A Call to Deeper Understanding of a Saint and her Family29 Jan. 2012
By J. C Marrero - Published on Amazon.com
St Therese and her family are unique in the history of saints. The family includes not only a saint who is also a Doctor of the Church but also parents who already have been beatified and, it is to be hoped, will soon be canonized. The family also consisted of four other girls, another four children who died in infancy or early childhood, and assorted relatives, friends, and employees. The family could also boast (if saints would do such a thing) of two excellent writers--Therese, of course, and Zelie Martin, her mother, who sadly died of breast cancer in 1877, when Therese was four and a half years old.
This volume of letters consists almost exclusively of letters Zelie wrote to her daughters at boarding school and to her brother and sister-in-law in Lisieux, France. So good a writer is Zelie that she vividly transports the reader to the Alencon of the 1870s. Zelie describes incidents such as the family's having to house German soldiers occupying their town during the Franco-Prussian war, bringing to life this nearly forgotten precursor to World War I.
Zelie ran a lace business out of her home,raised a family, and struggled--four times in vain--to save the lives of her children during that pre-penicillin age. She was a woman of strong faith with a passionate love of family. Yet her letters show how hard it was to maintain an equilibrium between fighting to save her dying children and accepting God's will when she could not. Poignantly, after a ittle one's death, she agonized about whether she had given the right food and care, not, of course, realizing that in her day medicine had little to offer but palliatives.
Zelie was too intelligent to accept the "cheap grace" of easy consolation. Pious platitudes did nothing for her. This became even more evident when a long- dormant tumor in her breast was deemed inoperable. Perhaps then she became more than just another good wife and mother: she became a saint.
Zelie, not by any means perfect, was a bit of what today we might call a "multi-tasker" supreme, sometimes missing the forest for the trees. How else could she run a home and a business, raise five daughters, and nurse to the end the four sick children, her father, and both parents-in-law? But, when she found that she herself was dying, she had to give up control, inch by inch, of all that mattered to her. The business had to close, the house would be sold, and her children would have to be raised by her husband in Lisieux, the town where her brother had settled and to which the bereaved family would move. In her last year, Zelie was called to walk the way of "confidence and trust" that her canonized daughter was soon to herald.
Her husband Louis, the soon-to-be widower, wrote few letters. But his calming, kind presence was the "flying buttress" that supported the family structure. Zelie freely admitted her emotional reliance on her husband. It could not always have been easy for Louis.
I recommend this book on many levels: as history, biography, and a reminder that the troubles we face in our lives have parallels in the lives of those who came before us. What a blessing that the family of St Therese left a record of their joys and struggles; they could never have guessed that we would be reading them more than a century later. If you have already ready Therese's famous autobiographical manuscript, Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux, Third Edition, you will be fascinated by this prequel to it. And, if you have not yet read it, these letters are your chance to know the family into which St. Therese was to be born.
Read more :
A Call to a Deeper Love: The Family Correspondence of the Parents of
St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, 1863-1885.
Welcome to the world of Blessed Louis and Zélie Martin of Alençon, the parents of
St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus of the Holy Face. In 218 letters, Zélie, writing between the ages of
31 and 45, writes the story of the family that gave birth to Story of a Soul, the memoir of her
daughter, the saint. Here Zélie shares herself unreservedly: happy as a wife and mother,
overwhelmed with responsibility as a business owner, saddened by the deaths of her parents and
four of her children, sensitive to slights and indifference, concerned for her surviving daughters,
longing to become holy.
When she is diagnosed with breast cancer, in the midst of a very human
desire to live, she shows us how to abandon ourselves to God in the face of death.
Only 16 letters from Zélie’s husband survive, but she introduces us to the younger Louis
Martin before he suffered from Alzheimer's disease and was interned in a psychiatric hospital.
Here we see him as never before as husband, father, and friend; we accompany him in the years
before he consummated his ultimate self-gift.
In beatifying Louis and Zélie in 2008, the Church recognized a fundamental reality: that
both spouses experienced severe traumas, but the effects of these traumas were no obstacle to
their sanctity. Zélie and Louis accepted their own powerlessness, that God might be all-powerful
in their lives.
The transforming influence of their daughter Thérèse on human history was the
fruit of that acceptance. Reading about their profound love for each other and for their children
and about the deep faith they lived painfully in the midst of many ordeals is a source of liberation
and healing. Louis and Zélie offer us a personal experience of the motherhood and fatherhood of
God. The book is a mirror of the human face of holiness.
In Story of a Soul Thérèse wrote a new chapter in the history of the human response to
divine love. Zélie and Louis wrote with their lives a new chapter in the history of the vocation of
marriage: the extraordinary response of two spouses to the call to mirror the face of Christ to
each other and to create a family that was a crucible for sainthood.
A Call to a Deeper Love
offers a unique understanding of a couple who became holy in and through their marriage, and it
immeasurably deepens our understanding of the influences that surrounded St. Thérèse.
A Call to a Deeper Love is a translation of Correspondance familiale 1863-1885, Zélie et
Louis Martin, the definitive edition of these letters published in French by Editions du Cerf in
2004. The preface, the notes, and the presentation are the work of Bishop Guy Gaucher, O.C.D.,
retired auxiliary bishop of Bayeux and Lisieux and distinguished scholar of St. Therese, and of
the Carmelites of Lisieux.
The text is exquisitely translated by Ann Connors Hess.
Dr. Frances Renda, the editor, added jewels unique to the English edition: an introduction
reflecting her intimate and delicate understanding of the depths of the marital spirituality of
Louis and Zélie; background on 19th
-century France that helps the reader put these letters in
context; a chronology of Thérèse’s family that will be a classic reference; many new and
expanded footnotes; and 32 pages of photos. Paperback; 464 pages; $29.95. Order it atwww.thereseoflisieux.org
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