The Catholic Defender: The Martha Robin Story
Take your time, and look at this special vessel for the Lord, I sometimes wonder how someone like this is just a Servant of God, and not a Saint, although I believe a Saint for Jesus and Mary and me. Love and prayers in Christ, GregoryMary Please Please Share and ask Martha to continue through us to be a vessel for the priests, and know that this will receive a special blessing from the King of KIngs and HIS Mother Mary. Learn why and than shout from the Roof Tops.
French philosopher Jean Guitton left us a forceful witness on Marthe Robin: “She was a peasant of the French countryside, who for thirty years took neither food nor drink, nourishing herself instead on the Eucharist alone, and every Friday she relived the pains of the Passion of Jesus through her stigmata. A woman who perhaps was the most unusual, most extraordinary and disconcerting of our age, but whom even in the age of television remained unknown to the public, buried in a profound silence… From our first meeting, I understood that Marthe Robin would have been a ‘sister of charity,’ always, as she was for thousands of visitors. Marthe’s entire existence revolved around the Eucharist, which for her was “the one thing that cures, comforts, lifts, blesses, my Everything.”
Moreover, due to an eye illness, she was forced to live in almost absolute darkness. According to her spiritual director, Father Don Finet: “When she received the stigmata, in early October 1930, Marthe had already lived with the pains of the Passion since 1925, the year in which she offered herself as a victim of love.
That day, Jesus said she was chosen, like the Virgin, to live the Passion more intensely. No one else would experience it so completely. Every day she has endured more pain, and at night she does not sleep. After the stigmata, Marthe was not able to drink or eat. The ecstasy lasted until Monday or Tuesday.”
Marthe Robin accepted all the sufferings for love of Jesus the Redeemer and the sinners He wanted to save. The great philosopher Jean Guitton, recalling his meeting with the visionary, wrote: “I found myself in that dark room of hers, confronted by the best-known contemporary critics of the Church: Novelist Anatole France (a critic whose books were condemned by the Vatican) and Dr. Paul-Louis Couchoud, a disciple of Alfred Loisy (an excommunicated priest whose books were condemned by the Vatican) and author of a number of books denying the historical reality of Jesus.
From our first meeting, I understood that Marthe Robin would have been a ‘sister of charity’ always, as she was for thousands of visitors.” In fact, beyond the extraordinary mystical phenomena, extremely significant was the work of evangelization that Marthe managed to accomplish, despite her condition, thanks to the help of Father Finet, with whom she founded sixty “Foyers of Charity” groups (centers or homes of light, charity and love) throughout the world.
Jesus said to Marthe when she was in a state of ecstasy: “My priests, my priests; give everything for them. My Mother and I love them very much. Give me all your sufferings, all of you who suffer in this moment, all of you who want to be immersed in my love. Give me your isolation and your solitude, and the solitude in which I place you all, without reservation, for my priests. Offer yourself to the Father with me, for them; don’t be afraid for having to suffer too much for my priests; they have a pressing need for those things that I am about to do through you for their advantage.”
Marthe received the gift of the stigmata from the Lord. Beginning in 1930, every Thursday evening she relived the suffering of Jesus at Gethsemane
Marthe Robin was born on March 13, 1902 at Châteauneuf-de-Galaure (Drôme) in France, into a family of peasant farmers and lived her entire life in her family home, where she died on February 6, 1981.
Marthe’s entire existence revolved around Jesus in the Eucharist, Who was for her ‘the One who heals, consoles, refreshes, and blesses – My All.”
From 1928 on, after a serious neurological sickness, she was left almost completely incapable of making any movements, especially that of swallowing, because the muscles for swallowing were blocked, and in addition, she was constrained, by a sickness in her eyes, to live with almost total blindness.
This is the testimony of her spiritual director, Don Finet:
“When she received the stigmata at the beginning of the month of October, 1930, Marthe had been living through her own Passion already since 1925, the year in which she offered herself as a victim of love. The same day, Jesus told her He had chosen her, after the Virgin Mary, to live the Passion more intensely, and no one else would live it in such a complete way. He added that every day she would suffer more and more, and that she would no longer sleep at night. After receiving the stigmata, Marthe could neither eat nor drink. Her ecstasy lasted until Monday or Tuesday.”
Marthe Robin accepted all her sufferings out of love for Jesus the Redeemer and for sinners whom she wished to save.
In fact, aside from the extraordinary mystical phenomena, the work of evangelization which Marthe was able to carry out was quite impressive, despite her condition, thanks to the assistance of Father Finet, with whom she founded sixty “Centers of Light, Charity and Love” scattered all over the globe.
The creation of a school in the village of Châteauneuf in 1934 was the first step in the fulfilment of the promise made by God... Marthe shared this inspiration with Fr Georges Finet, a priest from Lyon who came to visit her for the first time on 10 February 1936. After this, the first "Foyer de Charité" was founded within a few months.
An adventure, led by Fr Finet and supported by the self-offering and prayer of Marthe, which would soon extend beyond French borders.
In union with Christ, Marthe Robin was completely convinced that she was called to create a new work to fulfil the needs of contemporary society. She was overwhelmed:
how could God be speaking to her? How should she respond to such a call when she was paralysed?
"Let God be free to act in me… allow myself to be shaped by Him, my neighbour, by the events and by remaining humble, confident and obedient to God."
"It was then that he [Jesus] spoke to me about the splendid work he wanted to fulfil here to the glory of the Father, for the extension of his reign throughout the Church and for the regeneration of the whole world, through the religious instruction, which would be given there, and whose supernatural and divine action would extend throughout the universe..."
"Its creation will be a refuge for those in great distress that will come to draw consolation and hope from it... Countless sinners will come from all over drawn by my Mother and by Me to find the light and healing of their sorrows in my divine forgiveness. I want it to be a Foyer that radiates with Light, Charity, Love... the home of my heart open to all."
From 1930 onwards, Marthe began to use the expression "foyer of light and love" In 1933, Christ went further still. He asked her to start founding a girls' school in the village immediately. Marthe wrote down the account of this apparition, in what would later be known as the "founding text":
To prepare people's hearts to receive the light of God, Jesus asked "that the first foundation stone should be laid without delay by creating a school for children and young girls which he promised he would fill with his love and divine protection, with the Blessed Virgin Mary; saying that the school would one day be one of the branches of the Work that would have a powerful radiating influence.”
Thanks to the help of Fr Faure, parish priest of the village, the school was opened in 1934 in the old château which overlooks Châteauneuf. Only seven children from the surrounding area attended the first school year in the building which was in very poor condition.
The prayers of the children, which are "all-powerful on the heart of God," said Marthe, was the foundation of the work of the Foyers de Charité, which would begin two years later in the village of Châteauneuf-de-Galaure.
It is by the prayers of the children that a foyer is founded. Thanks to their prayers, all the great works of God can begin.
"I am still moved by the fact that the foyers started with the school." (Marthe talking to the year 10 class)
"Our Lord wanted the entire Work to begin with the prayers of the children and I believe that we must be sensitive to this prayer, when we can envelop our retreats and all the work we do with the prayers of the children." (Fr Finet)
The meeting in the farm of "La Plaine" between Marthe and Fr Finet lasted three hours. During the first hour, they spoke about Blessed Virgin Mary: "I was overwhelmed by the way she talked about Our Lady. She referred to her as her mummy dear. I assumed that they must know each other well." (Fr Finet)
During the second hour, they discussed the Church and the political events in France. Marthe was well acquainted with the state of her troubled country, and prayed for its conversion: "The good Lord will intervene through the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Holy Spirit: it will be the new Pentecost." The Church will "be totally rejuvenated by the apostolate of the laity. The laity will have a very important role to play in the Church…"
Marthe then spoke about the Marthe Robin "It will be something new in the Church.”
At the third hour, the conversation suddenly took a different turn: Marthe gave Fr Finet a request from God... the adventure of the Foyers of Charity had begun!
Fr Talvas, also met Marthe in 1949. Later, he said he was very impressed by Marthe's common sense and marvelled at her intimacy with Mary. Let's listen to him: "In Marthe's room, we admired and appreciated her understanding of the universal Church, her love of the Holy Father, priests and children. – 'Oh yes, Our Lady!' exclaimed Marthe. These women, who have not been loved, have so much need of the tenderness of a mother. She is the one who will lead them to Jesus."
During the founding phase of the "Focolari", its members also turned to Marthe (1962). They said, "it was a very powerful experience and in the end, Marthe Robin concluded, 'I feel like St John the Baptist who prepared the way of the Lord, while I see that your work is like Mary, it is Mary.' " The Focolari are now called "The Work of Mary".
Marthe belonged to the Church members known as the Christifideles laici since the Synod of Bishops of 1987. In a way, the synod had drawn a line under the theological developments that had begun with the Second Vatican Council and which highlighted the dignity as well as the responsibility of all the baptised for the mission of the Church. This can be seen by simply considering the development process that led to the constitution of the Church, called Lumen Gentium, during the Second Vatican Council. Immediately noticeable in the drafting process of this document were the substantial changes made by the Council on the cohabitation of Church members. The initial version of the constitution wanted to deal with the hierarchical order in the Church first of all, followed by the issue of baptism and the matter of the laity as members of the Church, after the chapter on biblical images. The fathers of the Council chose a different order. They swapped the 2nd and 3rd chapters around, so that in the final version it starts with a presentation of the Church as a whole: the common dignity of all the members of the Church, which surpasses any difference - a dignity conferred by baptism, through which they become sons of God. Then comes the structure of the Church, which is obviously important, because it is tied to the Sacrament of Order.
The greatest dignity of Marthe is also that of having been baptised. We must not forget that, in her understanding of faith and atonement, she lived out the fullness of her baptism before anything else: dying with Christ and rising with him. On this key date for Christians, Marthe is above all a sister and an example, and an extraordinary example at that, for the members of the Foyers, or should I say, for every member of the Church. In this, we are all closely and inseparably in community with Marthe.
On 7 November 2014, Pope Francis authorised the Congregation for the Cause of the Saints to promulgate a decree recognising the heroic virtues of Marthe Robin (1902-1981), a French layperson, founder of the Foyers de Charité. This is a key step in the beatification process.
Two members of the Foyer de Charité in Châteauneuf account of having received communion in Marthe's room:
"As always at La Plaine, the father placed the Blessed Sacrament in the first room, on a piece of furniture that was transformed into an altar. Then, he went to Marthe's room while we stayed together as a group praying in front of Jesus in the host. The father returned to take the host and invited us to come in to be with Marthe for the communion.
After the rosary and prayers, the father prepared to give Marthe communion. But she hastened to say, ‘please, would give it to Mireille and Jeanne first? I would like to unite myself with their thanksgiving.’"
Very graciously, Marthe wanted to experience the joy of a shared thanksgiving with both women.
Not every communion resulted in the same sense of joy or exultation: "My communion without any feeling of joy was the most fervent that I have ever experienced. At least I think.” Marthe asked that we prepare our souls for a long time before going to mass because,
a communion received without preparation and without thanksgiving is of little use to the soul
Receiving communion is an amazing union with God, but not in a magical way.
If I were asked, 'what is better, contemplative prayer or holy communion?’... Both are highly recommended. But if one were to be preferred over the other, I think I would say, contemplative prayer; because contemplative prayer is an attitude and an immediate preparation for holy communion.
It takes more effort to pray than to receive communion.
Each day that I miss out on the joy of receiving the Holy Eucharist and several times during the day, I experience a spiritual communion, that is, the communion of the spirit and the heart.
In my life as a sick person, how sweet it has been for me to experience the communion of desire... If I had not known this way of receiving communion, I could not have lived.
A person who has died and has a saintly reputation is said to be venerable when that person is recognised by the Catholic Church to have been "heroic in virtue".
Being "heroic in virtue" refers to the person's efforts to become a better person, welcome the grace of God, practise charity, conform to the gospel and be faithful to the Church. This criterion is much more important than the extraordinary, even miraculous, deeds performed during the lifetime of the Christian whose cause is introduced.
By proclaiming Marthe Robin to be "venerable", the Church is advocating the way in which she lived the theological virtues (faith, hope and charity) and cardinal virtues (justice, prudence, fortitude and temperance) as a model for Christians. It recognises the exemplary value of Marthe's life, which was entirely given up to God and to other people without regard for herself as she took on the adversities of life with a strength that cannot be attributed to human courage alone.
Sacred Heart of Jesus,
You revealed to Marthe your great plan of love and of life, in order to draw to yourself those who seek you or have forgotten you, and so that her unceasing self-offering of compassion and mercy may contribute to a new Pentecost.
We ask that her beatification by the Church may serve to make you known, you the living Word of love and peace, and that through the intercession of Mary, we may follow her example in order to respond to the appeals of our brothers and sisters.Deign to grant the prayers we make you through your servant Marthe...
so that your joy and your glory may be made known,
So what did Marthe Robin do that was so extraordinary that she is still referred to today as one of the most important spiritual figures of her century? Actually, the question should be put differently: It is not what Marthe did that makes her so exceptional; rather, it is what Marthe.was.
"I would like to be everywhere at once in order to proclaim over and over again how good is our God, how much he loves humankind and how tender and compassionate he is for everyone."
Marthe Robin, who was born in 1902 and whose life spanned the 20th century, radiated with a love that transfigured her life. During the 79 years of her life marked by illness and the progressive paralysis of her whole body, she was a witness to the triumph of love over suffering. Over the years, more than 100,000 visitors crowded to her bedside, moved by her loving, caring heart that made God present and led them to him in a very simple way.
Marthe suffered very much and for a very long time : for 63 years, the encephalitis that struck her progressed over time in stages, then seemed to lessen only for it to come back, making her even sicker than before. Little by little, the rumour spread about this young mystic who lived in a dark room on a farm in the Drôme region who welcomed with kindness the worries and trials of everyone, giving her advice and encouragement. The crowds flocked to her. Marthe transformed her pain into empathy for others, and her visitors came to her for consolation. Many of them even had an authentic conversion experience.
Marthe Robin was never able to leave the room of her birthplace of Châteauneuf-de Galaure. Yet, even today, thousands of people from all over the world are inspired by her example and find a source of spiritual nourishment for their lives in the spiritual way that she initiated. A paradox that can be compared to that of St Thérèse of the Child Jesus (the "Little Thérèse" of Lisieux) who, having never left her convent, became the patron saint of missionaries.
From the outside, Marthe's life seems useless or, worse still, absurd. But she was transfigured by the love , that she received from her union with God and that she generously gave to others. She initiated an immense work, the most visible part of which is the Foyers de Charité, that pursues the mission of simply and warmly welcoming those who seek a break in order to find new meaning in their lives. In Marthe Robin, the power of God was manifested in her weakness and fragility.
Marthe Robin was often known for the extraordinary phenomena that marked her existence. From her illness, which was very real but whose causes and development remain a mystery, to her stigmata, including the attacks of the devil and the decades spent living on one host per week, she experienced manifestations that are unique to the great mystics.
Another wonder has left a deep impression on us... Throughout her illness (more than 60 years!) Marthe ate and drank practically nothing. Yet she did not die. The only thing she could swallow was the host that she received each week. Holy Communion became her only food. This rare swallowing action itself remains a mystery because the paralysis of the muscles of her throat prevented her from swallowing.
"I want to cry out to those who ask me if I eat that I eat more than they, because I am fed by the Eucharist with the body and blood of Jesus. I want to tell them that they are the ones who hinder the effects of this food inside them, they block the effects."
I want to cry out to those who ask me if I eat that I eat more than they, because I am fed by the Eucharist with the body and blood of Jesus. I want to tell them that they are the ones who hinder the effects of this food inside them, they block the effects.
For Catholics, the "Body of Christ" received during communion, gives life to the soul and even reaches that of the body. Marthe Robin experienced the power of the sacrament of the Eucharist in a very special way: « The Host gives me a physical impression of food: Jesus is in my entire body. He is the one who nourishes me. It's like a resurrection! »
Once again, beyond the spectacular aspects, the underlying reason for Marthe's inexplicable survival without the minimum required intake of food can be found in Scripture: « For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in that person. » (Gospel according to St John, ch. 6, v. 55-56)
In Marthe's life, the words of Jesus in the Gospel became a reality.
"I am the bread of life. No one who comes to me will ever hunger; no one who believes in me will ever thirst. Gospel according to St John, chap. 6, verse 35
The progressive paralysis of her digestive tract prevented Marthe Robin from eating and drinking. Yet she did not die. The only thing she could swallow was the host that she received each week. Holy Communion became her only food. She drew her strength from the Eucharist:
Jesus, he is the one who nourishes me.
From 1930 onwards, when the disease reached her digestive tract, Marthe Robin could no longer eat. How did she survive? The Eucharist literally became her sole nourishment. It was not the substance of the host that fed her, because she only received communion once a week. She explained the following to the philosopher Jean Guitton, in 1958:
This is my only food. Someone moistens my mouth, but I cannot swallow. The host gives me a physical impression of food. Given that Jesus is my entire body, it is He who nourishes me. It's like a resurrection.
In an intimate union with God, Marthe saw the fulfilment of Christ's promise: "My flesh is real food and my blood is a real drink. " (Gospel according to St John, chap. 6, verse 55). The "Body of Christ" received during communion, gives life to the soul and even reaches that of the body. Marthe experienced the power of the sacrament in a very special way:
I want to cry out to those who ask me if I eat that I eat more than they, because I am fed by the Eucharist with the body and blood of Jesus.
I want to tell them that they are the ones who hinder the effects of this food inside them, they block the effects.
From the moment of her first communion, at the age of 10, Marthe experienced an intense connection with God:
I believe that my private communion was the moment when Our Lord took possession of my soul.
I believe he had already taken hold of me at that time. My private communion was something very sweet.
Her solemn communion took place four years later. Marthe then had a real desire for the Eucharist. On Sundays, when she took care of the animals, she would sometimes find a way of receiving the Eucharist.
In the journal that she kept on a daily basis between 1929 and 1932, Marthe Robin wrote, "each communion is a transformation." When she received communion, Marthe was not content merely to swallow and consume the host. She welcomes in her the living Jesus, whom she knew was alive. Little by little, she accepted to be transformed by Him.
One day she received these words of Jesus while she was receiving communion: "I come to you, I come into you." Christ was telling her that he was coming to improve her, enlighten her, make her better...
Communion is not a reward, it is a means of union and love and sanctification
This love that she received, because she gave up her whole life to God, allowed her to give herself more and more every day. Marthe did not withdraw and keep the extraordinary graces she received in the Eucharist to herself. She received communion in order to bring to God every human distress.
After receiving the Eucharist, Marthe was one with her Lord and she would go into ecstasy.
The divine possession is so overwhelming, so strong and so powerful that I lose all human connection. I am carried away by Him in the light and in the love and in the beatific light. The union is so complete that it is as if I am a liquid in Jesus, becoming one with Him, in love and contemplation. The whole being is enraptured in God, which goes further than an ecstasy.
She experienced a very special and intense union with God. For many hours, nothing existed around her. Jesus filled Marthe with his communions and consoled her:
The beloved host pours an ocean of delights into my heart... This divine union and fusion of love is the strength and life of my soul. Jesus is the friend who comforts me in every situation.
But beyond the extraordinary aspects of her life, it was the way that this woman, who was profoundly united with Christ, loved, welcomed everyone and radiated hope, that she can be a model for all of us today.
Marthe was not born a mystic or woke up one morning in union with God. It was little by little, on a journey where the spectacular stages are always preceded by key moments experienced in the intimate space of prayer, that the young woman gradually allowed herself to be seized by Christ.
First, there was a natural intimacy with Our Lady that was nurtured in her childhood marked by the popular piety of the countryside. But it was within the ordeal of her illness that Marthe truly began her ascent towards Christ. In 1921, she had been ill for three years. Her symptoms were consistent with a brain tumour; she was expected to die. It is then that she saw the Blessed Virgin Mary who came to visit her in her room. It was the beginning of an enduring cohabitation with those in heaven: Mary, as well as St Therese of Lisieux and then, Jesus himself, came to speak to her, strengthen her, console her and teach her.
The key act that introduced Marthe into the mystical life was her written declaration of 15 October 1925, on the Feast of St Teresa of Avila. She was 23 years when she wrote an "act of surrender":
« Eternal God, Infinite Love! O my Father! (...) On this day, I give myself and consecrate myself to you, entirely and without seeking anything in return. O Beloved of my soul, my sweet Jesus, it is you alone that I want, and for your love I renounce everything! […] My God, take my mind and all its memories, take my heart and all its affections, take my intelligence and all its faculties [...] Take my whole will… [...] I hand over my life and surrender myself to you.»
Three years later, she experienced a key event in her life that permanently sealed her covenant with God. At the heart of her suffering, she experienced an inner transformation. During the visit of two priests in December 1928, she experienced the infinite love of God for her. This intimate spiritual experience profoundly changed her life. She took the decision to give meaning to the absurd and useless suffering imposed by the illness and that this purpose should be for the whole of humanity, in accordance with the words of the Apostle Paul:
« It makes me happy to be suffering for you now, and in my own body to make up all the hardships that still have to be undergone by Christ for the sake of his body, the Church. » (Letter of St Paul to the Colossians, ch. 1, v. 24)
Little by little, as her intimacy with God grew and she became more abandoned to him, she experienced the Passion of Christ with increasing intensity, first spiritually, then in her flesh. From 2 October 1930, Marthe Robin began to receive the stigmata every Friday, i.e. the wounds mirroring those of Jesus Christ on the Cross. Like other great figures of holiness, St Francis of Assisi, St Catherine of Siena and St Padre Pio, here she was, manifesting in her body the afflictions endured by Jesus. All this took shape and deepened little by little... She said to Jean Guitton of the Académie Française, who came to visit her: « I no longer see the details of the Passion. I used to see and hear things and I could describe it. Now, I can no longer remember the details. I am in Jesus.»
When Marthe spoke of her union with Jesus in his Passion, she spoke using the words of someone who is in love: an "intimacy of love and suffering with Jesus". Jesus drew her to his heart in a progressively greater union, by sharing his love for humankind through her. The reason why she suffered and fought was to save souls in the certainty that Christ will be victorious.
Marthe rejected any form of morbid fascination with the cross and with suffering. To those who asked her: «Marthe, help us to love the cross», she answered sharply: «No! We must love Jesus on the cross!» She had only one great and immense desire, which was to love and get others to love the Lord:
All Christians must participate in the Passion of Christ and complete what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ with their own bodies. As for me, I am just a sign, a reminder for all Christians.
Many of the accounts of conversations people had with Marthe reveal her unique gift of counsel, her exceptional memory and her immense compassion. She was also entrusted with many prayer intentions. The power of her intercession was evident: seemingly desperate situations would be resolved or sorted out after she prayed. Many of her ideas on the future of the Church or of France were sometimes received like prophecies although she would always reject this term preferring a more spiritual vision of the future that remains in the hands of God.
"As for the future, you know that I am quoted as saying many things about the future. I know nothing except the following: that the future is Jesus."
First and foremost, Marthe Robin, the great French mystic, touched her many visitors with her infectious joy, her lively spirit and her closeness to each person. Meeting her was like coming into contact with the goodness of God.
At the end of 1928, during the parish mission preached at Châteauneuf, Marthe received the grace of mystical union with Christ that led to a decisive turning point in her life. On 22 January 1930, she wrote in her Journal : "After many years of anguish, sins and physical and moral harship, I dare to choose Jesus Christ."
In the history of the Church, parish missions have been a key element in converting or reconverting parishes. Parish priests would invite so-called "extraordinary" preachers to come for a few weeks.
"The more my life will be submitted to God and compliant with that of the Redeemer ,the more I will participate in the fulfilment of his work. Thus, by uniting my obscure work, my poor little actions, my prayers unknown to men, all my sacrifices, all my sufferings and all my immolations, and even the apparent sterility of my life to the oblation of the infinite victim, I can be sure that I will not only be working for my own sanctification, but also to give God an immense crown of chosen souls."
Fr Faure left us an account of this event. He wrote,
"She was afraid of having ventured too far [of having been misled regarding the nature of this mystical experience, ed.] when, on the night of the 4th and 5th of December, Our Lord appeared to her, and after having reassured her three times, asked her if she would consent to suffer for the conversion of sinners in general and of Châteauneuf in particular, and at the same time he told her that he wanted me to be her spiritual father and that there was a special union between them. With each affirmative answer, she felt and saw a sword that was plunging deep into her heart. From that day onwards, she was entirely devoted to God and decided to accept any hardship for the poor sinners and only Our Lord would know what she endured since then."
Learning to do what is good for us and for others, choosing happiness is the struggle of a lifetime. Marthe Robin, like all Christians, lived this struggle against adversity and misfortune. But her desire to belong totally to Christ and to proclaim his love to men made her a special adversary for the devil. Yet the devil can do nothing against those who love God…