Bl. Zélie Martin (1831-1877) and the Third Order

This is the latest of my saint posts from Tau Cross Books and Media.

When Louis and Zélie Martin are canonized this October at the Synod on the Family, it will of course be recalled that all their five surviving daughters became nuns, four in the Carmelite order, including the youngest and most famous, who became known as St. Thérèse of Liseux. (The fifth, Leonie, became a Visitation sister). This suggests a strong strain of Carmelite spirituality in the family. But at the same time, St. Thérèse’s parents were devoted to St. Francis and the Franciscans, and Zélie has been described as a member of the Third Order.

450px-Zélie_MartinThis last needs a little comment. Zélie Guerin had longed for the religious life in her youth in Alençon. In fact, she had tried to join the Daughters of Charity, but her health was too poor. After her marriage to Louis Martin, Zélie spent much time with the Poor Clares of the rue de la Demi-Lune, a community founded by Bl. Marguerite de Lorraine in 1520.  She would ask the nuns for their prayers on occasion, as when she asked them to pray for her brother Isidore, who was taking his final college exams. (1) She would visit the sisters several times a month, studying the teaching of St. Francis.

The website devoted to the Martins in Alençon says: “It seems that [Zélie] did not commit herself as a full member” of the Third Order, though she often attended their meetings. (2). In part this might have been because at that time, tertiaries were still bound to a fairly strict fast and abstinence, which Zélie might not have been able to engage in for health reasons. (The fast was greatly modified after her death, in the revised Rule of Leo XIII of 1883).

This love for St. Francis and the Franciscans was shared by other members of the family, including Zélie’s husband, Louis, who also used to go to the Poor Clares in Alençon for spiritual guidance. (3) And of course, it was passed on to their daughters.

According to the sisters of the Visitation, the third daughter, Léonie, “had accompanied Mme. Martin to the meeting of tertiaries of St. Francis of Assisi and, secretly, nourished the desire to consecrate herself to God through the Seraphic Order.  On October 7, 1886, she obtained permission to attempt the religious life within the Monastery of the Reverend Mothers at Alençon.  Alas, the austerity of the Rule got the better of her delicate health, and, on the following December 1st, she had to leave this most fervent Monastery.” (4) Léonie made several other tries at religious life before settling for good with the Visitation sisters, founded by another St. Francis, St. Francis de Sales, and St. Jane Frances de Chantal. She took as her name in religion Sr. Françoise-Thérèse.

But it is the daughter who was baptized Marie-Françoise-Thérèse Martin who most people will be interested in. She too had a lively devotion to St. Francis, and shared his playful side, as shown in this delightful letter she wrote to a missionary, Fr. Roulland:

“Perhaps you want to know what our Mother thinks of my desire to go to Tonkin? She believes in my vocation (for really it has to be a special vocation, and every Carmelite does not feel called to go into exile), but she does not believe my vocation may ever be realized. For this it would be necessary that the sheath be as solid as the sword, and perhaps (our Mother believes) the sheath would be cast into the sea before reaching Tonkin. It is not really conve­nient to be composed of a body and a soul! This poor Brother Ass, as Saint Francis of Assisi called it, often embarrasses its noble Sister and prevents her from going where she would like…. However, I do not want to condemn him [Brother Ass] in spite of his faults; he is still good for something since he makes his companion win heaven and wins it for himself.” (5)

Everyone will probably agree that the virtue that most distinguished St. Thérèse was her humility. As this astonishing passage from her autobiography shows, she found a model of humility in St. Francis:

“To be Your Spouse, to be a Carmelite, and by my union with You to be the Mother of souls, should not this suffice me? And yet it is not so. No doubt, these three privileges sum up my true vocation: Carmelite, Spouse, Mother, and yet I feel within me other vocations. I feel the vocation of the WARRIOR, THE PRIEST, THE APOSTLE, THE DOCTOR, THE MARTYR. Finally, I feel the need and the desire of carrying out the most heroic deeds for You, O Jesus. I feel within my soul the courage of the Crusader, the Papal Guard, and I would want to die on the field of battle in defense of the Church.
I feel in me the vocation of the PRIEST. With what love, O Jesus, I would carry You in my hands when, at my voice, You would come down from heaven. And with what love would I give You to souls! But alas! while desiring to be a Priest, I admire and envy the humility of St. Francis of Assisi and I feel the vocation of imitating him in refusing the sublime dignity of the Priesthood.” (6)

Thérèse’s sister Pauline (in religion Sister Agnes of Jesus) recalled a significant incident July 1897, as Thérèse lay dying:

“In the afternoon, she felt the need of going out of herself, and she said to us with a sad and gentle look:
‘I need some food for my soul; read a life of a saint to me.’
‘Do you want the life of St. Francis of Assisi?’ the sisters asked. ‘This will distract you when he speaks of the little birds.’
“No, not to distract me,” Thérèse  replied, “but to see some samples of humility.””(7)

No, Thérèse’s devotion to St. Francis was not superficial at all! We could all learn something from her.


I would recommend to anyone who wants to read more about St. Thérèse and her family to visit the website of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux, (cited here as ACL). It has the whole of Thérèse’s original autobiographical manuscripts, all of the family correspondence, photos and much, much more!


(1) Letter from to Zélie to Isidore Guerin, November 12, 1863, ACL.


(3) Introduction to the newly translated English edition of the family correspondence of the parents of St.Thérèse, A Call to a Deeper Love, published by Alba House, ACL.

(4) Obituary of Sister Françoise-Thérèse (Léonie Martin), written by the Monastery of the Visitation at Caen, ACL.

(5) Letter of March 19, 1897, ACL.

(6) Thérèse’s autobiographical MS. B., 2v, lines 30-45, ACL.

(7) Pauline’s notebook, ACL.

Saint John Paul II for Doctor of the Church!



‘Tis the season for candidacies to be declared. Here’s an effort worth more than most, from Fr. Z:



I, Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, do hereby petition our Holy Father, Pope Francis, to declare St. John Paul II Doctor of the Church.

I ask that St. John Paul II, who instituted the Feast of Divine Mercy, be declared Doctor of the Church on the Feast of Divine Mercy 2016, one liturgical year from today, and that he be endowed with the title

Doctor Misericordiae.

St. John Paul II should be a Doctor of the Church, because of the outstanding quality and the comprehensiveness of his opus, which includes philosophy, theology, poetry, and even drama.

St. John Paul II’s Magisterium serves, among other things, as an authoritative and comprehensive commentary on the Second Vatican Council.

His numerous encyclicals touch nearly all aspects of human life.  Consider his defense of life, his defense of the Truth of Catholic teaching, his efforts toward the liberation of millions from Communist tyranny, his merciful correction of errant theologians for the protection of the faithful, his social teaching, and his defense of marriage and of the family (e.g, in Familiaris consortio)

[. . .]

I urge all the faithful who read this to pray that this come to pass and that they, in their own ways, promote this petition with Pope Francis himself, as well as their local bishops and pastors.

St. John Paul II, pray for us!


Let’s put this into action!

Terri Schiavo, Ten Years Later

Since Terri Schiavo, a brain-damaged woman, was starved to death by the state ten years ago, we have only traveled farther down the road of the Culture of Death. Her brother, Bobby Schindler, writes this for Life News. Go there to read the rest and to see the disturbing image he mentions..

How has the right to die agenda been able to efficaciously shift our attitudes to the point that is has become everyday practice to starve and dehydrate a person to death. The issue may see complex, however it seems to me that the answer is very clear. It is because they lie.

It’s important to differentiate that Terri’s condition, and countless others like her, is quite different from a situation where it may be medically appropriate to withhold food and fluids because a person is actively dying and their bodies are shutting down, no longer able to assimilate their food and hydration.

Nonetheless, the never-ending propaganda about the peaceable nature of forced dehydration compelled me to make public this image of my sister created from my memory. This (right) is what Terri looked like just before she died. It was horrible to see.

And yet, [Terri's husband Michael] Schiavo’s attorney falsely told the public during a press conference, just days before Terri’s death, that she looked “beautiful”. This is what they want you to believe, not the harsh truth about the madness of what we permit in the rooms of hospitals, nursing homes and hospices every single day across this country.

These are the hard facts my family and I will have to live with for the rest of my life: After almost two weeks without food or water, my sister’s lips were horribly cracked, to the point where they were blistering. Her skin became jaundice with areas that turned different shades of blue. Her skin became markedly dehydrated from the lack of water. Terri’s breathing became rapid and uncontrollable, as if she was outside sprinting. Her moaning, at times, was raucous, which indicated to us the insufferable pain she was experiencing. Terri’s face became skeletal, with blood pooling in her deeply sunken eyes and her teeth protruding forward. Even as I write this, I can never properly describe the nightmare of having to watch my sister have to die this way.

What will be forever seared in my memory is the look of utter horror on my sister’s face when my family visited her just after she died.

Those pushing this agenda will certainly deny this, they have to. But there was a reason the court ordered that no cameras or video be permitted in Terri’s room while she was being killed. They claimed privacy issues. My family knows otherwise. And they do too.

So when will this heartlessness end? When will the lies end? When will the American people decide this insanity has to stop?