Blessed Marie-Azélie “Zélie” Martin née Guérin (23 December 1831 – 28 August 1877) was a French laywoman and the mother of Saint Thérèse de Lisieux. Her husband was Blessed Louis Martin.
Marie-Azélie Guérin was born in Saint-Denis-sur-Sarthon, Orne, France and was the second daughter of Isidore Guérin and Louise-Jeanne Macé. She had an older sister, Marie-Louise, who became a Visitandine nun, and a younger brother, Isidore, who was a pharmacist. Her maternal family were from the Madré, in the neighbouring department of Mayenne, where her grandfather Louis Macé was baptised on the 16th March 1778.
Zélie wanted to become a nun, but was turned away by the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul due to respiratory difficulties and recurrent headaches. Zélie then prayed for God to give her children and that they would be consecrated to God.
Later, she decided to become a lacemaker, making Point d’Alençon lace. She later fell in love with a watchmaker, Louis Martin, in 1858 and married only three months later.
Although Zélie and Louis had led a continent marriage for almost a year, they had decided to have children. They would have nine children, though only five daughters would survive infancy; all became nuns:
Marie-Louise (22 February 1860 – 19 January 1940), as a nun, Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart, Carmelite at Lisieux.
Marie-Pauline (September 7, 1861 – July 28, 1951), as a nun, Mother Agnès of Jesus, Carmelite at Lisieux.
Marie-Léonie (June 3, 1863 – June 16, 1941), as a nun, Sister Françoise-Thérèse, Visitandine at Caen.
Marie-Hélène (October 3, 1864 – February 22, 1870)
Marie-Joseph (September 20, 1866 – February 14, 1867)
Marie Jean-Baptiste (December 19, 1867 – August 24, 1868)
Marie-Céline (April 28, 1869 – 25 February 1959), as a nun, Sister Geneviève of the Holy Face, Carmelite at Lisieux.
Marie-Mélanie Thérèse (August 16, 1870 – October 8, 1870)
Marie-Françoise-Thérèse (January 2, 1873 – September 30, 1897), as a nun, Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, Carmelite at Lisieux, canonised in 1925.
After Zélie’s death, Pauline, Marie, Thérèse and Céline all became Carmelite nuns one after another along with a cousin, Marie Guérin. Léonie became a Visitandine nun after being rejected by the Poor Clares.
Marie-Azélie died of breast cancer on 28 August 1877 in Alençon, Orne, aged 45. She was survived by her husband and daughters.
Louis and Marie-Azélie Martin were beatified on 19 October 2008 by Jose Cardinal Saraiva Martins, the legate of Pope Benedict XVI in Basilique de Sainte-Thérèse, Lisieux, France.
Nobility.org Editorial comment: —
Some commentators sustain that the Martin family were well off, and that Bl. Louis Martin’s assets in his later years were the equivalent of some US$50 million in today’s money. Husband and wife have been beatified, and their youngest daughter, St. Therese of Lisieux, is one of the great saints of the Church.
One more example, showing how sanctity does not exclude wealth, culture and refinement.