Saturday, April 24, 2010

Bl. Zelie Martin: An Inspiration To Us All


Not long ago, a friend told me a true story:

Last week her mother was in her car, stopped at an intersection near the freeway in Detroit. Standing on the corner was a man holding a sign. It said, "I'm hungry."

In the next lane over, a well-dressed woman in a nice car waited for the light to turn green. She noticed the man holding the sign, rolled down her car window, and yelled nastily to him, "WHY DON'T YOU GET A JOB?"

The man said nothing in response. Her mother was horrified.

When I heard this story, my first response was revulsion at such an act. If this woman could only see herself from the outside: a well-to-do woman with beautiful jewelry and a fancy car, YELLING at this homeless man. Sheesh, isn't he down on his luck enough, without having to hear the nasty wrath of this woman, who doesn't even know him? Who yells at anyone without truly knowing his or her story, the circumstances of a stranger on the street? Can we really think we know someone just by looking at him or her? And is it necessary to hatefully yell your opinion to someone you've never met, risking hurting their feelings? If she was not in a giving mood, she should have simply kept quiet and driven away.

My second reaction was this: Whatever we have, whatever we think we own, is not really even ours. It all belongs to God. In His mercy, He has given us what we have and we should be grateful, never taking it for granted, never being so cocky as to think it will always be there, will always be ours. Every day is a gift, and everything we own is a gift, not to be taken lightly. And when we prepare to meet Him after we leave this earth, we can't carry a tote bag with our material goods along with us. We are all human, we are all God's children; yes, even if we haven't bathed and don't have homes.



I've been doing a lot of reading about the mother of the Little Flower, Zelie Martin. Beatified along with her husband Louis in 2008, she was a loving example on earth of Christ's love for humanity: an unselfish woman who practiced charity toward her neighbor, love for the Church, a life of hard work, and lived her short life with a spirit of faith.

She wasn't tremendously wealthy, but the money she did earn from her successful lacemaking business in Alencon was never taken for granted, and never shamefully wasted. Instead, Zelie helped out her poor neighbors all of the time, sending them money and homemade stew.

She also taught her daughters (Therese among them), not only charity to the suffering poor, but to show them respect.

The following paragraphs are taken from the book The Mother of the Little Flower, which is written by Therese's older sister Celine, and is now published by TAN books:

One day while traveling, she reproved another lady in the railway carriage who showed displeasure at the arrival of a poor woman with her two babies. When they reached Alencon, Mother helped the woman with her children and parcels to get her home. Father, who had been waiting at the station, also helped; and it was midnight before they reached their own home.

For Leonie's First Communion, Mother selected a poor girl in her class, had her dressed in white also for her First Communion, and invited her to the place of honour at the festive dinner for the occasion.



Zelie Martin, mother of Therese

I marvel at the difference between the woman in the car and Zelie Martin. One chose to spew hatred; the other chose to treat people with dignity and respect. It was never an inconvenience for Zelie to think of others' needs before her own, even when it was late and she was tired from traveling. Zelie never asked questions of the people, asking if they had jobs, were lazy, etc. She never yelled at them or put them down, trying to decide for herself if they were truly worthy of a hot meal. She put everything in God's hands, and did her part without complaint.

Blessed Zelie Martin is an inspiration to us all. She is integrity, character, goodness, and love. Ask for her intercession in your life, as well as in the life of the woman in the car, so her hardened heart may soften and she may learn what it is to be truly charitable.



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