Once in a while you pick up a book that immediately resonates with you, one you read slowly, savouring each chapter and meditating on it during the day when the cares of life prevent you from reading on any further. One that inspires you to greater things, to loftier ambitions and to an increased spiritual ardour.
For me, A Family Of Saints, written by Stephane-Joseph Piat, was that book.
This biography of the Martin family, more specifically the recently canonised Louis and Zelie Martin, was the most inspiring, and daunting, book I have read in a long time.
Each chapter is ripe with spiritual richness; covering in depth the lifestyle and habits of the Martins from their occupations and domestic life, to their active involvement in their parish and community at large. Correspondence from all family members are quoted frequently and only amplify the voices of these saintly people.
Zelie’s letters are riveting; her easy style light and playful, yet one does not doubt her faith. And her husband’s more introverted ways, but intentional witness, provide the perfect balance. Though Zelie passed on to her Heavenly reward when her youngest was only four years old, she and her husband had created a spiritual environment that saw all of their children enter religious life, devoting their earthly lives to God.
The author’s explanation of the inner workings of their domestic church are fascinating. No element of their life escapes notice; each decision is contextualised, their actions and responses to challenges expounded and analysed.
The scholarly language might be daunting for some, yet the pages comes alive with eloquent depictions of the architecture, geography and characters. One has no trouble conjuring images of the town of Lisieux and its characters and the contextual descriptions of France at that time help to conjure an idea of the country they knew, and where it was heading politically and spiritually.
This is not a book that you can rush through. It is too dense for that, but in a profoundly inspiring way. Each chapter, and in some cases, every few pages, one feels obliged to pause and meditate, to ruminate on the content. Inspiration abounds and admiration too, but the narrative is confronting too; their story is not without immense suffering.
This is far from just a biography; it is not merely an explanation of lives well lived. This is an exploration of sanctity in the domestic realm; of fostering vocations in the home, educating children in the faith in a tangible and all-encompassing way, and the complete resignation to God’s will.
I have no hesitation in rating this book 5 stars, in fact, it’s more like 6 stars.
A Family Of Saints is available here.
About the Author: I am a reformed perfectionist who is now a stay at home mum with five children under nine years of age. I am a qualified journalist and graphic designer with a decided creative streak, and run a hobby business called Emily Shaw Design + Write. I will attempt most craft activities and love to write about topical - and especially controversial - issues.