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Father Anthony Ho

Modern saint had saintly parents

Voices Jan. 12, 2018

Saints Louis and Zelie Martin first saw each other while crossing a bridge in France. Zelie heard an interior voice, which she believed to be that of Our Lady, saying "This is the one I have prepared for you."

St. Therese of Lisieux (1873-1897) is one of the most popular saints in modern time. Her parents were St. Louis Martin (1823-1894) and St. Zelie Guerin (1831-1877). The saintly couple were canonized by Pope Francis on Oct. 18, 2015. St. Therese wrote, "The good God gave me a father and mother more worthy of heaven than of earth."

Born into a family of soldiers, Louis spent his early years at various French military posts. Eventually, he settled down in Alencon, a small city in France, and pursued his watchmaking trade.

At 22, Louis attempted religious life at the monastery of the Augustinian Canons of the Great St. Bernard Hospice in the Alps. Louis was required by the Abbot to learn Latin, but couldn't manage the language. Eventually he became ill and dispirited, abandoning his hopes for the monastic life.

Zelie Guerin was also born into a military family. She described her childhood and youth as "dismal," for her parents showed her little affection.

As a young lady, she sought unsuccessfully to enter the religious order of the sisters of the Hotel-Dieu. Zelie then learned the Alencon lace-making technique and started her own business.

In April 1858, Louis and Zelie first saw each other while crossing the St. Leonard Bridge over the Sarthe River in Alencon. Zelie heard an interior voice, which she believed to be that of Our Lady, saying "This is the one I have prepared for you." The two young artisans were introduced, probably by Louis's mother, who attended a lacemaking class with Zelie.

The couple married three months after they met. In those days, the French republic did not recognize church marriages, and couples in France had to first undergo a civil marriage ceremony in the town hall before the actual marriage rite in the church.

On Monday, July 12, 1858, at 10 p.m., the 34-year-old Louis and 26-year-old Zelie appeared at the town hall in Alencon and had the civil ceremony. Then at midnight on July 13 they went to Zelie's parish church, Notre Dame, for their religious ceremony.

In those days, couples who preferred a quiet, prayerful ceremony in the intimacy of the church, without a lot of show, often scheduled their wedding for midnight, especially on a weekday.

Since the Communion fast began at midnight, a midnight wedding allowed those who wished to receive Communion to do so. Louis and Zelie had a quiet, reverent wedding by candlelight, surrounded by their closest relatives and a few friends.

The couple also wanted to have time, later on their wedding day, to take the train to Le Mans to visit Zelie's sister, Marie-Louise, who had entered the monastery of the Visitation there three months earlier.

For the wedding, Zelie did not wear a white wedding gown, but a dark dress. Fabric from this dress was later used by Therese to make a vestment with a painting of flowers representing the parents and their nine children.

Within the next 15 years after the wedding, the couple had nine children, seven girls and two boys. Zelie wrote, "We lived only for them, they were all our happiness."

The couple had their sorrows and trials. Within three years, their two baby boys, a five-year-old girl, and a six-and-a-half-week old infant girl all died.

In a letter to her sister-in-law who had lost an infant son, Zelie remembered: "When I closed the eyes of my dear little children and buried them, I felt sorrow through and through ... People said to me, 'It would have been better never to have had them.' I couldn't stand such language. My children were not lost forever; life is short and full of miseries, and we shall find our little ones again up above."

聖善雙親                                                                                                                何庭耀

 

 

聖女小德蘭 (1873-1897) 是近代最受歡迎的聖人之一;她的雙親是聖類斯.馬定(1823-1894) 及聖薛妮.姬娜 (1831-1877) ,他們在2015年10月18日被教宗方濟宣聖。小德蘭曾寫下:「美善的天主,給了我媲美天地的父母。」

 

類斯出生於軍人的家庭,因此,他早期曾在法國軍隊擔任不同的職務;最後,他在法國小鎮阿朗松安定下來,幹著鐘錶製做的生意。

 

年二十二的類斯,曾嘗試進入奧斯定會位於亞耳卑斯山大聖伯納修院;他被修院院長要求修讀好拉丁文,為他來說確是極大的困難,甚至熬出病來,終要放棄修道的念頭。

 

薛妮亦出生於軍人家庭;她自述童年時得不到父母的疼愛,所以對雙親的關係是淡漠的。

 

年青的薛妮,曾有意進入主所女修會,不果;她進而學習織製阿朗松花邊的技能,後來更開設了自己的生意。

 

1858年4月,類斯薛妮薩爾特河聖倫納德橋上邂逅;當時,薛妮好像聽到聖母對她說:「他是為你而設的!」可能通過類斯的母親介紹(她正從薛妮處學習織製花邊的技能),兩人繼而互相認識。三個月後,他們結婚了。

 

當年的法國共和國尚未承認聖堂內的結婚為有效的婚姻,兩人要先到鎮內行了民事的婚配手續,纔到聖堂舉行婚禮。

 

1858年7月12日上午十時,三十四歲的類斯偕同二十六歲的薛妮,出現在阿朗松市政廳註冊結婚,7月13日的子夜,雙雙到薛妮的本堂、聖母堂,在教會見證下完成婚配聖事。

 

那些時候,新婚夫婦習慣在寧靜、充滿祈禱氣氛的聖堂內行婚禮,不鋪張、不熱鬧;所以子夜舉行儀式最為適合 ── 特別在週日,領聖體的人又不會多。類斯薛妮,在清靜、莊嚴的燭光下舉行婚禮,在場有他們的至親及數名摯友見證。婚禮完畢,他們乘坐火車到肋萬斯探望薛妮的姊妹瑪利亞.露詩 ── 瑪利亞才進了聖母訪親修院三個月。

 

婚禮時,薛妮的婚紗並非白色,而是黑色。小德蘭後來用了這婚紗布做了祭披,上面畫了一些花朵,代表自己的雙親和他們的九個孩子。

 

婚後十五年,類斯薛妮生育了七女二男共九名孩子。薛妮寫道:「我們只為他們而活;他們是我們一切的喜樂。」

 

但這家庭充斥著憂傷和試探。三年內,兩名男嬰、五歲的女孩、六週半歲的女嬰,相繼死去。薛妮曾去信給一位剛失去嬰兒的親戚,安慰她:「當我閉上眼睛,便看到我親愛的小孩,又看到自己親自把他們一一埋葬,我內心的確傷透了…。人們說『我從沒有把他們生下來多好』,但我絕對不同意:我並沒有永久失去我的孩子。生命原是短暫、原是奧秘,我們將會有一天和他們在天上重逢的。」

 

 

 

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