For those who may not know, the “Little Flower” is a popular name given to Saint Therese of Lisieux. An amazing woman in her own right who lived so recently that there are even photos of her..
I know, there was a time before we had photos: believe it or not, all you Instagram addicts.
Therese wrote an Autobiography which is an amazing read called “Story of a Soul“. If you want an insight into how a woman who lived a life of utter obscurity in as a cloistered nun and went on to become a Doctor of the Church and patron saint of the Missions when she never ventured beyond the walls of the convent, read this book.
Even more amazing though is that Therese was actually from a long line of deeply holy people, her closest being her mother Zelie and father Louis, who are currently declared “Blessed” by the Church and on their way to canonisation.
This little tome is small enough to squash into busy days and has been written by St Therese’s sister, Celine Martin. Celine was also a cloistered nun and gives us rare insight into the home of the Martin’s through one who was actually there.
Forget about all the parenting books you have ever read. If you want to know where to start, ask Zelie. She lived and breathed her biological and spiritual motherhood in a way that I only aspire to. She was a very real woman, with very real worries about her children, who loved her husband passionately and who was introduced to her future husband while walking across a bridge via a revelation from God. How great is that?
Zelie was not to live past the age of 46, but the impact she made on her family and on the world has borne fruit way beyond her short life.
This book came at a time when I was really seeking inspiration on motherhood from those who lived a life I could relate to. I was seeking to be encouraged by the ordinary hidden work of another mother who laboured hard at the coalface of life in the domestic church.
Zelie experienced the full gamut of joy and sorrow in her motherhood, welcoming nine children into the world, but seeing four of them die. Three died in infancy and one daughter at the age of five. She also had a very happy family life and excellent extended family relationships. Her surviving daughters brought her much joy, but one daughter was an almost constant worry to her and she wrote to her sister,
“I no longer depend on anything but a miracle to change her nature. It is true that I do not deserve a miracle, and yet I hope against all hope. The more complicated she seems to me, the more I am persuaded that the goodness of God will not permit her to remain that way.”
She had an amazing confidence in the love of God and His care of each person created in His image. The many excerpts from the letters she wrote are peppered with references to this, as well as her awareness of her need to answer to God for how well she cultivated the souls put into her care in her family.
Blessed Zelie Martin, pray for us!