The Martins were declared blessed in 1994, during the feverish saint-making days of Pope John Paul II, the pace of which his successor has sought to slow down somewhat, including holding the canonization celebrations outside Rome, and not personally presiding at them. Even though JPII actively encouraged their full canonization, they were not declared saints because the miracle needed in order for their canonization to take place did not receive approval until July of this year.
Louis was born in 1823 and died in 1894. Marie was born in 1831 and died in 1877. Together they had nine children. Of this number, five joined religious orders. In my view the Martins' holiness is demonstrated in the first instance by having children and then by fostering vocations among them. By virtue of our baptism we all have a vocation, it is the job of parents to educate children about destiny, about the very reason for which they exist, for which God made them, and to let children know that their birth represents your cooperation with God and raising them is your vocation. Speaking to young men and women Don Giussani, in one of his characteristically frank moments, said:
"The dramatic thing is that 99 per cent of mothers no longer teach these things to their children. Because of this, they're no longer mothers. Mother can be a filly, if mother means to throw something out from your womb. She is a mother [only] if she educates in destiny" (Is It Possible to Live This Way, Vol 1, pg 113).Please keep in mind that this is Giussani in a passionate moment speaking to Catholic people who are on the verge of becoming Memores Domini and so committing their lives to perpetual virginity and to living in community. My using it is not a cudgel with which to beat people up because I'd have to start with myself. As Suzanne aptly noted, even as parents we still need conversion. I use this quote to bring home the importance of the matter. Perhaps we did not find what corresponded to our hearts until later in life, maybe even after we had children and they were grown or nearly so. Rather than feel guilty, in the words of JPII, "Follow Christ!" Keep in mind the words of Jesus: "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9,62).
It is worth noting that the success the Martins had in fulfilling their marital vocation got off to a rocky start. They originally planned to live together celibately, even though they were married. According to Fr. James Martin, SJ, writing over on America magazine's In All Things blog, it was a confessor who straightened them out about their confusion. So, I am elated to see the Martins raised to the altar precisely because they responded to the correction issued them by a wise priest, who helped them understand that destiny for them was to be achieved through marriage, which, according to the church, by its nature, includes children (can. 1055 §1)
Without a doubt their initial intention to live together celibately came from their true desire to serve God. However, such a manner of living is not Christian marriage. Rather, it represents confusion about vocation, about the state of life to which they were called. Looking at their confusion in light of what the church teaches, which is always the appropriate criterion by which to objectively evaluate our lives, under the 1983 Code of Canon Law (there was no singular code in effect during the Martins' lifetime, the so-called Pio-Benedictine code, the first unified code only being promulgated in 1917) a celibate marriage is not a valid, that is, not a sacramental marriage because such a marriage would never be consummated. In addition, their initial desire demonstrated a clear intention against children. So, their marriage was not only kept from being an abuse of the sacrament, it flowered into something beautiful for God. As a husband and a parent, I look forward to asking for their intercession.