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Lansing Parish Is Home To Relics Of First Sainted Married Couple

A Catholic parish in Lansing has recently obtained a relic containing tiny remains of the first married couple ever to become saints at the same time.  Louis and Zelie Martin were the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux, a nun who lived in 19th century France.

Fr. John Fain:

St. Louis and St. Zelie were canonized together as a couple, which is the first time such a thing has happened in the Catholic Church. And St. Therese of Lisieux has really a great following in the Catholic Church. The fact that we are able to have the relics of her parents here is a real honor for our parish.

Kevin Lavery:

They had a very difficult life, didn’t they?

Fr. Fain:

Yes, that's correct. Louie Martin wanted to be a canon, and he was not allowed into the order because he didn't know Latin.  Zelie Martin (Guerin) was also someone who wanted to pursue a religious vocation. She was turned down because of her ill health. Somehow they met each other in the village at which they lived and produced nine children. Four of them died and St. Therese herself was the last one to live. And so, she was something of a special child in the family.  Zelie, the mother of the family, died at a young age. This left the care of the five daughters in the hands of Louie Martin, and he was an excellent father.

Lavery:

Tell me a bit about St. Teresa herself. She is famous for something called “The Little Way.”

Fr. Fain:

She believed in doing little things with great love. She entered the convent thinking everything would be perfect, and she discovered that life even in a convent has its imperfections.  She at times felt herself annoyed by some of the sisters. In dealing with that, she would practice great acts of love toward those sisters who got on her nerves.  In that sense, she was a very holy person.

Lavery:

Michael, is the difficult to request a relic? I'm sure there's questions about protecting it; it’s a pretty sacred object.

Michael Andrews:

Yes, it is quite difficult in order to obtain relics. Most often the relics are in the custody of a religious order. And then there must be an assurance that the relic will be preserved in a suitable place and will be exposed for public veneration, at least from time to time. And so there's always that assurance that it will be cared for properly.

The relic is enclosed in in a silver reliquary, and there's an inscription in Latin indicating that the saints are St. Louis Martin and Zelie Guerin.

Lavery:

And these very small rectangular bits of bone, or flesh, right?

Andrews:

Yes, from the body of the saints.

Lavery:

People have been displaying relics…or I should say, venerating relics for a long time; for hundreds of years. Why is it still relevant today in the 21st century?

Fr. Fain:

Just as the body of a relative is buried at a cemetery, and I can feel a special closeness by going to a cemetery. We can also come to this church and feel this special closeness. And by asking for their prayers, the saints look out for us and intercede for us in the difficult moments of our lives. And so, having these relics here at the parish, people will be able to come and ask for the special prayers of Louis and Zelie Martin and St. Therese and hope that their requests will be answered.

Kevin Lavery served as a general assignment reporter and occasional local host for Morning Edition and All Things Considered before retiring in 2023.
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