St. Therese’s parents, as they are most commonly known, are incredible prolife witnesses. They didn’t found the March for Life or repeal laws or establish pregnancy crisis centers, which are all amazing ways to help protect and respect life from conception until a natural death. What Sts. Zelie and Louis Martin did do is live a holy life fully and without compromising God’s truth, despite their struggles.
In doing so, they teach us how to live prolife. Inspired by them, here are some ways we should all strive to be more prolife:
It is important to talk to your child about life and death issues.
Actually, its pivotal in the Christian life to do so because Christ’s life and death are central to our faith without which there would be no Resurrection.
If you’re not comfortable talking about death or where babies come from, it’s time to reframe how you think about it. (Hint, hint: Theology of the Body resources might help! Or the Catechism, lives of saints, and the Bible.)
Zelie and Martin both desired a celibate life, but when those were not found to be options, God showed them life with a beautiful, large family.
Do you think they wanted to talk to their children about sex? Perhaps not. But, do you think they absolutely spoke truth to them about the gift our bodies are and how to use them to glorify God? Absolutely!
They learned that God had a beautiful plan for them, and that plan included sex properly enjoyed (gasp!) and raising children with love, suffering the loss of children, suffering their own illness, and still knowing that life is a gift.
Their actions reflected what they would’ve taught their children with words.
Parents are amazing, and family is a gift.
Their five daughters who all joined the religious consecrated life are a testament to the fiercely pious nature of their parents. Zelie was a working mother who relates to many of the problems mothers have today—a long to-do list, endless needs of the family, toddler tantrums. She didn’t let all that stop her from what was good.
Louis seems like St. Joseph—obedient to God, attentive to his family, and quiet, humble. Yet, that is a loud testament to masculinity. It’s about embracing fatherhood whenever it comes and resisting temptations that would lead to fatherhood coming before commitment. It’s about kindly and firmly speaking up for what is right, despite what others may think—even that girl you might want to date.
It is better to let a child have a chance to live than to end life prematurely.
Sts. Zelie and Louis suffered the death of four children. And yet, they still brought St. Therese into the world (their youngest child) despite the health risks.
No, this doesn’t mean that being pro-life is staunchly rebelling against medical advancements and advice. (Respecting life actually involves more science than you may think!)
Yes, this does mean that we should trust the Great Physician (God) who created us and knows us better than ourselves most of all. Sts. Zelie and Louis knew that God had a better plan and accepted any consequences.
They spoke of seeing their little ones again in heaven. That dedication to the sanctity of life shows us not only what healing and grace we can receive in our own losses, but also what we can give to others who may have lost a child or loved one regardless of circumstances (miscarriage, stillborn, abortion, or another tragic incident).
In her own words, St. Zelie describes unbearable things people say to women even today about their unborn children and reveals her take on the situation:
“When I closed the eyes of my dear little children and when I buried them, I felt great pain, but it was always with resignation. I didn’t regret the sorrows and the problems I had endured for them. Several people said to me, ‘It would be better to never have had them.’ I can’t bear that kind of talk. I don’t think the sorrows and problems could be weighed against the eternal happiness of my children. So they weren’t lost forever. Life is short and full of misery. We’ll see them again in Heaven. Above all, it was on the death of my first child that I felt more deeply the happiness of having a child in Heaven, for God showed me in a noticeable way that He accepted my sacrifice. Through the intercession of my little angel, I received a very extraordinary grace” (St. Zelie, Letter 72)
No post-abortive mother needs to be called a murderer, but every post-abortive mother needs healing. And, every person thinking that abortion or assisted suicide is the only option needs answers, real answers, and true comfort. I think that Sts. Zelie and Louis would’ve been compassionate in their gentle and firm convictions for life, respecting not only the life of lost children but also the lives of those who lost those children.
Let life end when it is meant to—not when earthly matters make it seem okay.
St. Zelie’s health was always poor, but she never once asked for euthanasia. She let God decide. She let nature take its course. Living through the death of children and family and seeing her own come near, she did not despair. She trusted. She believed Heaven was better than earth, anyway.
“The Blessed Mother didn’t cure me in Lourdes. What can you do, my time is an end, and God wants me to rest elsewhere other than on earth.” (St. Zelie, Letter 216)
A friend’s mother once told me that it wasn’t her place to prevent her baby from be given the chance of taking even one breath. It’s not my place to tell her story, but I think it important to pass along that wisdom. Believing in eternal life and the respect of life means being like Sts. Zelie and Louis Martin—strong, exemplary, merciful, and honest. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows. You get cloudy days and storms. You might feel like you live in the midst of a tornado. You don’t always get your miracles.
But the point of life is to live it until it ends naturally, which is not ours to decide.
Believe in miracles. Help them happen.
To become a canonized saint recognized by the Catholic Church, there must be miracles through the intercession of that person. For Sts. Zelie and Louis Martin, these miracles included the healing of a child with lung trouble and a seriously ill baby.
Moral medical advancements are fantastic and glorify God, but what’s more important is allowing God to pick up where our science can not help us.
Health, financial, relationships—all these and more are reasons people want to end a life or their own life, but these are also times when people, like you and Sts. Zelie and Louis, can be the hands of God and help miraculously when God sees fit.
Your value of life is not measured by genetics, salary, accomplishments, or status.
Zelie was a lace maker. Louis was a clock maker. But they never worked on Sunday. Why? Because God is more important than income. God gave us our worth the moment we began to exist and nothing can take it from us.
Even when ill, they continued to be shown the human dignity we should show others and ourselves. With dementia, Louis was still fully human. His family did not throw him out simply because of an illness. They respected him, even if he might not ever remember it. That’s dedication to the truth that people are not measured by worldly standards but by God’s. That’s something that people can feel even when suffering terribly or not remembering their own name—respect.
And if you believe God became man and died for us and rose again, then you know no amount of suffering or circumstances will ever justify unnaturally ending another’s life. Leave room for miracles, even if you never see them come.
If you haven’t been told lately, remember that you don’t need to earn your worth. You are loved without needing to earn it. You have human dignity from conception until natural death. No one on earth can change that. You are important. You have a purpose, and no matter how humble or esteemed that purpose may be to the world, it is yours.
Thank you, Sts. Zelie and Louis Martin for your incredible witness to life and God’s love.
Further Resources and Reading: