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Why one Irish archbishop has a special devotion to the Little Flower family

As members of one Martin family are about to be canonized on Sunday, another Martin family prepares to celebrate in Rome.

Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh, the Primate of All-Ireland, told CNA that his family, who shares the same surname as the Little Flower family, has a special devotion to the Martins, including parents Louis and Zelie, who will be canonized Oct. 18.

“In our family, the story of St. Therese is very dear to us,” he said Oct. 16.

His mother named two of his sisters after members of the Martin family: one is Marie Therese and the other, Zelie Therese.
“For my sister Zelie, of course it’s been quite funny. As she grew up in Ireland, no one really knew the name ‘Zelie’. So everyone would say (the wrong pronunciation). She gets called everything!” he said. “But now I’ve told her, ‘Your name is famous!’”

The archbishop’s sister and her husband are travelling to Rome for the canonization of St. Therese’s parents, while Archbishop Martin will concelebrate the canonization Mass. Meanwhile, his 87-year-old mother will “tune in” from Ireland.

The fact that the canonization of this married couple is taking place during the Synod on the Family, he said, is “a great vote of confidence in the family.”

Part of the appeal that St. Therese holds for his mother, and so many others, is the simplicity of her “little way” — something that he said laid the foundation for Vatican II’s universal call to holiness.

What St. Therese and her family show us is, “Look, anyone can strive to holiness,” he said.

Married in 1858 just three months after meeting each other, Louis and Zelie at first lived in celibacy for nearly a year. They eventually went on to have nine children, four of whom died in infancy, while the other five entered religious life.
Both of them had attempted to enter religious life before they met — Louis wished to be a monk and Zelie wished to be a nun with the Order of the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. Zelie was turned away due to poor health, while Louis was denied entry because he couldn’t speak Latin.

Louis and Zelie Martin were indeed a holy family, Archbishop Martin said.

They were known to attend daily Mass each morning at 5:30, they opened their home to dine with the poor and fostered their daughters’ religious vocations.

“I just think it’s a wonderful witness to all of us today,” the archbishop said.



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