The family of Louis and Zelie – Letter #34
February 13, 2020
« This doesn’t keep me from praying that the Blessed Mother will cure me. I’m impatiently waiting for a pilgrimage to Lourdes, and certainly, if my family needs me, I’ll be cured, because it’s not faith that I’m lacking. Nor do I lack the will to live, the future has appealed to me for some time. » January 12, 1865, Saint Zélie Martin to her sister-in-law Céline Guérin (CF 186)
In the month of February as we are united with the sick and suffering
In this month of February when we celebrate on the 11th the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and the World Day of the Sick, and on the 18th, the Feast of Saint Bernadette – in communion with all those who suffer from ill health and those who accompany them – we remember the experience of Zélie with her cancer…
Since Dr. Prévost’s most alarming diagnosis in October of 1876 on the pain she feels in her breast, Zélie has no illusions about the seriousness of her condition, especially since this diagnosis is confirmed by Doctor Notta who is an authority in the town of Lisieux: “she finds it very regrettable that, from the very beginning, they didn’t do the operation, but now it’s too late,” she writes to her husband. And she concludes by trusting in the Lord: “Let’s put it into the hands of God because He knows much better than we do what we need…” (December 24, 1876, CF 179).
In June 1877, she went on a pilgrimage to Lourdes with her three oldest daughters, to ask for the grace of her physical healing and for the spiritual healing of Léonie: “If the Blessed Mother doesn’t heal me, at least I’ll ask her to cure my child, to open up her intelligence and make her a saint” (CF 206). Upon returning, Zélie confesses: “I am not healed, on the contrary the trip has aggravated my condition.” (CF 209) But Louis “was very surprised to see me return as cheerfully as if I’d received the much desired grace. This renewed his courage and put everyone in a good mood again” (to her daughter, Pauline, June 27, 1877, CF 210).
As with many sufferers, to the increasingly painful physical sufferings were added spiritual sufferings. On July 27, a month before her death, Zélie wrote to her brother: “I begged all the saints in Heaven, one after the other, but no one answered me! [ …] Louis, Marie and the maid stayed by my side. From time to time poor Louis would hold me in his arms like a child.”
However, Zélie does not leave her rosary and is admired by all for her courage and constancy. Her prayer soon becomes: “My God who created me, have mercy on me!” On August 26, she received the Anointing of the Sick and the following day, she died at half past midnight.
If her prayer asking for healing, from the human perspective, was not heard, we note on the other hand that her prayer was answered in regard to Léonie.
“Come to me”
The message given on The World Day of the Sick for the suffering and for those who accompany them is taken this year from the Gospel of St. Matthew:
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Mt 11:28). And Pope Francis comments in his message: “When Jesus says this, he has before him the people he meets every day on the streets of Galilee: very many simple people, the poor, the sick, sinners, those who are marginalized by the burden of the law and the oppressive social system… These people always followed him to hear his word, a word that gave hope!
[…] A key role in this effort to offer rest and renewal to our sick brothers and sisters is played by healthcare workers: physicians, nurses, medical and administrative professionals, assistants and volunteers. Thanks to their expertise, they can make patients feel the presence of Christ who consoles and cares for the sick, and heals every hurt.”
Listening to the Word of God (Mt 11: 25-30)
At that time Jesus spoke and said, “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him. Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
Paths for our meditation and prayer, personal or with others
- When we are confronted with the illness of a loved one, do we hear this call from the Lord to « come to Him? » He tells us again and again that the burden of our lives – like a yoke – He carries with us.
- The fact remains that the illness, the suffering, that which we suffer ourselves or that which we see borne by those whom we support or for whom we pray, very often leaves us feeling abandoned and destitute.
- Like Job, in the worst of his ordeals, responding to his clumsy friends by inviting them to put their hands on their mouths, let us place our trust in the Lord and let us enter the silence with attentive prayer before His loving presence. (Job 21.5; 29.9)
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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