Thursday, June 05, 2008

Zélie-Marie Guérin

Today, if a mother were to say, “Four of my children are already well settled in life,” we would imagine them married, possibly with children, living in a nice home with well paying careers. They are set and settled, and their mother is proud for having raised such successful offspring. However, these are not the words of a contemporary mother. Nay, these are the words of the mother of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, Zélie-Marie Guérin. She was speaking of the four children God had already called to himself. The quote in full reads, “Four of my children are already well settled in life, and the others will go likewise to that Heavenly Kingdom—enriched with greater merit because the combat will have been more prolonged." This further points to the meaning of the beginning of this quote, that she is speaking of heaven, and her concern for her children is completely directed towards the “Heavenly Kingdom.”

Father T. N. Taylor, the editor of Saint Thérèse’s autobiography, “The Story of a Soul,” included this quote in the prologue and added of Zélie, “Her whole ambition as a mother was directed to Heaven.” This is very accurate and very special. Many good parents yearn for their children to be with God forever, but their desire is often clouded over by worldly distractions. They want – and rightly so – for their children to thrive in this world, but which desire is greater – for the child to make excellent grades, attend college and get a worthy career, or to go to the “Heavenly Kingdom”? Zélie’s “whole ambition,” a complete commitment for her children to come into God’s Kingdom was something profoundly different than our preconception that being “settled in life” is a formula achieved on this earth.

Zélie and her husband, Louis Joseph Stanislaus Martin, were dedicated parents both to their children and to God’s will. Father Taylor writes,

“Nay, they themselves were destined to shine as apostles, and we read on one of the first pages of the Portuguese edition of the Autobiography, these significant words of an eminent Jesuit:

"To the Sacred Memory of Louis Joseph Stanislaus Martin and of Zélie Guérin, the blessed parents of Sister Teresa of the Child Jesus, for an example to all Christian parents."

They little dreamed of this future apostolate, nevertheless they made ready their souls day by day to be God's own instruments in God's good time. With most loving resignation they greeted the many crosses which the Lord laid upon them--the Lord whose tender name of Father is truest in the dark hour of trial.”

May we imitate the parents of Soeur Thérèse as we choose to do the will of God for ourselves and for our children and not be diverted by our own muddled will for their worldly “success.” It seems so simple and so obvious, but Zélie struck me with great clarity when she plainly made the truest statement about her four deceased little flowers, "Four of my children are already well settled in life.”

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