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Gifts of Holy Boldness

On Tuesday before Pilgrim Center of Hope’s 2023 Catholic Women’s Conference, I was introduced through a presentation to a woman who inspires me through how she devoutly lived her Catholic faith in holy boldness through the ordinariness of life, and through her particular crushing sorrow of the death of four of her nine children.

Her name is St. Zélie Martin. Before being canonized a saint, her claim to fame was being the mother of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. In her own life, there was not what most would call anything extraordinary. She was a wife, a mother, and a business owner living in post-French Revolution France, meaning the culture of her place in time was growing more secular and pagan, much like ours. Thanks to her prolific letter writing published in several books, we can get great insight into the deep Catholic faith of this woman who dared to stay close to Jesus and His Church for the entirety of her life.

Faith in God's Will

Considering life as a religious sister, Zélie discerned God’s will for her instead was to be a wife and mother. She looked forward to raising a family and married a watchmaker named Louis Martin. A one-time seminarian and equally devout, Louis shocked Zélie on their wedding night declaring he wanted to live their marriage as brother and sister. Though disappointed, she chose to defer to her husband in faith in God’s will. Fortunately, they shared a spiritual director who told Louis that the vocation to marriage means to be open to life. Zélie and Louis raised their nine children in step with the Church celebrating and sacrificing as the liturgical calendar dictated. Their daily Mass attendance, leaving their apartment building at 5am, functioned as their neighbors’ alarm clocks.

Zélie’s intense sorrow and suffering surrounded the illnesses and deaths of four of her children who died between infancy and 4-years old. One of her letters reveals her steadfast faith in God’s promise of eternal salvation to those who believe in Him,

“When I closed the eyes of my dear little children and buried them, I felt sorrow through and through […] People said to me, ‘It would have been better never to have had them.’ I couldn’t stand such language. My children were not lost forever; life is short and full of miseries, and we shall find our little ones again up above.”

Modern Day Example

On the Friday of the 2023 Catholic Women’s Conference, I met a second woman whose holy boldness in her Catholic faith has guided her from being the highest-ranked tennis player in her native country of Costa Rica to being wife, mother of five, and through a debilitating illness that left her totally paralyzed when her fifth child was only 2 months old. Paula Umana was a speaker at the Conference and for whom I had the privilege of volunteering as her assistant during the event. In a series of miracles brought through the providence of God by way of many prayer warriors and helping hands, Paula can now walk with the help of leg braces. Being with Paula and her 13-year daughter, Cecilia, who was only 4 when her mother became bedridden, I was blessed to experience what it must have been like to be around the Martin family. Mother and daughter conversations easily flowed between the joys and sorrows of life, such as celebrating the good news that two of her daughters/sisters were going to World Youth Day and what suffering the illness has caused their family. During her talk, Paula shared how her desire to travel and compete as a world-class tennis player was exchanged for God’s will for her to be a wife, mother, and business owner living in the U.S. She had us all laughing at how she demanded her seamstress make her wedding dress pure white and with a very long train because as a single Catholic woman, she earned it!

Trusting in Jesus

It was said about Zélie and Louis that they did not view the world as evil; rather they chose to see life as a gift from God, no matter how long or short it turns out to be, or as the Umana’s witness to, how well or ill one is during it. What inspires me about both the Martins and the Umanas is their trust in the Person of Jesus Christ, seeking always to faithfully follow Him as members of His Mystical Body, the Church.

Beautiful Witness

During Adoration at the 2023 Catholic Women’s Conference, I knelt in the Presence of our Lord in gratitude for the witness of these women I just met. I thanked Him also for all the women surrounding me in that room who dropped everything to come to Him, so He will give them rest. What great witnesses of holy boldness!

In God’s always amazing and personal way, He gave me a nod through our spiritual guide, Sister Elizabeth Ann when she said,

“Someone here is receiving holy boldness.”

I whispered in response as I am sure many of the other women did as well, “Thank you, Lord.”

Are You Ready To Receive?

Holy boldness is a grace given to all, waiting simply to be received, opened, and lived through the many faithful ‘fiats’ of our day. Simple, but rarely easy, and why I am grateful to God for the blessing of gifts of holy boldness witnessed through our Communion of Saints, companions along the spiritual journey, and every year at the annual Pilgrim Center of Hope Catholic Women’s Conference. This year’s “Spa for the Soul” will take place on Saturday, July 27, 2024. Make plans to attend and experience healing, be strengthened in hope, and receive spiritual renewal!

 “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28)

Nan Balfour is a grateful Catholic whose greatest desire is to make our Lord Jesus more loved. She seeks to accomplish this through her vocation to womanhood, marriage, and motherhood, as a writer, Missionary of Hope, Prayer Intercessor, Speaker Team member, and Volunteer for Pilgrim Center of Hope.

Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life. See what’s happening & let us journey with you! Visit