The family of Louis and Zelie – Letter #19
November 13, 2018
“Give, always give and make people happy” Louis to his daughter Marie, CF 226
“I must do something for the flood victims in Lisieux” Zélie to her sister-in-law Céline Guérin, CF 134
Charity and Justice
Charity and justice : There is no shortage of charitable organizations that bring to our attention, sometimes pathetically, the extent of suffering that inflicts our fellow human beings. The World Day of the Poor, the third Sunday of November, instituted by Pope Francis in 2017, emphasizes the fact that any kind of suffering hurts our common humanity.
Louis et Zélie, our examples and our teachers
In the Martin family house in Alençon, between the chapel and Louis and Zélie’s bedroom, on one of the three symbolic steps, are engraved the words « Charity and Justice. » It is a beautiful example of one of the predominant features of the lives of saints Louis et Zélie. Their lives reflected this twofold mandate which transcends all ideologies and sectarianisms, namely:
1 – An interior disposition, coming from a heart filled with compassion. It allowed human wretchedness – material and moral – to touch them with the kind of love that made them unhappy until they could alleviate someone’s misery. One word perfectly captures this state of mind : mercy, in other words the pain that rends our hearts as long as a brother suffers. As Saint Paul says, if one member suffers, the whole body suffers. (1Cor 12 26). May we also have this interior wound. It prevents us from withdrawing and being indifferent. It makes us happy when our brother is happy. Let us live based on this conviction.
2 – An attitude which allowed them to consider the freedom and dignity of others. Saint Louis Martin was not merely satisfied to alleviate immediate misery, but he wanted also to discover its cause. The story of the beggar with whom he walked a great distance to get him off the street and into a hospice is telling. Louis’ long-term commitment to Vital Romet, a group uniting people from different professions and political convictions, and that also joined Frédéric Ozanam in the forming of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society, says a lot about his desire to participate actively in building « a more just and fraternal society. »
When Zélie went as far as reporting to the Court of Alençon to have them remove Armandine from the abusive treatment by her caretakers, who were bad nuns, she made clear that she wanted everyone to be respected for who they are: a son or daughter of God. CF 127. Such Christian fraternity lived daily by Saints Louis and Zélie Martin, and so many other saints and witnesses, is a beautiful path which we can confidently and steadfastly follow.
Imitating Saints Louis et Zélie, we dare to live such charity daily. Desiring to unite charity and justice is a path that brings us closer to God.
Let us pray for one another so that the Lord guides us on this path of love for the brother who stirs us to fight against what is unjust to him but also and therefore thus to us.
Continuing the reflection from this November newsletter
Yes, Louis and Zélie encourage us to advance on a path they have practiced: that of charity and justice. This path sometimes becomes a little difficult, especially in our era of individualism and pervasive hedonism … and yet there is so much to do!!
Let us begin with an excerpt from Pope Francis’ letter for the World Day of the Poor, November 18, 2018. This letter echoes one of the fundamental questions of our humanity, that which God poses to us from the beginning: “What did you do with your brother?” Gen 4 :9-10
This poor one cried out and the Lord heard
“This poor one cried out and the Lord heard.” ( Ps 34, 7). The words of the psalmist become ours when we encounter situations of suffering and marginalization, in which so many of our brothers and sisters live, designated with the generic name of « poor ». He that writes these words is no stranger to this condition, quite the contrary. He experiences poverty directly, but transforms it into a song of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord. To those of us who are familiar with so many forms of poverty, this Psalm helps us understand today who are the true poor, to whom we are invited to open our eyes to hear their cry and recognize their needs.. […]
With this same attention to the poverty that surrounds us, Father Etienne Grieu, a Jesuit, regularly comments on the question of the place of fraternity and solidarity for Christians.
« See how they love each other » Tertullien (155 – 220 A.D.)
Tertullian is among the early Christian writers. He reports what some pagans said about Jesus’ disciples whom they saw living at a time of subjugation and persecution:
« See how they love each other, see how ready they are to die for one another. »
It is a way of life that becomes a living sign of this Good News of Jesus Christ. It gradually changes our social dynamic. The attention, the respect, the friendship, the concern for justice, the fraternity, the reception of those to whom one does not pay attention (the sick, single parents, isolated people, vulnerable ones in situations of exclusion, marked by infirmity or old age …) there are so many ways to live the love which the Gospel calls for.
To go even further and put into practice
« See how they love each other » : Would non-Christians say the same thing today by seeing our personal and communal lifestyles?
« See how they love each other » : several neighbors of saints Louis and Zélie said this when they saw how « the holy Martin spouses » lived.
We ask ourselves:
- How do we live out this desire for charity, solidarity and justice?
- How do we already live this out ?
- How could we concretely commit to living it out more ?
- Which path do we want to take?
We open our hearts and sometimes feel overwhelmed by an environment that leaves us with the impression that we have little control over the general direction of our society. And yet, at a time when many churches are struggling to renew themselves, I can ask myself: “How much time can I give to go on a solitary retreat, join a baptismal preparation team, help prepare a couple for marriage, take part in the pastoral care of the sick or reach out to those who are mourning … ?
PS : Thank you for being an ambassador for the sanctuary by sharing this letter with at least with one of your friends or relatives. Please also share with us their email address so we can put them on our mailing list.
You can count on the prayers from the sanctuary of Louis and Zélie in Alençon.
Guy Fournier, Deacon
Administrator of the Shrine of Alençon