Pope Francis has canonised the Catholic Church’s first married couple in modern times, declaring the parents of St Therese of Lisieux saints in their own right.
Francis told followers in St Peter’s Square that the couple, Louis and Zelie Martin, “practised Christian service in the family, which nurtured the vocations of their daughters”.
Francis is particularly devoted to the 19th century French Carmelite nun, fondly known as “The Little Flower,” who died at the age of 24 in 1897. He has had a copy of Therese’s Story Of A Soul on his bookshelf since his days as a novice and he has said that whenever he has a problem, he directs his prayers to Santa Teresita and often a white rose appears to him as a sign that she has heard his prayers.
Her parents were canonised at the start of the final week of his bishops’ meeting on families. His aim is to provide Catholic families with saintly role models who took particular care to educate their children in the faith: The Martins bore nine children, only five of whom survived. All five became nuns, including the youngest, Therese, at the age of 15.
“It’s the first time a couple have been canonised as a couple and this is a beautiful sign for Christian families,,” said the Rev Romano Gambalunga, postulator.
Both miracles required for the canonisation concerned the cures of newborns born with what doctors said were life-ending ailments.
When the Martins were beatified in 2008, the miracle concerned Pietro Shiliro, born in Monza, Italy, in 2002 with a lung deformation that doctors said he could not survive. The priest who baptised him encouraged his parents to pray for the Martins’ intercession. After a month in ICU, he was released and is now a healthy teenager.
The second miracle concerned little Carmen, born at 28 weeks on October 15, 2008 in Valencia, Spain. Two days later, she suffered a cerebral haemorrhage that caused near-fatal blood poisoning.
Her parents went to the Carmelite nuns seeking guidance, and they suggested they pray to the intercession of the Martins.
After three months in hospital, Carmen was released, cured, on January 2, 2009 — the 135th anniversary of the birth of the Martins’ youngest daughter, Therese.
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