The recent headlines of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster’s incorrupt body have captivated headlines from across the world. Interestingly, her body was not the only thing that was incorrupt—her black, traditional wool Benedictine habit was also fully intact. And Sophia Institute Press released a new children’s book dedicated to Sister Wilhelmina and her order called, Brides of Christ.
Long before Sister Wilhelmina’s incorrupt body and habit, there was a saintly couple whose scapulars were found to be incorrupt. And this couple happened to Sts. Louis and Zélie Martin, the parents of St. Thérèse of Lisieux.
In his book, Celine: Sister and Witness of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Fr. Piat wrote,
On October 13, 1958 in the presence of the Bishop of Bayeux, of the Most Reverend Pioger, Auxiliary Bishop of Sees, and the Most Reverend Fallaize, former Vicar Apostolic of MacKenzie, the remains of M. and Mme. Martin were exhumed and transferred to the plateau of the Way of the Cross near the apse of the basilica. Sister Genevieve (Céline) was moved to learn that the only object found intact on each of the bodies, outside of a metal crucifix, was the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
St. Louis Martin died in 1894 at the age of seventy while his bride, Zélie died in 1877 at the age of forty-five from breast cancer.
It is only fitting that their Scapulars of Our Lady of Mount Carmel were incorrupt for this holy couple loved Our Lady. Praying the Rosary was a fixture in the Martin Family. St. Louis also had such fondness for the Carmelite sisters at Lisieux well before his daughters joined. He loved to fish and would often bless the sisters with one of his catches.
But what is even more providential is that four out of Martin’s five daughters became Carmelite nuns while their daughter Leoni became a Visitation nun. Tragically, this couple lost four children.
For some, this miracle may seem not as shocking as an incorrupt body. Clearly, God could have preserved the Martins’ bodies but He chose the scapular to convey a deeper, more subtle message. To understand this miracle, it important to understand the origins of the scapular.
On July 16, 1251, Our Lady gave the scapular to St. Simon Stock, the Father General of the Carmelite Order and said these words:
Receive, My beloved son, this habit of thy order: this shall be to thee and to all Carmelites a privilege, that whosoever dies clothed in this shall never suffer eternal fire …. It shall be a sign of salvation, a protection in danger, and a pledge of peace.
Other graces have been attached to the scapular including the Sabbatine Privilege whereby those who wear the scapular and pray the Rosary daily will be freed from purgatory on the Saturday following their death.
The scapular is a promise of eternity, foreshadowed by Our Lord in the parable of the wedding feast in Matthew’s Gospel (see Matt. 22:1-14). And it is no wonder Sister Genevieve (Céline) was moved when she learned that her parents’ scapulars were fully intact. Her parents were among the blessed in Heaven.
Every Church sacramental like the Scapular is a conduit of grace and a source of protection. The Martins’ incorrupt scapulars demonstrated not only their intense Marian devotion, but it was also a sign for all generations that God longs to give us every grace and means to reach Heaven.
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