Louis a reliable and committed man

Louis Martin was born in Bordeaux in 1823. His father was a soldier and the family moved frequently during his early years.

Then in 1831 they settled in Alençon, where Louis went to school.

He studied to be a watch-maker in Rennes, Strasbourg and Paris.

These were formative years; during a retreat at the Great St Bernard monastery his desire to consecrate himself to God was born.

However his inability to master Latin put paid to this project. So he opened a jewellery and watch shop in 1850 on the rue du Pont Neuf in Alençon.

Up until his marriage in 1858 he divided his time between his work, hobbies (particularly fishing), meditation and meeting other people.

He belonged to the Vital Romet group – a dozen young Christian adults who, with Abbé Hurel, explored ways of becoming socially involved along the lines of the teaching of St Vincent de Paul.

His mother, who was determined that he should not remain a bachelor, spoke to him about Zélie Guérin, with whom she was learning the art of lace-making.

Their first meeting on the bridge over the Sarthe was decisive.

They married less than a year later on 12 July 1858 at the town hall in Alençon and on the 13th at midnight in the church of Notre-Dame.

Their married life, which lasted 19 years, was spent entirely in Alençon.

It will be guided by

–  a project to live continence in marriage

–  the birth of nine children of which only five survive

Madame Martin’s letters reveal the deep affection which united the couple.

She also describes her daily life:

  • Louis’ participation in bringing up their children
  • his professional choice to give up his work as a watch-maker to support his wife in the management of the lace workshop which she had founded
  • the deep faith at the heart of this family, which made them attentive to the needs of those around them
  • the repercussions on the social and religious life of the time with the end of the Second Empire, the 1870 war and the birth of the Third Republic
  • and lastly the long struggle with cancer which resulted in Madame Martin’s death at the age of 46 on 28 August 1877.

Now a widower, Louis decided to take his five daughters to live in Lisieux near to his in-laws, the Guérins. His brother-in-law Isidore was a chemist at Lisieux.

Some letters from this period reveal a father who listened to each of his daughters and was ready to agree to their wish to become nuns.

Following Therese’s entry to the Carmelite convent, by 1888 he was suffering from the illness which resulted in his being confined to the Bon Sauveur in Caen.

In periods of remission he would help to look after the other patients.

Finally, paralysed, he was returned to his family where he died on 29 July 1894 aged 71 at la Musse in the Eure.