Zelie and Conchita show us how to raise kids who love God and lead good lives.
St. Zelie Martin and Blessed Conchita Cabrera de Armida are two moms who devoted their lives to God and their families — and have been canonized or beatified by the Catholic Church. Zelie is the mother of St. Therese of Liseux, and another one of her daughters, Sister Francoise-Therese, is on the way to sainthood. The rest of her daughters also became religious sisters.
Conchita had a son who became a priest, a daughter who became a religious sister, and her other children found spouses and lived the sacrament of marriage, giving the faith in turn to their children. How do you raise kids who love God and lead good lives? Zelie and Conchita seemed to have found some things that worked. Here are a few takeaways that I have discovered after researching their lives and reading their writings.
Write letters (or emails or phone calls) to stay in touch
These holy moms lived before email, but they made it a point to stay in touch with their extended family and children via letter. Conchita filled her correspondence with family news, suggestions for foods or medicines that might help the child in question, and spiritual advice for that child’s state in life. Both women were loving, practical and spiritual in their advice and support through their letters. And neither was afraid to gently remind her children how to be more virtuous when she saw the need. Conchita even wrote letters to her daughters-in-law, reminding them of how much she loved them and giving advice on being good wives and mothers.
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Make your faith a normal part of life
Whether it was daily prayer, celebrating feast days and holy days, or taking little moments throughout the day to explain some aspect of the faith, both Conchita and Zelie made their faith an integral part of their lives and their kids’ lives. It wasn’t something that only came up on Sundays or during religious education classes, it came up every day. Their faith was lifegiving and essential to them, and that spilled over to their children.
Live patiently through suffering
Whether you are living through a political revolution in which Catholics are persecuted, as Conchita was, or just trying to work through the frustrations of everyday life, how you handle suffering is something your kids will notice.
One time, Zelie’s neighbor dug a pond too close to their outside wall, such that their shared wall collapsed, and then he took Zelie and her husband Louis to court to make them pay for his mistake. The injustice didn’t cause Zelie to become bitter, and she handled it with grace.
Bigger and more personal suffering came up throughout their lives too. Both women experienced the death of their children from sickness, and Conchita had a toddler who drowned on their property. In their grief, both women turned to God for support, and let their experiences deepen their love and trust in Him.
Zelie and Conchita were generous to their families and to those in need. Zelie would listen attentively to people who asked for financial help and often sent food to local families she knew were struggling. She and her husband Louis housed a man who needed support for a bit to help him get back on his feet. Conchita was very involved in helping her extended family as well as her immediate family whenever possible, whether that meant traveling to them or opening her home.
Overall, these moms lived what they believed. It showed in little ways and big ways throughout their lives. And it showed even more profoundly as their kids followed their examples and lived generous, patient, and sacrificial lives in their unique vocations. Bl. Conchita and St. Zelie, help us to walk the walk and love our children by loving God first.
To read more about these women, check out the following books: A Call to Deeper Love is a book filled with correspondence by St. Zelie and A Mother’s Letters is a book of collected letters from Blessed Conchita.