The Kindness of a Shepherd
For Peter and Theresa Martin’s second son, life has not always been easy. Louis (pronounced loo-ee) was born with a rare disease (from a genetic mutation) that left his doctors confused and parents helpless for many years. For the first five years of his life, he suffered tremendously. He was on the couch surviving more than he was playing with his brothers and friends. Yet, instead of bitterness, his heart deepened in love and compassion through it all.
One Good Friday, his mother recalls, when he was four years old, he had to stay behind with his mother when his father and brothers went to the 7 Church Walk in their town. His skin was pale and eyes sunken, and his mother remembers thinking how heartbreaking it all was. “We had no answers and he just kept getting worse. I looked at his frail, ghostly figure and just cried. I then told him he could watch whatever video he wanted, because he was sick and I just wanted him to feel better! And do you know what this sweet 4 year old boy said to me?” she told us, “He said, ‘mama, I want to watch a video about Jesus, because he died today and he was hurting more than me.’ Yes, I cried again. What an amazing child!”
His parents finally received a correct diagnosis for Louis and when he began nightly injections of the proper medicine, his condition improved almost miraculously. He began to grow again; he could finally sleep through the night without the cranial pressure and nighttime vomiting; he could walk without pain; he could thrive! It was an answer to the family’s prayers. Yet, even as his physical condition improved his heart remained deeply passionate. His parents shared how he has his own way of doing things and many don’t understand his personality, but that doesn’t seem to bother him. Even though he still cries when remembering how he suffered, his view on life is hopeful and full of laughter and mischief. His love for Jesus continues to grow as well.
It was a little over a year ago on August 3, 2013 at the Shrine, that Louis’ older brother Gregory received his 1st Communion, along with three other children, from His Eminence Cardinal Burke. Louis sat with his family during the Mass and yet, afterwards he wouldn’t say a word. Finally, his parents discovered that he was heart broken that he couldn’t receive Jesus in the Eucharist like his brother. What happened next sent ripples of unexpected love through Louis’ family and through out the world. Cardinal Burke came to greet the families of the first communicants after Mass. He had a little gift for each one. When he approached the Martins, he gave Gregory his gift, but then saw Louis crying. There are some who when seeing a child crying don’t think much of it; children do cry for any number of reasons. Yet, Cardinal Burke didn’t just smile at the sad child, he asked what was wrong. Louis’ mother explained to His Eminence how he was sad that he did not get to receive his 1st Communion as well. Cardinal Burke looked compassionately at Louis. And this young boy, instead of turning away, leaned into the cardinal, grabbing his robes, and wept. His Eminence embraced him warmly and said, “don’t worry! Your first Communion will come soon enough!” Louis’ mother said he doesn’t normally open up to strangers, but there was something so full of love and tenderness in Cardinal Burke that she was not entirely surprised to see Louis who is so compassionate himself respond to such kindness of a true Shepherd of the Church.
The moment happened to be captured by Louis’ grandmother and the image once online went viral in days. It could be found on many websites all around the world in many languages and still continues to be used. It is a photo that cuts through the political arguments, impersonal theories and bickering “sides” and reveals the true heart of Christ in His Church. It was a moment the Martins said they would never forget.
The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe was honored to be a part of this beautiful moment and now we saw it come to fulfillment. On December 12, 2014, on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe herself, young Louis Martin received his first Holy Communion at the hands of His Eminence, Cardinal Burke, with his family all in attendance.
May our hearts be emboldened to desire Christ with such love and to reach out to encourage one another in love. As Cardinal Burke was, may we also be vehicles of the compassion of our Lady as she brings all to her Son. As Our Lady of Guadalupe told us, “I will show Him, I will exalt Him and make Him manifest. I will give Him to the people in all my personal love, in my compassion, in my help, in my protection: because I am truly your merciful Mother … Here I will hear their weeping, their complaints and heal all their sorrows, hardships and sufferings.”