The family of Louis and Zelie – Letter #9
December 13, 2017
“So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger.” Lk 2:16
Dear friends of the “Family of Louis and Zelie,”
The Solemnity of Christmas is quickly approaching. During this time of Advent, we are often occupied with the material preparations for Christmas: decorating the house, organizing meals, buying gifts… that being said, giving our attention to our family members and to others. Is that what is the most important? The Martin Family would also be delighted like everyone else doing all of that, but what was essential for them was to remain in the interior grace of Christmas.
Saints Louis and Zelie can help us on our journey to Christmas. Let us allow ourselves to be led by them. Even if we know little about the way they spent Christmas, Zelie often speaks in her letters about the “gift boxes,” the gifts that they sent or received from the Guerin Family. She wrote, for example, in 1874: “Yesterday I received the box containing all the beautiful and good things you told me about. (…) At least you made Thérèse and Céline very happy. When their father unpacked the toys, I would especially have liked you to see Thérèse! We said to her, “There are beautiful toys inside there that your aunt in Lisieux sent you.” She clapped her hands. I leaned on the box to help my husband undo it. She let out little anxious cries while saying to me, “Mama, you’re going to break my beautiful toys!” She pulled me by my dress to make me stop. But when she saw her pretty little house, she remained silent for a moment. (…) Léonie is also extremely pleased with her rosary, which is very beautiful. Since you wanted to give New Year’s gifts to Marie and Pauline, you couldn’t have chosen better gifts to make them happy. So many times they’ve told me they would like a travel bag and that all their companions have one except for them. I let them say it, but because I only buy things that are necessary, and, as they could do without them, I didn’t consider it appropriate to satisfy them. But now I see their happiness.”
Upon reading these lines, one notices that this family is a normal family and is pleased with the “gift boxes” of Christmas. However, the essential is not that: in the life of Saints Louis and Zelie, and thus the entire Martin Family, God is the first served. The Martin spouses attended Mass daily, prayed as a family, and received Confession regularly. We cannot imagine, thus, that they would not have prepared themselves in a particular way for the Christmas celebrations. We could also ask them for the grace to live this Advent in recollection and pray to them so that families regain the Christian sense of this great liturgical feast of Christmas.
The Grace of Christmas
The great grace of Christmas that Saint Therese received in 1886 is a beautiful example among many that shows that Jesus is truly at work on this day. Here is the account that Saint Therese gave about that night of grace: “It was December 25, 1886, that I received the grace of leaving my childhood, in a word, the grace of my complete conversion. We had come back from Midnight Mass where I had the happiness of receiving the strong and powerful God. Upon arriving at Les Buissonnets, I used to love to take my shoes from the chimney corner and examine the presents in them; this old custom had given us so much joy in our youth that Céline wanted to continue treating me as a baby since I was the youngest in the family…However, Jesus desired to show me that I was to give up the defects of my childhood and so He withdrew its innocent pleasures. He permitted Papa, tired out after the Midnight Mass, to experience annoyance when seeing my shoes at the fireplace, and that he speak those words which pierced my heart: “Well, fortunately, this will be the last year!” I was going upstairs, at the time, to remove my hat, and Céline, knowing how sensitive I was and seeing the tears already glistening in my eyes, wanted to cry too, for she loved me very much and understood my grief. She said, “Oh, Thérèse, don’t go downstairs; it would cause you too much grief to look at your slippers right now!” But Thérèse was no longer the same; Jesus had changed her heart! Forcing back my tears, I descended the stairs rapidly; controlling the poundings of my heart, I took my slippers and placed them in front of Papa, and withdrew all the objects joyfully. I had the happy appearance of a Queen. Having regained his own cheerfulness, Papa was laughing; Céline believed it was all a dream! Fortunately, it was a sweet reality; Thérèse had discovered once again the strength of soul which she had lost at the age of four and a half, and she was to preserve it forever!…
On that night of light began the third period of my life, the most beautiful and the most filled with graces from heaven… The work I had been unable to do in ten years was done by Jesus in one instant, contenting himself with my good will which was never lacking. I could say to  Him like His apostles: “Master, I fished all night and caught nothing.” More merciful to me than He was to His disciples, Jesus took the net Himself, cast it, and drew it in filled with fish. He made me a fisher of souls. I experienced a great desire to work for the conversion of sinners, a desire I hadn’t felt so intensely before. I felt charity enter into my soul, and the need to forget myself and to please others; since then I’ve been happy!…”
During this time of Advent, we can ask the intercession of this wonderful Martin Family so that they can help us prepare for the graces that the Infant Jesus wants to give us on Christmas. Each one of us can prepare a gift: for example, do an act of charity or forget about ourselves, and incorporate your children to this approach. If they give up something material, they can benefit a single or disadvantaged person. And why not also gather as a family and take some time to pray before the manger for nine hours before Christmas? Let us forget ourselves to please the Lord like little Therese and offer all of these sacrifices to Jesus on Christmas Eve. That way, God will truly be the first served!
Let us unite to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Waiting and ask Her to open our hearts to Her Divine Son. We assure you of our prayers for your intentions. May the Lord bless you! A blessed Christmas to all!
Father Jean-Marie Simar,
Rector of the Shrine of Alençon