Zélie was so in love with the Holy Eucharist that, five weeks before her death, weakened by cancer, she still attended Mass. Throughout their lives, Louis and Zélie were ardent devotees of the First Friday Devotions.
Only two centuries earlier, Our Lord had communicated to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque His great desire that the First Friday of every month be devoted to honoring His Sacred Heart by attending Holy Mass, and that His image be placed prominently in every home as a means of offering reparation for the sins committed against Him, especially in the Holy Eucharist.
Responding to Our Lord’s request, Zélie wrote, “I never miss, nor does Marie and, naturally, nor does Louis, receiving Communion every First Friday of the month, no matter what difficulties we foresee that day. We change the time of the Mass we usually go to, as needed.” Zelie was so devoted to the First Friday Devotions that not even stage IV cancer could hinder her zeal.
Her daughter Marie recalled in her August 9, 1877, letter to her aunt and uncle, only a few weeks before her mother’s death: “Last Friday morning she went to seven o’clock Mass, because it was the First Friday of the month. Papa helped her along, for, without him, she could not have gone at all. On arriving at the church, she admitted that if someone were not with her, she would never have been able to push open the door of the church!”
During the Mass, the body language of the parents of the saints reflected the gravity of the unmerited gift of Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection, which are made present to us on the altar.
Specifically, Thérèse wrote, “When the preacher spoke about St. Teresa, Papa leaned over and whispered: ‘Listen carefully, little Queen, he’s talking about your Patroness.’ I did listen carefully, but I looked more frequently at Papa than at the preacher, for his handsome face said so much to me! His eyes, at times, were filled with tears which he tried in vain to stop; he seemed no longer held by earth, so much did his soul love to lose itself in the eternal truths.”
What an example Louis gave to his future saint by listening attentively to the priest’s homily. Such is the wisdom of the parents of the saints who recognized that the time spent at Mass comprised the greatest moments of their lives because it is here that Heaven and earth collide. In fact, Sunday Mass was the highlight of the Martin’s week, as Thérèse once said:
“I return once more to my Sundays. This joyous day, passing all too quickly, had its tinge of melancholy. I remember how my happiness was unmixed until Compline. During this prayer, I would begin thinking that the day of rest was coming to an end, that the morrow would bring with it the necessity of beginning life over again, we would have to go back to work, to learning lessons, etc., and my heart felt the exile of this earth. I longed for the everlasting repose of heaven, that never-ending Sunday of the Fatherland!”
Besides attending daily Mass, Louis made annual pilgrimages to France’s most stunning churches, such as Notre Dame, Our Lady of Victories, and Chartres. While there, he offered the greatest sacrifice for his family by attending Holy Mass devoutly and interceding for them as the high priest of the Martin family.
When they were first married, Louis and Zélie made evening visits together to the Most Blessed Sacrament. After Zélie passed away, Louis continued to make daily visits to the Blessed Sacrament with Thérèse, who fondly recalled, “Each afternoon I took a walk with Papa. We made our visit to the Blessed Sacrament together, going to a different church each day, and it was in this way we entered the Carmelite chapel for the first time. Papa showed me the choir grille and told me there were nuns behind it. I was far from thinking at that time that nine years later I would be in their midst!”
Source: Parents of the Saints by Patrick O’Hearn, Published by TAN Books (pp. 13-15).