The family of Louis and Zelie – Letter #38
June 13, 2020
Léonie, patroness of delayed answers to prayers?
Between the prayers that are quickly answered and those that are seemingly not answered at all, what do we make of those prayers that are postponed – answered at a later time?
Into this typology of our prayers, how do we categorize those that we prayed during the Covid-19 pandemic which continues to rage in several parts of the world? In various ways, we asked the Lord to intervene and we all vividly remember Pope Francis, fragile and limping, holding the Blessed Sacrament and blessing the world before an empty St. Peter’s Square swept by the wind and rain…
Is our God deaf or indifferent or too far away? Or do we have to pay a price, give a certain offering in order to be heard?
To the question posed by the prophet Micah: “With what shall I come before the Lord, […] will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams?” Let us remember the answer: “You have been told, O mortal, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6: 6-8)
Which would suggest at the end of the day that it is man – not God – who is asked to pray, it is man who is slow to hear and to answer.
But instead of looking for reasons why prayers can be delayed, it is important to maintain confidence and to consent that there is room in our lives for these late answered prayers.
In this month of June when we celebrate both the birth of Léonie Martin (June 3, 1863) and her death (June 16, 1941), we can see in her existence the illustration of these graces that take time to happen.
Less spoiled by nature than her sisters, she is the object of special concern in the prayers of her parents. In Zélie’s letters, we see her mother worrying about her health, her character, her future and her holiness.
Regarding her character, we have to wait 14 years to welcome the first changes. As for the direction of her life, it was at the age of 36 that Léonie managed to realize, on the fourth attempt, this profound call to religious life.
As for her health, the death at 78 of the woman who became Sister Françoise-Thérèse at the Visitation of Caen, suggests that her mother’s expectations have been realized.
What can we finally say about holiness? Léonie’s manner of establishing herself in humility, simplicity, and confidence confirms that this call is accessible to all. It is still necessary for us to know how to perceive this holiness among the most humble. The increasing number of those who come to confide in her means that her process of beatification is underway. If successful, it will be a recognized as a clear sign that Zelie’s prayer have been answered, even if she could not see it during her lifetime.
Listening to the Word of God
From the Gospel according to Saint Luke (Lk 10, 20-21)
“Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”
At that very moment he rejoiced [in] the Holy Spirit and said, “I give you praise, 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.”
Paths for our meditation and prayer, personal or with others
- We find it hard to put aside the image of our God serving our desires. The crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ invites us to give up the dream of omnipotence and to humbly consent to reality.
- However, what an experience it is to have prayers answered differently than we would have imagined, but nonetheless with such abundance! This should remind us of the fact that our names are indeed inscribed in the heavens…
- With this awareness, let us take the time to give thanks to God.
To nurture our personal or common prayer
Let us choose a song that we like and then pray with St. Gregory Nazianzen (329-390):
O you beyond everything, are not these words all that can be sung about you? […] All beings, those who speak and those who are silent, proclaim you. Universal desire, universal groanings call you. All that exists prays to you, and to you any being who thinks in your universe raises a silent hymn. Yours are all the names, and how will I call you, you, the only one who cannot be named? What celestial spirit could penetrate the clouds which veil the sky itself? Have mercy, O You, beyond everything; isn’t this all that can be sung about you? Amen.
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