The family of Louis and Zelie – Letter #31
November 13, 2019
“A Call to Holiness”
“I want to become a saint, and that won’t be easy. There’s a lot of wood to chop and the wood is as hard as rock.” Zélie Martin (Family Correspondence, CF 110)
These words of Zélie to her two daughters, Marie and Pauline, addressed on the Feast of All Saints 1873 enjoin us along the path of sanctity – some animated as she by this desire for holiness, others daring to think of it, still others rather discouraged by such a perspective, perhaps confusing it with an inaccessible perfection to which they leave it to others to achieve.
To the latter, I say: search for what you want in the depths of yourself, what you want not only for you, but also for those who are dearest to you, your children or grandchildren, your nephews or godchildren…
Perhaps then words will come to you like: to live according to the Gospel, to follow Christ as closely as possible, to answer the call to love … Let us take advantage of this month of November that opens in the light of the Feast of all Saints to meditate upon the beautiful Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis on the call to holiness in the world today.
Meditate upon the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis
In it, we will discover a very concrete holiness, very close to us, on the faces of those around us. “3. These witnesses may include our own mothers, grandmothers or other loved ones (cf. 2 Tim 1:5). Their lives may not always have been perfect, yet even amid their faults and failings they kept moving forward and proved pleasing to the Lord.”
In fact, it is a blessing to meet on our path persons filled with God’s grace who reveal to us the existence of it. When they pray, it is almost tangible that there is Someone working within them. Moreover, their life is patterned on the Word of God that instructs them and to which we see them trying to answer.
So this was with Captain Martin, Louis’ father, whose men were impressed by his way of saying the Lord’s Prayer. To which he replied: “Tell them it’s because I believe!”
In his exhortation, Pope Francis takes care to describe a day of a mother who tries to live in this spirit. This, he says, translates into small gestures. “16. Here is an example: a woman goes shopping, she meets a neighbour and they begin to speak, and the gossip starts. But she says in her heart: “No, I will not speak badly of anyone”. This is a step forward in holiness. Later, at home, one of her children wants to talk to her about his hopes and dreams, and even though she is tired, she sits down and listens with patience and love. That is another sacrifice that brings holiness. Later she experiences some anxiety, but recalling the love of the Virgin Mary, she takes her rosary and prays with faith. Yet another path of holiness. Later still, she goes out onto the street, encounters a poor person and stops to say a kind word to him. One more step.”
And to conclude: “34. (…) Holiness does not make you less human, since it is an encounter between your weakness and the power of God’s grace. For in the words of León Bloy, when all is said and done, “the only great tragedy in life, is not to become a saint.”
If holiness is of the order of a daily love that gives meaning to our life and provides a happiness that does not deceive, is it any wonder that we come to wish it not only for ourselves but also for those we love and to ask for it in prayer?
Zélie does this on the occasion of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. She likes to visit the Virgin Mary at daybreak, in the basilica dedicated to her in the city of Sées. In a letter, she writes: “I’m going to light my candle to her as usual, but I won’t ask her for any more little daughters. I’m only going to ask her that those she’s given me all become saints and that I may follow them closely, but they must be much better than I am.” (Zélie to her daughter Pauline, December 5, 1875, CF 147)
Paths for our meditation and prayer, personal or with others So is there a desire in us for such holiness? let us listen to what touches us in the words of Pope Francis … in recalling what we have been given to understand and live out (including through our meeting with authentic witnesses), how would we translate the word holiness if necessary by a word that is meaningful to us? What traits demonstrate godliness? Let’s meditate on this Scripture passage, for example: “Be perfect then, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5: 43-48 and / or: “Be merciful as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6: 36-38 or another passage of Scripture that comes to mind.
Let prayer enfold all of us!
You can count on the prayers of the sanctuary of Louis and Zélie in Alençon.
Fr Thierry Hénault-Morel,
Rector of the Shrine of Louis et Zélie in Alençon
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