POPE Francis canonised the Catholic Church’s first married couple in modern times yesterday, when he declared the parents of the beloved St Therese of Lisieux saints in their own right.
Francis told followers gathered in St Peter’s Square that the couple, Louis and Zelie Martin, “practised Christian service in the family, creating day by day an environment of faith and love 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 and was later honoured with the title doctor of the church.
Francis has had a copy of Therese’s “Story of a Soul” on his bookshelf since his days as a novice. As archbishop of Buenos Aires, he had her image on his desk.
And he has said that whenever he has a problem, he directs his payers to Santa Teresita, as she is known in Spanish, and often a white rose appears to him as a sign that she has heard his prayers.
The saint’s parents were canonised at the start of final week of his big 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, but only five of them were to survive. All five became nuns, including the youngest, Therese, at age 15.
“It’s the first time a couple have been canonised as a couple, and this is a beautiful sign for Christian families, who often are left without any support and have to go against the grain, especially in the West, to live and educate their children in the truth of creation and with that love that God has given us in Christ,” said the Rev Romano Gambalunga, the postulator who followed the saint-making case through to its conclusion.
It is not insignificant that both miracles required for the canonisation concerned the inexplicable cures of newborns born with what doctors determined to be life-ending ailments.