Thousands gather in Rome to watch Pope Francis canonize the parents of St Therese

Priests at today's special ceremony couldn't resist the opportunity to take a commemorative photograph on their mobiles

The married couple who have BOTH become saints: Thousands gather in Rome to watch Pope Francis canonize the parents of St Therese

  • Pope Francis canonized Louis and Zelie Martin whose youngest daughter St Therese of Lisieux was already a saint

  • The Martins had nine children, four of whom died. The remaining five, including Therese all became nuns 

  • Thousands of people packed into St Peter’s Square in Rome to attend the special canonization ceremony 

  • Pope Francis also canonized Italian priest, Vincenzo Grossi and Spanish nun, Maria of the Immaculate Conception

Pope Francis today canonized the Catholic Church’s first married couple in modern times , declaring the parents of the beloved St. Therese of Lisieux saints in their own right.

Francis told followers gathered in St. Peter’s Square that the couple, Louis and Zelie Martin, ‘practiced Christian service in the family, creating day by day an environment of faith and love which nurtured the vocations of their daughters’.

Francis is particularly devoted to the 19th century French Carmelite nun, fondly known as ‘The Little Flower,’ who died at the age of 24 in 1897 and was later honored with the title doctor of the church.

Thousands of people packed the square to witness the ceremony where Pope Francis appointed four new saints including the couple

Louis and Zelie Martin were canonised, along with Italian priest Vincenzo Grossi and Spanish nun Maria of the Immaculate Conception

Pope Francis canonised Louis and Zelie Martin because of the way they instilled their faith into their family including St Therese

Francis has had a copy of Therese’s ‘Story of a Soul’ on his bookshelf since his days as a novice. As archbishop of Buenos Aires, he had her image on his desk. And he has said that whenever he has a problem, he directs his payers to Santa Teresita, as she is known in Spanish, and often a white rose appears to him as a sign that she has heard his prayers.

Her parents were canonised at the start of final week of his big bishops’ meeting on families. His aim is to provide Catholic families with saintly role models who took particular care to educate their children in the faith: The Martins bore nine children, only five of whom survived. All five became nuns, including the youngest, Therese, at age 15.

‘It’s the first time a couple have been canonized as a couple, and this is a beautiful sign for Christian families, who often are left without any support and have to go against the grain, especially in the West, to live and educate their children in the truth of creation and with that love that God has given us in Christ,’ said the Rev. Romano Gambalunga, the postulator who followed the saint-making case through.

Portraits of the four new saints hung high above Pope Francis during today's special service in front of thousands of pilgrims

St Therese, known as The Little Flower, died at the age of 24, but is very revered by the Catholic church across the globe 

Before the mass, Pope Frances, pictured, was mobbed by large crowds as he was driven through St Peter's Square 

It is not insignificant that both miracles required for the canonization concerned the inexplicable cures of newborns born with what doctors determined to be life-ending ailments.

When the Martins were beatified in 2008, the ‘miracle’ concerned little Pietro Shiliro, born in the Italian city Monza in 2002 with a congenital lung deformation that doctors said he could not survive. The priest who was called to baptize him encouraged his parents to pray to the Martin’s intercession. After a month in the ICU, during which he came close to death, he was released and is now a healthy teenager.

The second miracle needed for the Martin’s canonization concerned little Carmen, born at 28 weeks on Oct. 15, 2008 in Valencia, Spain after a difficult pregnancy. Two days later, she suffered a cerebral hemorrhage that caused near-fatal blood poisoning. Her parents went to the Carmelite nuns seeking guidance; they suggested they pray to the intercession of the Martins, who had just been beatified on Oct. 17, 2008 in Lisieux.

After three months in the hospital, Carmen was released, cured, on Jan. 2, 2009 – the 135th anniversary of the birth of the Martin’s youngest daughter, Therese.

Louis and Zelie Martin were the very picture of charitableness: they helped the sick and dying, gave alms to beggars, ensured hospital care for the very ill and took in a child whose family could not look after him.

They also raised the girl who Pope Pius X is believed to have declared ‘the greatest saint of modern times’.

The ceremony to canonize the couple comes two-thirds of the way through a global Church council on the family, which the pontiff is keen to hold up as the key social unit for nurturing faith and setting good examples.

‘The holy spouses Louis Martin and Marie-Azelie Guerin practiced Christian service in the family, creating day by day an environment of faith and love which nurtured the vocations of their daughters,’ Francis said during the mass, using Zelie’s full first name.

In an interview with Paris-Match this week, the pontiff described the couple as ‘evangelists… who opened their door’ to those in need in a period in which ‘a certain bourgeoisie ethic was contemptuous of the poor’.

Louis and Zelie, who died in 1894 and 1887 respectively, had nine children, four of whom died at a young age, while the other five all became nuns.

Close to 2,000 Catholics watched the ceremony on big screens in the Basilica of Saint Therese in Lisieux.

‘It’s a joyful moment,’ Annabella, accompanied by her husband and children.

‘We try to follow their example, even if it’s not easy. It’s an example of a couple and family life with its joys, misfortunes, the loss of four children. Their example can be a staff to lean on.’

TODAY’S CANONIZED SAINTS  

LOUIS AND ZELIE MARTIN had nine children, but only five of them survived to be adults.

The five girls all became nuns, including Therese, who was described by Pope Pius X as the ‘greatest saint of modern times’. 

FR VINCENZO GROSSI was an Italian priest and the founder of the Institute of the Daughters of the Oratory.

MARIA OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION, was the Spanish superior general of the Sisters of the Company of the Cross.

A large group of French people went to St Peter's Square today to honour St Therese's parents who were from Lisieux, north west France

Pope Francis has had a copy of Therese's 'Story of a Soul' on his bookshelf since his days as a novice and her portrait on his desk

Louis had initially intended to become a monk, but after being rejected because he did not know Latin well enough, he met and fell in love with Zelie in Alencon in Normandy, marrying her three months later in 1858.

The pair first intended to live as brother and sister, but were persuaded to have children by a priest.

Their youngest child, Marie-Francoise Therese Martin – also known as Saint Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face – was born in 1873, became a cloistered nun aged 15 and died of tuberculosis nine years later.

She was raised to sainthood in 1925 by Pope Pius XI and in 1997 made a doctor of the Church by John Paul II – a rare honour signifying that her writings and preachings are useful to Christians.

Her autobiography, ‘The Story of a Soul’, written as her health deteriorated, is a memoir of her troubled childhood and determination after the death of her mother when she was four to become a nun and dedicate her life to God.

Francis has said he carries one of the saint’s books in his black travelling bag and turns to her for help and guidance.

Therese of Lisieux’s parents were beatified in 2008 – the first step on the path to sainthood – after the Vatican recognised they had performed a miracle by responding to prayers from the family of a sick Italian child Pietro Schiliro.

But they needed another miracle for their elevation to sainthood.

On March 18, Francis said the pair had performed a miracle by curing a Spanish baby called Carmen. Born prematurely and risking a brain hemorrhage, her parents prayed for the Martins’ intercession and the infant survived.

Both Pietro, 12, and Carmen, 7, were present at the canonization ceremony on Sunday, the first ever of a married couple with children.

Pope Francis wants St Therese's parents to become a role model as all their surviving children became nuns

Among those attending today's canonisation ceremony was French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, pictured centre

Source: Daily Mail

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