Immense influence

Birth and development of the Foyers de Charité

As soon as they met in 1936, Marthe Robin and Fr Finet worked, each in their own place, to found and develop the first Foyer de Charité at Châteauneuf-de-Galaure. Little by little, new Foyers de Charité were founded, in France, in Europe and then on other continents...

The first spiritual retreat in Châteauneuf-de-Galaure ran from Monday 7 to Sunday 13 September 1936. It was an important step in the growth of the Foyers de Charité.

From the very first day, Fr Finet became the spiritual father of Marthe. From that moment onwards he would be Father Finet:
"On that day I received the wonderful title of "Father", which I was to share with all my brothers, who are responsible for our Foyers de Charité. " He would accompany Marthe to the end in what she experienced with Jesus Christ, and their two lives would become tied together in a very profound way.

First spiritual retreat at the Foyer de Charité in September 1936

Jesus had already spoken of Fr Finet to Marthe:
"He will never be able to do anything without you or far from you... You will never be able to do anything without him... I want you both to be melded in Me for the mission I want to entrust to you, for all the souls I want to give you and for the glory of my name.”

The fundamental retreat opened up a new way of preaching: sound teaching on the plan of God for men, conducted in a Marian spirituality.
Among the participants at this first retreat were two young teachers who felt called by the Lord to embark on the adventure of the Foyer de Charité in this remote village of the Drôme, leaving behind their own region, family and jobs. They settled permanently at the school, which was in a state of total poverty. At the beginning of the school year on 1 October 1936, 24 girls were enrolled.

Spiritual and material construction of the Foyer

Fr Finet was very busy in Lyon and rarely came to the school. Marthe was extremely involved and followed everything very closely. Hélène and Marie-Ange had a very challenging life in the school and went up to see Marthe every day to spend the evening with her and often with her mother. They spoke together about everything: the children, the problems, Our Lady, the positioning of the furniture! They prayed and sang.
"These visits did us a lot of good because we felt like we really were on our own." (Hélène Fagot)

Marthe trained the first Foyer members herself and was therefore able to convey a spirit to the girls' school through them.
On 8 December 1936, Marie-Ange Dumas and Hélène Fagot gave themselves permanently to God by the hands of the Virgin Mary. With Fr Finet, they made a commitment to remain in the new community and became "members" of the Foyer de Charité of Châteauneuf, whose priest became the "Father".

For a time, the members lived only in the school. Their life was split between educating the children and caring for the retreatants. Each year, the number of pupils grew: 35 pupils in 1937, 130 pupils in 1946.
The vocations of Foyer members arrived: in 1939, there were 6 members; in 1948, 24 members. The retreats were becoming increasingly successful: in 1936, 63 retreatants came; in 1947, there were 405 retreatants; by the summer of 1947, 64 retreats had already been completed.


Retreats for men and women

At the time, the retreats of men and women were kept absolutely separate. When a priest asked Fr Finet if he could go on the retreats, Fr Finet asked permission from Bishop Pic, bishop of Valence, and then said: "You will sit at the back.”
The retreatants then asked if they could go on retreat with their husband or their sons. Then, on 8 September 1941, the "Christianity retreats" began.

Consequently, before and during the war, Châteauneuf became an exemplary school for the quality of the education and the evangelisation of the children, who would pray for the retreatants. The reputation of these ground-breaking retreats also began to spread.

Blessing by Bishop Pic

As the school grew and the retreats gathered momentum, the construction of a building for the retreatants began in 1939. In the middle of the war, the construction work was in full flow. There was no shortage of generous donors. Bishop Pic was very much in favour of building relatively spacious buildings. In 1943, the Foyer, which was under construction, was consecrated to Our Lady. On 17 May 1948, on Pentecost Monday, the Foyer de Charité of Châteauneuf was officially opened and blessed. Bishop Pic wanted to come in person and was anxious to make it a spectacular celebration. A statue of the "Our Lady of the Foyer" was blessed. 1500 people and many priests attended the event.

As for Marthe, she prepared the celebration in prayer:

O Father, O my God, bless your Foyer with your divine blessing... Oh yes, Mummy dear, may it be yours, entirely yours, nothing else but yours... May you, as our Queen and Mother, be actively present every day and every hour. Take charge of every spiritual, moral, and material aspect of its entire life and activity, in all its intentions and in its works.

Expansion of the Foyer in the world

During Marthe Robin's lifetime, about 50 Foyers de Charité were founded throughout the world. When she died in 1981, there were 600 members of the work.

In 1941: foundation of the second Foyer de Charité in France (in Savoie)
In 1957: foundation of the first Foyer de Charité in Europe, in Belgium
In 1958: foundation of the first Foyer de Charité in America, in Colombia
In 1961: foundation of the first Foyer de Charité in Africa, in Togo
In 1968: foundation of the first Foyer de Charité in Asia, in Vietnam

The pupils and Marthe support the Foyers and their retreatants

Marthe was also interested in the education of boys. On 3 October 1953, a school opened for them in the neighbouring village of St Bonnet-de-Galaure, with 21 pupils, and grew rapidly. Some of the pupils later became priests and religious for the Church.
The vocational school of Les Mandailles was created in the village of Châteauneuf in 1953 for the teenage girls who needed practical training.

The children were a delight for Marthe. For her, educating the whole being by educating the soul, the intelligence, the conscience, the heart, the emotional and the body was an important consideration.
She also took cared about their families:
"Parents must be educated at the same time as children. Our work is almost useless if they do not share the responsibility with us."

Marthe followed the Foyers closely. "Nothing escaped the eyes of her heart. Everything interested her."
Marthe knew the Foyer Fathers and watched over their training. She knew the projects and paid great attention to the foundation of each Foyer. She did all this with Fr Finet.
She was very attentive to each missionary Foyer member who came to see her when visiting Europe. She cared about every aspect of their daily life, asking very practical questions, which would sometimes prove very useful, or clarify and anticipate situations. She would get involved at a spiritual as well as a material level.
During all these meetings, rather than seeing herself as the "founder", Marthe wanted to help souls.

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The essentials about Marthe Robin
Nothing predisposed this young woman of the Drôme countryside to become one of the central figures of the spiritual renewal of the Church in France. She radiated with a love that transfigured her life that spanned the 20th century.
"I have chosen to rekindle the love that is dying out in the world". These words of Christ to Marthe Robin summarise her mission, which is to reveal the unconditional love of God for everyone.
Marthe Robin's legacy is immense. It lives on today through many communities and movements in the Church, but more particularly across the world through the Foyers de Charité.
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Groupe de prières Prier à Paris avec Marthe Robin Paroisse Saint Christophe de Javel (Paris)
Groupe de prières Prier à Paris avec Marthe Robin Paroisse Saint Christophe de Javel (Paris)
Veillée Marthe Robin Veillée Espérance avec Marthe Robin dans le cadre du Festival Marial Notre Dame du Laus (F - 05 130 Saint-Etienne-le Laus), à 20h30
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