The Family That Reached Heaven

Yes, I dare to say that the whole family reached heaven, not only the daughters and the parents, but probably also the grandparents. And what family was that? Well, the family of Louis Martin and Celia Guerin.

By their own merit they already have their names written in the Book of Life, but they are best known for being the parents of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus: “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree''; 'by their fruits you shall know them'; 'every good tree gives good fruits '; or however you want to say it.

It is true that they were canonized after their daughter was canonized, but after the cause of beatification of Therese, Cardinal Antonio Vico, Prefect of the Congregation of Rites, and also therefore responsible for the causes of beatification, expressed: “Well, now we'll ask Rome to take care of the dad.”  But, what about the mom?  In 1941 the letters of Celia began to be published in the Annales of Saint Therese of Lisieux, and in 1945 “The History of a Family” by Fr. Piat appeared. In addition, the Carmel of Lisieux published two books on the parents, written by Celina, the penultimate of the Martin sisters.  It was from then on that voices began to emerge everywhere requesting that the cause of the two spouses be opened.

Louis was born in Bordeaux, on August 22, 1823. He was the second of five siblings and their parents were already of deep faith. The children received a deep Christian education. In 1831, after their father retired, they settled in Alençon. Louis decided to learn the craft of watchmaking to which he devoted himself after an attempt of consecrating himself to the Lord. 

It was in the monastery of the great St. Bernard in the Swiss Alps where Louis made his attempt, but was not admitted to religious life because he had no knowledge of Latin. He tried to learn it for over a year, but he finally gave up. In Alençon he set up a watch and jewelry making business and after the death of his siblings, he took his parents to live with him, even after marrying Celia.

Celia was born on December 23, 1831, in Gandelain, Normandy, and just like Louis’ father, Celia's father was also in the military. She was the middle child of three siblings, and her parents, though also of deep faith, as a result of a difficult life, were rude, authoritarian, and demanding, so Celia remembered with sadness her childhood and youth.

When her father retired, they went to live in Alençon, and there she entered the boarding school of the Sisters of Adoration where she learned the first rudiments of Alençon's point, which allowed her to dedicate herself to this activity by opening a business with her sister. Celia became a real expert in this type of fine work for which she was awarded and recognized.

Like Louis, she also tried to consecrate herself to the Lord, but when she went to the monastery of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, the Superior told her that her desire was not the will of the Lord. That is why Celia exclaimed, “My God, I will enter into the state of marriage to fulfill Your holy will. I beg You, then, to grant me many children and that they consecrate themselves to you. “

Also, like Louis, when her father widowed, she asked him to go and live with her. Already widowed and sick, she cared for him until his death in 1868.

Well, you see the kind of people we’re dealing with.  A man and a woman for whom God comes first, which makes them beings of extraordinary virtue.

The idea of getting married had not occurred to Louis, so it was his friends who, recognizing unusual qualities in him, decided to introduce him a project of marriage to a young woman from the high society, to which he refused.

It was providence that crossed the paths of Louis and Celia and, when I say in the same path, I do say that literally. One day, they crossed the street and Celia intimately felt that this was the man chosen for her; so much so that, after meeting each other, it only took three months for them to marry the night of July 12, 1858.

His principles were a bit complicated because Louis proposed to Celia to live as brother and sister, something that Celia was having a hard time with because she wanted to have many children to consecrate them to the Lord. It was a priest who made them understand that the natural end of marriage is procreation and, at nine months of being married, they began to live their marriage normally. The fact of having children produced a profound change in his personal ideas. His children constituted all their happiness and nothing would be a pain or a burden.

They had 9 children, 7 daughters and 2 sons. Not all of them lived, and this was a great pain with which both Louis and Celia had to live.

Their first child was Maria, who was born on February 22, 1860; then came Pauline, Maria Leonia, Maria Elena, Jose Louis, Jose Juan Bautista, Maria Celina, Maria Melania Teresa and finally, our little Therese who was born on January 2, 1873 when Celia was already 41 years old.

When she heard the comments and whispers about whether she already had too many children, Celia would say to her sister-in-law, “'I could not stand this language. I did not believe that the sufferings and the worries could be placed in the same scale as the eternal happiness of my children. Besides, I had not lost them forever; life is short and full of calamities, and we will find them again in heaven. "As we have seen previously, only five of their daughters lived, and the five devoted themselves to the Lord, the other four reached heaven shortly after having passed through this earth. The one that was with them the longest before passing from this life was Maria Elena, who died at the age of five years and four months. In addition, for Celia it was also a great suffering that her two sons died, since she had a great desire in her heart and it was to have a son who would become a priest. Still, God blessed them abundantly with five religious daughters.

 

Celia’s health was not good; in fact, from the third child on, she could no longer breastfeed because of the delicate state of her health, which in no way prevented her from being open to the children that God may want to send her. They had to find a wet nurse to breastfeed her newborn babies which meant that they could not have them at home with them while they were breastfed, because they had to go to live at the house of the wet nurse, who did not live close by. This for them also meant a deep pain because they could only see them from time to time until they could take them to live with them. 

Celia was diagnosed with a tumor in her breast, but the diagnosis came late, and there was no cure for her disease. They made a trip to Lourdes, Celia with her two older daughters to ask the Blessed Virgin for the miracle, but it was not possible, and they returned home with a mom already very fatigued by the hard journey, but satisfied by having tried everything to get cured. She reminded her daughters, who had come back somewhat disappointed from the trip, what Our Lady told Bernadette: “I will not make you happy in this world, but in the next.”

Celia died the early morning of August 1877, at the age of 45 years old, leaving her widowed 54 year-old husband and her orphan daughters, Maria who was 17 years old, Paulina 16, Leonia 14, Celina 8 and little Therese 4 years old.

And what did Louis do then? He simply did not think of himself; he thought only of the well-being of his daughters, and for them. At the request of Celia's brother and sister-in-law, leaving his friends, relatives, past, affections, memories, he went to live to Lisieux, near Celia’s family. There, Celia’s brother found them a house with a beautiful garden where they lived that they called 'The Buissonnets'. Those were tender days for all, in which the two older sisters, Maria and Paulina, were in charge of the education of their little sisters, especially Celina and little Therese, under the attentive and accommodating gaze of their father whom they all loved and venerated. When they were older, they said of him that to see him pray was like seeing a saint.

Many details of Celia’s life are known by the amount of correspondence that she maintained with her family and with her daughters. Louis's life is not as well known, except that he was a thoughtful, deeply religious, lover of silence and solitude and that, after Celia's death, his heart became a bit maternal. In the book 'Story of a Soul,' St. Therese never ceases to refer to her 'Beloved King,' as she called him, in many of her passages.

Between 1882 and 1887, Louis took three of his daughters by the hand to Carmel, and finally, his greatest sacrifice was to also take his beloved 'Little Queen” at 15 years of age. Celina was the one that stayed behind, taking caring of her father, as he developed an illness that caused him to slowly lose his mental faculties, finally dying in July 1894.

As you can see, there was nothing extraordinary in their lives, they lived normal lives working, living their family life, their life of faith. What was extraordinary in their lives was precisely their way of living that 'normality', putting all their trust in the Lord who watched over them, took care of them. They felt that Presence, lived that Presence. They had many happy moments, although the cross was not absent, but there were never reproaches, instead there was a generous and unattached surrender of the events into the hands of the One who can do everything, and they abandoned themselves to His loving will over them.

And now we can see where they have arrived, right?  What wonderful examples to imitate for all of us and for our families. What beautiful simple examples to follow of how we can face all the situations that are presented to us, always united under the loving gaze of our God.

Sole Martín

Wife and mother.
I try to combine my true vocation as best as I can with a part-time job during the morning which allows me to look after my family in the evening. 

I am a lay member of the Home of the Mother.  

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