5 Lessons Ss. Louis & Zélie Martin Teach Us About True Romance
It’s no secret that romance in the modern world is not what it used to be, nor is it the idealistic picture we see in movies and books. This reality has left some people thinking that there is no such thing as real romance, or that even if there is, it is not something worth pursuing.
Against this bleak backdrop, the Church witnessed a shining light of encouragement in 2015: the canonization of a married couple, Saints Louis and Zélie Martin, best known as the parents of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. After Louis and Zélie each attempted, unsuccessfully, to enter religious life, they entered into a marriage with each other that was initially celibate. However, after following a priest’s advice, they had nine children. Four of the children died at a young age, but the remaining five girls all entered religious life. In their individual and joint “fiats” to God, Louis and Zélie built a loving, faithful home that ended up being a gift to the whole world.
Here are five lessons Saints Louis and Zélie Martin teach us about true romance—love that is centered on God and oriented toward the sacrament of marriage:
1. You should celebrate your wedding anniversary
This may seem like a trivial point, but it is actually quite important. We have evidence for this in the choice of a feast day for Ss. Louis and Zélie Martin. Saints most commonly have their feast day celebrated on the date of their death. However, Louis and Zélie were canonized together and have their feast day together—and the feast date chosen for them is their wedding anniversary. Marriage is a sacrament, and it is good to recognize and commemorate the grace of that sacrament every year.
2. Abandon yourself completely to God’s will.
Both Louis and Zélie were prepared to give themselves entirely to God in religious life, and they were disappointed when that did not work out as they planned. However, they were open to the plan God had for their lives, and their prayerful discernment of God’s will led them to a beautiful love story. Even if you think you know exactly what kind of romance you want, God has written a better and more fulfilling love story for you than you could ever imagine. Abandoning yourself to his will allows that story to unfold.
3. Put God first in your relationship.
A marriage involves more than just the two spouses; it also includes God in the relationship. When God is the foundation, then your relationship is built on Love himself. Louis and Zélie lived this truth in their home in an exemplary way. They went to Mass every day, prayed with their children and each other, and cultivated a home where God was honored as King.
4. Let your love bear fruit.
When we receive gifts from God, those gifts are meant not just for ourselves, but to share with others. This is true for the gift of love in marriage. Married couples are called to be open to life and welcome the fruit of their love in the form of children. However, their love can bear fruit in many other ways as well. Along with having nine children, Louis and Zélie manifested their love in their charity, care for the poor, and hospitality. As a couple, they engaged in the works of mercy together.
5. Walk with your spouse through tragedy and hardship.
Louis and Zélie were no strangers to tragedy, just like so many of us. In addition to enduring the hardships of everyday life in 19th-century France, they also experienced the early death of four children, a diagnosis of breast cancer and premature death for Zélie, and, later, a terrible illness for Louis. Through this hardship, they not only kept their faith in God, but also leaned on each other and the foundation of love they had built in their marriage. Even in Louis’s illness, which occurred after Zélie had died, he endured his suffering in the atmosphere of faith and familial love that he had cultivated with his wife.
If you’ve been discouraged by romance, don’t fear! The saints give us a wonderful example of what it means to truly love. Saints Louis and Zélie Martin, pray for us!