.

Why after such a long time?  Is such a family not far removed from our time?

In what way are the Martin parents modern?  Can they help our families to take on today’s challenges?

I am certain that a vast debate will begin around this couple at their Beatification.  Conferences, debates, discussion groups, will try to analyse and compare their experience with our very complex times.  On this, however, one must be very clear: The Church did not canonize a period of time, but examined their saintliness.  With the Martins, the Church proposes to the faithful the saintliness and the perfection of a Christian life that this couple achieved in an exemplary manner and, to use the language of the process, to a heroic degree.  The Church is not interested in the exceptional but underlines how in their daily lives they were the salt of the earth and the light of the world [Mathew 5.13.14].  The Servant of God, John Paul II declared: “It is necessary that the heroic becomes daily and that the daily becomes heroic.”  The Church established that Louis and Zélie made something heroic out of their daily lives and from heroism something daily.  This is possible for each Christian, whatever his/her state in life.  I am pleased to quote here a passage from the famous letter to Diognete on marriage and which the Martin couple knew exactly how to carry out:

“Christians do not differentiate themselves from other men by their territory nor by their language, nor by their clothing.  They marry as others do and have children, but they do not abandon the newly-born.  They live in the body but not according to the body.  They spend their life on earth but are citizens of heaven.  They obey established laws, but their way of living surpasses the laws.”

This letter traces a concrete model of a possible life, a route that all disciples of Jesus are called to follow, even today: to announce the beauty of a Christian marriage with its authentic experiences that are credible and attractive.  To carry out this one needs couples and parents who are mature in love.  Louis and Zélie embraced this form of married life to follow Christ.  Husband, wife, and parents in Christ, where marriage is welcomed as a call and a mission given by God.  With their life they announced to all the good news of love “in Christ”: the humble love, love that spares nothing to start anew every morning, love capable of confidence and sacrifice.  This communion clearly emerges from the letters exchanged between the two.

In one of his brief letters, which is practically a synthesis of matrimonial love, Louis signs in the following way: “Your husband and true friend, who loves you for life.”  To these words, Zélie echoes: “I follow you in spirit throughout the day, I tell myself: ‘He is doing such and such at the moment’.  I am so impatient to be with you, my dear Louis; I love you with all my heart and I can feel my affection doubling in your absence; it would be impossible for me to live far from you.”

What is the secret of this communion?  Maybe the fact that before looking in each other’s eyes, they looked directly at Jesus.  They lived sacramentally reciprocal communion, through Communion that they both cultivated with God.

This is what is new “Hymn of hymns”, not only must Christian couples sing it, but only they can sing it.  Christian love is a “Hymn of hymns” that the couple sings with God."

-- From the homily of Cardinal Saraiva Martins on the occasion of the 150th Anniversary of the wedding of Bls Louis and Zélie, 13 July 2008

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