Kate Sell is senior partner of the Kennedy Brownrigg Group specializing in strategic planning and development.
On October 12 Pope Francis canonized the first married couple, SS. Louis and Zelie Martin, the parents of St. Therese the Little Flower. My husband and I traveled to Lisieux in Normandy, France in 2010 for our tenth wedding anniversary. At that time Louis and Zelie had recently been declared blessed and we were struck by the beauty of their family, their home and their lives.
Though, as a working mother, what struck me the most was that Zelie was not only a mother of nine children (only five lived to adulthood), she ran her own lace-making business. The mother of the Little Flower – one of the greatest saints in modern time – was, yes – a working mother!
So intrigued by this, I purchased a few books about her, including one that chronicled various letters and correspondence written throughout her life to her husband, her brother, and other friends and relatives. What the simple letters revealed was that Zelie – and their family life – was also very simple. There was a basic ordinariness about their lives that not only amazed me, but also encouraged me. I began to believe that a busy working mother could not only strive for holiness in her own life, but also in the lives of her family, right in her daily circumstances, in her work and in her trials.
Like so many women today, Zelie was a busy lady. She managed her own business, and took great care and concern not only for the quality of her work, but also for her employees. She cared for the daily needs of her growing family. She also cared for the needs of her extended family, including her brother and his wife who experienced some difficult times, and her own father, caring for him during his late life and for the settlement of his estate after his death. And, she did all of this while experiencing multiple pregnancies, the death of four of her children and her own health issues which eventually led to her death at age 45.
Zelie is a model for all working women who struggle to keep up with the needs of their family, their job, their extended family and the myriad of struggles that plague everyday life. Zelie’s example of fortitude and holiness should encourage all working mothers to continue on in their struggle to serve, their struggle to pursue the spiritual life in their everyday circumstances, and their struggle to just keep up!
Saint Zelie – pray for us working moms!