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Marthe Robin: Imitate, not just Admire

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She died the year Our Lady’s apparitions at Medjugorje began. She loved the Blessed Virgin, and inspired by her, she adhered to the divine will in a radical way, even when God’s plan asked of her a degree of immolation beyond human capacity. She bore Christ’s wounds, and she let herself be consumed for the salvation of souls.

Imitate, not just Admire

"Perfection is achieved through love; holiness through humility"

The aforesaid wass pronounced by MARTHE ROBIN , a French mystic from our recent past. She is known for her hidden life of suffering, a type of Padre Pio of France. She was an extraordinary woman who witnessed how it is possible with the help of Grace, to live on love alone. Due to a total paralysis, at the age of 28 she was bed-ridden, blind and unable to take food or drink, not even a sip of water. She was able to consume only the Holy Eucharist. Nor did she ever sleep again.

She was born on 13 March 1902 at Châteauneuf-de-Galaure, a small village near Lyons in south-eastern France, and was the youngest of six children. She was a happy and lively child who manifested a desire for prayer and did not disdain service, sharing the work of the house and farm. Gradually, her love for God grew and she felt ever more attracted to Him. “My sisters did not want me to pray so much, but I prayed mostly in bed. I prayed to the Virgin Mary, but it was talking rather than praying. I always had my Rosary beads in my pocket and I prayed as I walked.”

“Lord, I bless you for the trials...”

When she was 16 Marthe began to experience the first symptoms of an extremely grave illness that would cause much suffering until her death at the age of 79. In the beginning there were moments of improvement during which she hoped in a healing. It was at this early stage that the Blessed Virgin Mary first appeared to her. Marthe was being prepared for the long road that lay ahead of her, for an existence that she would live entirely in her bed at her parents’ home. It was a time during which she would learn to appreciate silence: “… in which one hears God.” In 1921 Marthe’s health improved somewhat, and she was able to walk with the aid of a stick. To Our Lady she confided her desire to enter the Carmel, to “offer everything to God” as little Therese did, and of whom she was a great admirer.

United to the Passion of Jesus

Not long after, however, her illness quickly worsened despite treatments by the various physicians that tried to help her. At this point in time Marthe felt inspired to offer herself totally to God “with an act of surrender and an offer of self to the love and will of God.” It was the 25th March 1925. “Eternal God, infinite love, my Father! .. On this day I give myself and consecrate myself to Thee, wholly and forever…” She understood that she was called to live her offering to Crucified Jesus for the good of the Church and the world while still remaining in the world, as a lay woman.

Three years later her legs became paralyzed, and only months later, also her arms. By this time she was also unable to eat or drink, and not even sleep. Her only material food was the Holy Eucharist! In 1930 Jesus asked her: “Would you like to be like me?” to which Marthe responded: “… that I might die, so they might live…” A few days later He marked her body with the marks of his Passion, in her hands, feet, side, and brow. “I experience how sweet it is to love even suffering, and I would dare to say especially suffering; because suffering is an incomparable school of true love…”

Special Love for Mary

Marthe particularly loved to pray the Rosary. A book by St. Louis Grignion de Montfort (“Mary’s Secret”) helped her to enter into a deep friendship with the Blessed Virgin. Montfort writes: “When the Holy Spirit, her Spouse, finds Mary in a soul, He flies into that soul, and enters it fully, and communicates to it most abundantly…”

The young “saint”, as she was called by villagers, was prepared with years of prayer, renunciation and suffering for a mission that did not take long to sprout, beginning in her parish. Through her, Jesus asked the parish priest to create a Catholic school for girls. When he said he didn’t have the funds to do that, she replied: “That which God asks, He grants.” In 1934 the first Catholic school at Châteauneuf-de-Galaure was opened.

Foyers of Charity

Jesus had also entrusted Marthe with the founding in her parish of the “Foyers of Charity” for the “radiation of light throughout the whole world... They will spread throughout the world to the most hidden places on the earth.”

More than ever, Marthe felt herself a daughter of the Church, and desired working in accordance with her pastor. He felt inadequate, but God sent a chosen priest, specific for the vocation. On the 10th February, eve of the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes, Marthe received a visit by Abbé Georges Finet, a young priest from Lyon who promoted the Marian spirituality according to Montfort. At the end of their first encounter she told him that God was calling him to found the first Foyer. Of course he was hesitant at first, intimidated by the grandness of such a project, but with Marthe’s gentle insistence, he agreed to it, but not without first seeking permission from his superiors, which they graciously granted.

Bound by the Love of Christ

The Foyer is a community of baptized men and women that put their material, intellectual and spiritual goods together. They live, work and pray as a family. Marthe defined it thus to Fr. Finet at their first meeting: “A Foyer will be a great family, with a priest at its head and Our Lady as its Mother. ... They will radiate light throughout the entire world. They will be an answer from the Heart of Christ to the world after the material defeat of people and their satanic errors.” She later told members: “The Lord has called you to great things, and the first of these is to leave yourselves.” They do not make vows, but are united only by the love of Christ, and with His same love they receive retreatants for five day silent retreats.

Marthe, bed-ridden, almost totally blind, offered herself for priests, the members of the Foyers and all the retreatants: “My adorable Jesus, you live in me, you direct me, instruct me. May all the people who come by me, leave me and find consolation when they cry, feel lifted up when they are burdened, through the recollection of a word, a glance a smile.”

Dispenser of Hope

The little ones, the poor in spirit, sinners and souls in search of the truth and light: these came to Marthe, and they experienced the warmth of her welcome, of her ability to listen. She had the gift of seeing into people’s souls and was able to give them the words they needed to hear.

She didn’t like it when people came to see her out of curiosity or to “have their future told”. Marthe did not have ready- made solutions for anyone. She listened and prayed, she invited her visitors to pray, and she’d give them a word from Jesus that came from her heart. Above all, she knew how to understand and suffer in silence, so that the other – feeling respected and cared for - might find hope. Particular cases would be directed to the priest where through confession they could receive God’s love more fully. Marthe would speak to those who suffered, and to all in general, of the value of offering up one’s suffering to God: “Each soul that loves will have to give to its suffering an apostolic value, redemptive value, eternal value… More than ever the world needs holy and generous souls that - as living hosts - dedicate themselves entirely to sacrifice, immolation, and love.” Marthe also experienced the devil’s attacks, which got ever more violent, but Mary’s presence imbued her with sweetness.

The seed that falls …

“If the grain of wheat that falls in the ground does not die it will remain alone. If it dies, it will bear much fruit” (Jn 12.24)…

On Friday the 6th February 1981 Marthe returned to the Father after a last fight with the devil. Today she would be happy if we look at her the way she loved to look at Mary, to imitate her, rather than just admire her. Her room has become a place of prayer where prodigies have already taken place.

Irma Heller



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