Le cheminement intérieur de Marthe Robin est dévoilé grâce à la publication de son "Journal". Découvrez-le en ligne...
The ordeal of illness
The joys and sorrows of Marthe's family
Marthe grew up in contact with nature, living with the seasons, in an ordinary family with its joys and sorrows. She was the sixth child of Joseph and Célestine Robin. The family of Joseph Robin owned a farm with 32 acres of land.
The story of this family is similar to that of any other family with the incidents and hardships that are part of family life...
Daily life was made up of simple joys: the harvest festival, the long winter evenings, with the neighbours beside the fireplace. They would chat, knit, sing and sometimes dance to the delight of Marthe. But life was tough. The Robin couple had to work hard to support the whole family. As the youngest of six children, Marthe was not spoiled. From an early age, she participated in the difference tasks in the fields. She kept the goats...
Her family circle was poorly cultivated, even coarse. The education was harsh and the Robin parents were not regular churchgoers. They would barely go to church for the "feasts of obligation", as they were called in those days... but they cared about instilling two major principles in their children: unity within the family with the sense of serving each other between siblings and the sharing of their few treats with the poor who would come to their home.
First ordeal between Marthe's parents
A rumour spread in the neighbourhood that the baby Marthe was not the child of Joseph Robin but that of an employee of the neighbouring farm. There is no evidence for this today... but the rumour, whether it was founded or not, hurt the couple deeply and was a cause of suffering for Marthe later on. She was surely called "the bastard"... She herself was convinced it was true...
Mr Robin, who was an affable, kind man, and good with his hands, was seen as a strict man in family life. However, Marthe spoke of him, saying, "he was a good man, my daddy!” Joseph Robin acknowledged Marthe as his daughter. On various occasions, he would even be particularly affectionate towards her.
Marthe's mother also showed genuine love towards her.
Relations between the brother and sisters
Henri, her brother, was described as "shy", which can mean many things... a limited intelligence and a difficulty relating to others. Marthe was very fond of him.
She would later say, "I loved my brother because he was shy and his shyness made him awkward in company. I always defended him."
With her sisters, Marthe had excellent relations. In 1908, the eldest, Célina, married Claudius Serve and went to live in Saint-Sorlin. Marthe felt as if her beloved sister was being taken from her and she reacted badly to the marriage. It was very hard for her. It was only when she saw how happy she was with her husband that she found consolation. She went to stay at her home on several occasions.
The second daughter, Gabrielle, fell in love with a boy, wanted to marry him and became pregnant with him. The young man's parents were opposed to marriage. She gave birth to Gabriel-Raymond in 1914. The father acknowledged the child but died during war in 1916. Marthe would remain close to her sister and nephew.
Alice, the closest sister to her in age, went to school with Marthe. She got married in 1924.
When, therefore, O all-loving God, will you give me the immense and profound joy of a communion of souls with those who are dearest to me, especially with my beloved parents!
A typhoid epidemic strikes the whole family
In 1903, the more frail members of the family died of a typhoid epidemic: the grandfather, the young Clemence (5 years), the closest sibling to Marthe in age. The young Marthe was 20 months old at the time. She pulled through but would remain frail for the rest of her life and she felt the great void left by those who had died.
Pain and suffering do not come from heaven, but the saving help and happiness do.
Death of her parents
Her father Joseph died in 1936 and her mother Célestine in 1940.
Having been hospitalised in a serious condition, Célestine Robin was brought back home to die close to Marthe:
"At my request," wrote Fr Finet, "the nurse took Mrs Robin and leaned her over Marthe, who was unconscious at the time because she was experiencing the Passion. I made Marthe's head touch the lips of her mother who kissed her saying, "Little one!"
This was the final display of affection of Mrs Robin, who died soon after, in peace and without fear."
As she came out of the Passion, Marthe's grief was a sorry sight to see. She then had a terrible feeling of loneliness and experienced a kind of depression which was quite understandable from the human point of view. But on the spiritual level, Fr Finet saw it in a different light. He wrote, "Marthe took upon herself the purgatory of the mother who ascended directly to heaven."
The suicide of Henri
This would not be the last time that Marthe would have to mourn someone, and this was the one that affected her most.
Henri, her beloved brother, the only brother among her siblings, remained alone with Marthe on the farm after the death of their parents. Initially shy and reserved, he became difficult. He suffered a lot from his facial neuralgia, drank more than was necessary and, when he ate in the kitchen, he felt that the visitors, who were coming in increasing numbers to see Marthe, were looking at him.
On August 8, 1951, he shot himself in the head... Nobody heard anything, not Marthe in her room, nor the three priests who were waiting in the kitchen.
Marthe's reaction was extremely painful:
My little one, I did not know how to protect him.
To a friend, she confided, "He was a shy man but he had great charity. His house was always full of retreatants who were coming to see me. He never complained."
She experienced a crisis of guilt and anxiety regarding the salvation of her brother, and her total helplessness regarding the incident.
Gradually, her faith and hope regained the upper hand and helped her to find the right words of comfort and consolation for those living a similar tragedy within their own family.
On Henri's tomb, one can read the following words of hope written by Marthe. The words give meaning to her brother's life: "In all truth I tell you, whoever welcomes me, welcomes the one who sent me."
In 1952, concerning a woman who had taken her own life, she wrote the following words to her loved ones:
She was perhaps closer to God than one might think, because she was not seeking to bring an end to her life, but to the evil that was tormenting her.
A great love for families
Given the many visitors who came to see her throughout her lifetime, any family was the object of her compassion and her continual prayer. She meditated on everything that was confided in her and everything she experienced for long periods of time in her heart.
This understanding of the suffering of others as well as her touching sensitivity, which helped her to say the right thing when required, were qualities that had been nurtured since her childhood. Marthe was not born holy but, very early on, her childlike soul was awakened by love.
In the young girl, in what she experienced and what she said, there were signs of what was to be her vocation as a woman.
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