The family of Louis and Zelie – Letter #33
January 13, 2020
“I wish you a happy New Year, good health and Heaven as late as possible, because I believe that you’ll only enter it willingly when you have no other choice….” Zélie Martin to her brother, Isidore, January 12, 1865 (CF 11)
“I wish you all the blessings of Heaven. If God answers my prayer, you will be the happiest of men, in this world and the next….” Zélie Martin to her brother, Isidore, December 28, 1871 (CF 76)
At the time of exchanging wishes…
The month of January is not over, during which we exchange wishes with one other.
What are they like? Are they filled with humor, like those of Zélie to her brother Isidore in 1865, in which she wishes him the happiness of heaven as late as possible? Or on the contrary, do they connect the two pleasures, in this world and the next, as in 1871? An integration that is not without interest at a time when some Christians were accused of being more concerned for people in misery, and with the happiness of heaven than that of earth.
Happiness in this world
As we continue with the reading of Zélie’s correspondence, we see her explaining to her brother, who is ten years younger than her, what makes for true happiness on earth, if only it is to help him in the choice of a future wife: “It seems you’re still thinking of Mademoiselle X? I think you’re foolish…. I can’t stop thinking about it. You’re going to hurt yourself, either with her or with someone else, because you only consider the superficial things, beauty and wealth, without worrying about the qualities that make a husband happy or the faults that cause him grief and ruin. You know all that glitters is not gold.” (CF 10, July 14, 1864)
Reassured then by her brother’s choice of wife and seeing him installed professionally but also engaged in social and parochial works, she talks with him about the success of life: “I’m happy to see that you’re well regarded in Lisieux. You’re going to become a man of merit, and I’m very happy about that, but what I want above all is that you become a saint.” Having said that, she immediately adds: “However, before wanting sanctity for others, I would very well have to take that road myself, something I’m not doing. Oh well, we must hope that will come.” (CF 116, March 29, 1874)
Connecting happiness on earth to happiness in heaven and letting the latter shed light on the former, this is what Pope Francis invites us to do in his Apostolic Exhortation on the Call to Holiness in Today’s World. After reminding us that holiness is accessible to all, in chapter 3 he remarks on Christ’s teaching in the Beatitudes and describes what true happiness consists of. It does not come to the one who, when wealthy, becomes self-satisfied to the extent that there is “no room for God’s word, for the love of our brothers and sisters, or for the enjoyment of the most important things in life.” It comes rather to the one whom the Holy Spirit “frees from weakness, selfishness, complacency, and pride.” (68 and 65)
We then think of the wishes that Saint Paul addressed to Christians in the community of Rome:
“For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you:
[…] Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good.
Love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor.
Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.
Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer.
Contribute to the needs of the holy ones, exercise hospitality.
Bless those who persecute [you], bless and do not curse them.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
Have the same regard for one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly; do not be wise in your own estimation.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil; be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all.
If possible, on your part, live at peace with all.” (Romans 12: 3, 9-18)
Paths for our meditation and prayer, personal or with others:
- At the start of this year, what are our best wishes for those close to us and for the world around us?
- Are they limited to the horizon of earth or do the perspectives of the beyond shed light on them?
- Do these extended wishes remain fanciful thinking or do they inhabit our prayer life and come to nourish our commitments?
To feed our personal or common prayer:
- Let us take one or more of St. Paul’s instructions and, in the presence of the Lord, let it resonate in our hearts.
- Let us ask that in 2020 we receive this « fervor of the Spirit ».
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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